What may be the most controversial debate in baseball has finally reached the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
There have been controversies before. Most recently, it was about Pete Rose. While Pete Rose being banned from the Hall of Fame is a travesty in itself, I will leave that for a future article.
For the first time, all three are eligible to be elected to the shrines of Cooperstown.
Bonds is the all-time home run leader (762) and a record seven-time Most Valuable Player award winner. Clemens is ninth all time in career wins with 354 victories under his belt and a record seven Cy Young Awards to his name. Sosa became just the eighth player in major league baseball history to hit over 600 home runs with a career mark of 609.
In what should be a glorious occasion for baseball and it’s fans, it has unfortunately turned into a public trial of these former baseball superstars. A trial by a jury of over 600 members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Regardless of all the home runs and strikeouts, those accomplishments are tainted under the suspicion of steroids and other PEDs.
Bonds has had a controversial career. In 2003 he became the key figure in a federal investigation in to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) scandal and was indicted on federal perjury and obstruction of justice alleging that he lied while under oath about his alleged steroid use.
It all started when Bonds’ personal strength trainer, Greg Anderson of BALCO, was indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with supplying anabolic steroids to athletes, including several baseball players. This caused speculation that Bonds himself had used illegal substances.
During grand jury testimony in 2003, Bonds proclaimed his innocence but acknowledged that he used a clear substance and a cream that he received from Greg Anderson. He claimed that they were flaxseed oil and an ointment for arthritis. However, this was contradicted by the investigative journalism of Lance WIlliams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, both of the San Francisco Chronicle.
On April 13, 2011, Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice.
Roger Clemens’ storied career came into question in December of 2007 when the Mitchell Report was released and he was alleged to have used anabolic steroids during the latter part of his career. Clemens denied these allegations while under oath to Congress which led congressional leaders to refer his case to the Justice Department on suspicions of perjury. Clemens was indicted on six felony counts of perjury, making false statements and obstruction of Congress. While Clemens was found not guilty on all six charges, suspicions have always remained.
Sammy Sosa’s career came under scrutiny in 2009 when the New York Times reported that he was one of the players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003.
Now, the fate of what has become known as the steroid era lies in the hands of the 600 or so voters who decide to cast a ballot.
If recent history is any indication, the odds are stacked against the trio of Bonds, Clemens and Sosa. Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro both posted Hall of Fame worthy stats, too, but PED suspicions doomed them in Hall voting.
Some who favor Bonds and Clemens claim the bulk of their accomplishments came before baseball got wrapped up in drug scandals. They claim that PED usage was so prevalent in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s that it’s unfair to exclude anyone because so many questions remain about who all actually used performance-enhancing drugs..
However, many fans on the other side say that the evidence, even if circumstantial, is strong enough to keep them out of the Hall of Fame. This group of people feel that bestowing such an honor to players who have tainted records is tantamount to blasphemy.
Fans who support the inclusion of suspected PED users’ admission into the Hall of Fame say that only the statistics should be considered. They argue that so many players were using PEDs that not only is it impossible to rule anybody out as a user, but that it also assured a level playing field.
Those who oppose their enshrinement argue that those who took performance-enhancing drugs should not be rewarded under any circumstance.
It may all come down to how the BBWAA voters interpret the rules. Unlike other professional sports in America, the Baseball Hall of Fame instructs their voters to take into account not only the player’s record, playing ability and contribution to their team(s) but also to take into account a players integrity, sportsmanship and character.
That leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
If I had a vote, I wouldn’t vote for Bonds, Clemens or Sosa.
Rounding off this years historic ballot of new nominees is Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling. Those who will received at least 5% of the vote last election and have been on the ballot less then fifteen years will also be on this years ballot. These players are Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell (66.6%), Lee Smith(56.0%), Tim Raines(48.7%), Alan Trammell(36.8%), Edgar Martinez(36.5%), Fred McGriff(23.9%), Larry Walker(22.9%), Mark McGwire(19.5%), Don Mattingly(17.8%), Dale Murphy(14.5%), Rafael Palmeiro(12.6%) and Bernie WIlliams(9.6%),
Voters are allowed to vote for up to ten candidates, but are not required to vote for any if they so wish. Those who receive 75% or more of the vote, are elected to the Hall of Fame. Those who fail to reach 5% are purged from future considerations. A player may remain on the ballot for fifteen years, so long as they never receive less then 5% of the vote.