For those on the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot this is a watershed moment as it indeed is for Major League Baseball. The whispers that have been circulating for years will now be spoken aloud. It’s time to weigh in on the PEDs era stars.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa lead a class of 29 hopefuls. When the balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America is made public on January 9, it will be only the first shot over the bow in a long-running debate about the doping era and it’s poster children.
As with any debate, there are two extreme ends of the spectrum and the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Hard core purists say that if there is even a hint of impropriety then not only will the obvious dopers fail to make the cut now and forever but anyone even close to the taint will be hard pressed to gain entry to Cooperstown. The other camp essentially says get over it. Everyone was doing it so where do you draw the line? Bonds? Sure. Sosa? Why not.
Clemens? The guy’s got brass balls – and not just from the purported injections. Bring it! Open the door and let ‘em all in.
Let’s look at the reasonable middle. There were guys who clearly juiced to gain competitive advantage. Sorry Sammy, you’re gone for good. Roger, you’re on the bubble. By all accounts Clemens ‘roid raged starting with his tenure in Toronto. How else can you account for The Rocket throwing a death splinter, otherwise known as a broken bat, at Mike Piazza in the 2000 Subway Series? Any film viewed from any angle tells a compelling story. How can I put this delicately? It was a dick move by a guy not in control of his body, period; something that would not have happened earlier in his career in Boston even though Clemens was as fierce a competitor as has ever stalked the mound. When Clemens was a young and clean fireballer in Boston it cannot be denied that his accomplishments, work ethic, competitive drive and natural talent were unmatched. It was all the garbage that came after he went to Toronto that makes this debate and vote so sticky.
Barry Bonds. How few words can I use to express how bad Bonds was for baseball. Like Clemens, his early years in Pittsburgh where he was a perennial 40/40 man, were beyond impressive. In the end and for avery long time he was an arrogant SOB who battled with media as viciously as he did opposing pitchers. Did he juice? I’m 54 and my head has not grown since I was 24. All his records reek. ‘Nuff said.
Some on the ballot are either suspect by being great during the steroid era – Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell come to mind – or have been implicated in books written about the main offenders. In an article written today by USA Today’s Gabe Lacques, Bagwell was quoted in an ESPN interview as saying, “I know a lot of people are saying, ‘His body got bigger.’ Well, if you’re eating 30 pounds of meat every single day and you’re working out and bench pressing, you’re going to get bigger. You can go to every single trainer and they’ll say, ‘He was the first here and last to leave, and that dude worked his ass off.'” I believe Bags. I like the guy a lot. The spin, however, continues as player and after player joins the CYA club.
One thing is certain. This year’s vote won’t be the end of the debate for some time to come. It took a long time recognize and address the abuses. It will take even longer to sort it all out.
Players on the 2013 Hall of Fame Ballot
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Kenny Lofton, David Wells, Julio Franco, Shawn Green, Steve Finley, Roberto Hernandez, Jeff Cirillo, Jose Valentin, Reggie Sanders, Jeff Conine, Jose Mesa, Royce Clayton, Bob Wickman, Ryan Klesko, Aaron Sele, Woody Williams, Rondell White, Mike Lieberthal, Tony Batista, Mike Stanton, Sandy Alomar Jr., Damian Miller, Todd Walker