A Hall of Fame Case for the Bad Guys

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The Hall of Fame is the hot topic of late, with names such as Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas among the first ballot selections.  There are other players such as Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell who were undoubtedly forces to be reckoned with also eligible.  Then a few names pop up that have become taboo to baseball.

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mark McGwire are all eligible for the Hall of Fame, yet none has a likely chance to make it in despite their records and glory days playing America’s Favorite Pastime.  Bonds is the career home run leader.  Clemens has the most strike outs in a game.  McGwire was the single-season home run king for a few seasons, breaking a record that had stood since 1961.

I do not condone cheating in sports.  However, these players did not cheat in a sense of illegal equipment, doctored baseballs, or bionic body parts.  What they did do was provide baseball fans with countless amounts of entertainment over their careers.  How many fans did baseball gain by McGwire’s summer of 1998?  How epic was the incident where Clemens threw a broken baseball bat at Mike Piazza?  Who wasn’t watching Barry Bonds on a nightly basis as he approached Hank Aaron’s 755 home run mark?

In terms of fame, these three players are the definition of famous.  Without them, baseball would not be the same.  Writers and voters may not want to honor them by enshrining them into the Hall of Fame, but why not let them in without giving them a ceremony?  Why not create a section in the hall to document the Steroid Era or the dark days of baseball?  They weren’t so dark when they were happening live.  Nobody cared about how big Bonds’ head was or the size of McGwire’s biceps.  Nobody thought twice about how dominating Clemens was.  It was thought of as a great time in baseball history.

Even if these players did take illegal substances, they were all just as good as young amateurs and rookies.  It’s not like they were awful AA washouts who all of a sudden became Major League caliber all-stars.  Each was a major contributor to his team and to baseball from the first day they stepped on a Major League field.

Would each have made the Hall of Fame if he had retired before the first use of illegal substances?  Who knows?  We will never find that out.  But when baseball embraces these players in the process of their achievements, only to turn its back once they have retired and are eligible for enshrinement, that is a double standard.

Bonds, Clemens, and McGwire are all Hall of Fame worthy based on their play on the field.  Bonds and McGwire were hitting home run after home run before they looked like bodybuilders.  They could hit the ball out of the park looking like popsicle sticks.  And they could steal bases.  All those two did was swap out the stolen bases for more home runs.  Clemens was striking out 20 batters a game and winning 20 games a year from the start.

You may not like them.  You might hate them.  All three deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.  Asterisk or not – it doesn’t really matter.  Baseball should own up to its mistakes off the field and reward these players for what they did on the field.  If baseball was serious about having a true Hall of “Fame”, they would let in two other players who aren’t being voted in anytime soon: Joe Jackson and Pete Rose.

Topics: Barry Bonds, Hall Of Fame, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens

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