As My Co-writer Michael has stated, with the Hall of Fame voting due during the upcoming week, MLB news is far from slow. Outside of the new names on the ballot, like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas, there are two names that may be the most polarizing in the history of the hallowed vote.
Barry Bonds is second all-time in WAR for position players, trailing only Babe Ruth, while Roger Clemens is third all-time in pitching WAR behind Cy Young and Walter Johnson. While WAR is not perfect, it is one of the best all-encompassing stats, and truly displays where these to players stand in terms of historical performance. If all these two men ever did was play baseball and breathe, they would be no-doubters for the hall, but there are more factors that play into the case for, and in my opinion, against these two players. While there is a long history of Greenie poppers, ball scuffers, spit ball throwers and spikes-up sliders in the Hall of Fame , Bonds and Clemens find themselves in a class of their own.
According to the Baseball Hall of Fame website, players “shall be chosen on the basis of playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, their contributions to the team on which they played and to baseball in general.” All players are chosen based on these deciding factors, but the most telling ones are playing ability and contribution on the game of baseball. Only a few players have been barred from the hall, but they share some things with both Clemens and Bonds.
The two main players I want to focus on are Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson. Jackson is the career .356 hitting star of the 1919 Black Sox team, and Pete Rose is the all-time hits leader who received his a lifetime ban after gambling on games while managing for the Cincinnati Reds. While both of these men may or may not have thrown games during their careers, their actions negatively affected the game by casting a shadow over the sport.
Although Bonds and Clemens are not the only steroid users of the era, they are the most public liars of the time. Although he was facing perjury charges and had documented failed tests, Bonds continued to stay silent or lie in the face of the US Court system. Clemens also faced perjury charges, and although he was found not guilty on all five counts, his actions combined to form on of the darkest clouds to befall the sport in its history.
As Michael acknowledged in his piece, steroids are not the first drug that MLB had a problem, but steroids are a different animal. When compared to greenies, Steroids have much more dangerous side-effects. Steroids have a damaging impact on the human body, can cause increased blood pressure and can cause liver damage that can be lethal. While both are now illegal to sell without a doctor’s prescription, steroids were able to improve year-to-year production, and in the case of Bonds and Clemens, prolong their peaks and give them second peaks in their late thirties and early forties, while greenies helped players deal with the long schedules of the baseball season. While I agree that both greenies and steroids are performance enhancers, steroids create an unfair environment for those not using while endangering a player’s future health for those who are.
The final factor for both of these men is the Lance Armstrong factor. Much like Lance Armstrong, both of these men have denied their involvement with steroid use despite mounting evidence against them. As the investigations continue, their involvements with shady characters, their interactions with players in the locker room and their test results have created quite a list of reasons to keep these men out of the hall. Only time will tell where these men will end up in regards to the history of the game, but if it were up to me they would stay right where they left the game of baseball, under a dark cloud of mistrust.