Commentary: Unfair to Bar Big Names Like Barry Bonds From Cooperstown

Commentary: Unfair to Bar Big Names Like Barry Bonds

Commentary: Unfair to Bar Big Names Like Barry Bonds From Cooperstown

Sportswriters' stubbornness towards celebrating the careers of ballplayers from the steroid era is hurting baseball's legacy.

Published July 29, 2013

The National Baseball Hall of Fame held its induction ceremonies Sunday in Cooperstown, New York, and the class of 2013 included just three men honored by the Veterans Committee. 

Jacob Ruppert, Hank O’Day and James “Deacon” White — all of whom played, umpired or owned a team in pre-integration days; all of whom are dead — did make contributions to the game.

Why were only deceased men inducted? Simple, the voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, who control the election process like a street gang, have taken a stand: Nobody with a tie to performance-enhancing drugs will get into the Hall.

Theirs is a position without principle. They can’t pretend what happened in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s didn’t happen. Those aren’t fictional years; they were real seasons, real careers, too.

Yet sportswriters are telling baseball fans that the careers of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell or Sammy Sosa didn’t happen. They are saying that the most exciting season in the game’s long history, the summer of 1998, was make-believe, a tall tale put together with someone’s imagination.

The homers that Sosa and Mark McGwire hit didn’t sail deep into a black hole in ‘98, and all the newspaper headlines that followed the men, all the baseball fans who crammed ballparks to watch them, amounted to something; the stories were not dreams. However, the use of performance-enhancing drugs has cast a dark shadow over their home run battle.

But that’s how sportswriters seem to see these men and their careers. No matter that the “Steroids Era” happened on these writers’ watch; no matter that their wooden prose fueled people’s appetite for more homers.

But this is no time to find religion. Any sportswriter with a Hall of Fame ballot should look at himself and ask what more he should have done to spotlight what he was seeing. At least ask himself: What did I miss? What question did I not ask ballplayers?

Writers will have a couple of years to weigh these questions. For next up will be three players whose careers ran throughout the Steroids Era but escaped the taint of peers like Clemens, Sosa and Bonds. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas should slide right into the hall.

From there, who’s to say who will get in? Ken Griffey Jr.? Yes. John Smoltz? Perhaps. Anybody else? I just don’t know.

What I do know is that sportswriters and their pettiness are doing as much damage to the game as ballplayers who used PEDs did.

Will their stubbornness on steroids ruin the late summer celebration that always turns Cooperstown into a mini-Mardi Gras, absent the colorful beads and the nudity?


But what will there be for visitors to celebrate in summers ahead if sportswriters keep the doors to the Hall shut on men whose careers were built around ‘roids or during that era?



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(Photo: AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Written by Justice B. Hill


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