That’s how the voting of the baseball writers played out in the 2015 balloting for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. They again proved how blind they are to sports history, because to keep Bonds out of Cooperstown for a third time suggests what he did on the field during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s was pure fantasy.
Don’t give a thought to the 2001 season in which Bonds slugged 73 homers, besting a record that stood a handful of seasons. Bonds didn’t just break the single-season record; he broke Henry Aaron’s record for the most homers in a career.
But none of this happened, did it?
It couldn’t have happened, because if it had happened, we’d be celebrating Bonds and his election to the Hall of Fame the way we celebrated Aaron’s election and Jackie Robinson’s and Tony Gwynn’s and Reggie Jackson’s and Frank Robinson’s and the scores more whom the baseball writers, myopic as they are, voted into Cooperstown.
These men – and they are mostly men – have used their past six or seven ballots to play morality police officers. They have remained steadfast in their opposition to ballplayers whose names made it onto the steroids list.
As one writer put it Tuesday: “Confessed or caught, you’re out of Cooperstown. All others, scoundrel or not, form a line.”
Bonds found his name on the steroids list. Sammy Sosa’s name was on it; Roger Clemens had his name on the list; and Mark McGwire’s name appeared on it, too. Not a single one of them – not Bonds, not Sosa, not Clemens, not McGwire – is now within sight of seeing his name on enough ballots for enshrinement.
At some point, baseball writers need to put the “Steroids Era” in the past. They can’t cling to an issue that the public has removed from its consciousness. Fans don’t hold ballplayers like Bonds in the same contempt that writers do.
Yet for all the ill-will they show in their voting, baseball writers can’t wipe away a man’s career. To treat those careers as if they were disposable diapers is both silly and spiteful.
For enshrinement is baseball’s history. Cooperstown is the showcase for all the great talent that’s taken the baseball field. Cooperstown is the place where fans pay homage to greatness; Cooperstown is the place for fans to remember those performances that thrilled their generation and those generations before theirs.
What Cooperstown seems is hollow if, in fact, the place isn’t honoring the talents that made baseball America’s pastime. It becomes the Hall of Good and not the Hall of Fame.
Barry Bonds was more than merely good, and baseball writers who saw his career unfold had to know he was the Babe Ruth or Ted Williams of his era. Would Cooperstown stand for anything if “The Babe” and “Teddy Ballgame” weren’t enshrined?
Baseball writers, the hypocrites with ballots, have tried to deal with Bonds and the Steroids Era, but if their solution is to pretend none of it happened, they are damaging the game and sullying its history more than Bonds ever did.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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