By In Stuff

Ballot 1: Barry Bonds


Barry Bonds

Played 22 years for two teams

Seven-time MVP hit 762 homers and walked 2,558 times, both records. 162.4 WAR, 123.5 WAA

Pro argument: One of the five greatest players in baseball history.

Con argument: Used PEDs to achieve almost comical heights.

Deserves to be in Hall?: Yes.

Will get elected this year?: 5-10% chance.

Will ever get elected?: 95% chance.

* * *

We are now in the section of the ballot where all 18 remaining players have a legitimate Hall of Fame case, one that will sway a fair percentage of the writers. With that in mind, we will bounce around on our ranking numbers from here on in just to keep things interesting.

* * *

Let’s take a moment to ask that most basic question again: What is the Baseball Hall of Fame? And what I mean is this:

1. Is the Baseball Hall of Fame an honor?

2. Is the baseball Hall of Fame an acknowledgement of greatness?

Obviously, both things are at least somewhat true — but what is the dominant answer? You will sometimes hear people pose this question by asking is the Hall of Fame a “privilege” or a “right?” But I don’t like the way that’s worded. I don’t think the Hall is either of those. A privilege is, by definition, a special right, advantage or immunity granted to a particular  person … that’s not the Hall. And a right is a”moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something.” That’s DEFINITELY not the Hall.

I prefer to ask the question this way. Is the Baseball Hall of Fame an honor, like say the Nobel Prize or a lifetime achievement Academy Award or the Presidential Medal of Freedom or the decision to name a room in your office building after a longtime employee?

Or is the Baseball Hall of Fame an acknowledgment of greatness, like say the Fortune 500 list of richest people in the world (assuming you consider wealth “great”)?

It seems to me that the big arguments about the Hall of Fame lately — the ones surrounding players like Bonds and Roger Clemens — have been about this divide. If you believe the Hall of Fame is mostly an honor, like that lifetime Achievement Academy Award, then absolutely you should believe that Bonds and Clemens surrendered that honor by cheating (assuming that Clemens cheated, something that has not been proven — Bonds did admit to using something unknowingly).

You absolutely would not want to give a Nobel Prize to someone who cheated. You want not want to name the conference room after someone who had been tinkering with the books to make him or herself look better.

But if the Hall of Fame is mostly an acknowledgement of greatness, well, that’s different. There are unquestionably people on the Fortune 500 list who cheated. We just want to know: Who is the richest? Heck, my suspicion is that if there was a character, integrity and teamwork qualification for the Fortune 500 list, it might be something like a Fortune 9 list.

People say the same thing about the Baseball Hall of Fame, obviously.

If you view the Hall of Fame this way, as a place for the greatest players ever without prejudice, it is impossible to leave out Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

There is middle ground on this, of course, but in the end there is a judgment call to be made. Is the Hall of Fame something we bestow upon a player based not only on his play but also how he represents the game? The people on this side of the argument can point to the Hall of Fame itself which asks voters to consider “playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and their contributions to the team.”

When I spoke to Jeff Idelson, president of the Hall of Fame, he reaffirmed this:

“I don’t think it needs to be clarified,” he said. “We want voters to have the leeway to define character as they see fit however they like for those traits like character, integrity and sportsmanship.”

Or is the Hall of Fame a determination that this player is one of the greatest who ever played the game? On this side, you have two obvious points in your favor:

1. Baseball writers vote on it. Not theologians. Baseball writers should (should) share only one quality — an understanding of baseball and baseball history.

2. In the actual vote — not the dreamy stuff of character clauses but the actual vote — cheaters and poor teammates, scoundrels and racists and alcoholics and drug abusers and just about anything else you can imagine have sailed into the Hall of Fame without second thought. And there isn’t a single example I know of where an esteemed player whose baseball credentials fell short was voted in anyway. Raul Ibanez and Curtis Granderson probably won’t get elected despite scoring off-the-charts in character, integrity and sportsmanship.

I did a quick poll on Twitter again, and in the poll 82% said they related more to the idea of the Hall as a “recognition of greatness” than as “an honor.” I don’t know if that means anything at all — probably not — but I’ll tell you this year provided the biggest test for me on the subject. The issue was not Bonds or Clemens, they were easy yesses for me because I believe in the Hall as a place for the greatest baseball players ever, flaws and all.

But there is a player on the ballot this year I absolutely love, one of my all-time favorites, a fantastic teammate and a joy to watch, someone I firmly believe is a Hall of Famer. And there was another player who is not one of my all-time favorites,  a player who cheated and was, by all accounts a difficult teammate.

Thing is: the second player was significantly better than the first and had a much larger impact on baseball.

You can probably guess the two players. You tell me — if you can only vote one, which one is the Hall of Famer? That answer will tell you whether you see the museum as an honor to be bestowed (or withheld) or an acknowledgment of a baseball player’s awesomeness.

* * *

Barry Bonds was almost a member of the Atlanta Braves. I told this story briefly in the piece I wrote about John Schuerholz — in 1992, Schuerholz completed a deal with Pittsburgh GM Ted Simmons for Bonds. The Braves gave up Alejandro Pena, Keith Mitchell and a player to be named later. The Pirates, knowing full well that they would not be able to sign Bonds after the season, gave up their franchise player.

The deal was rescinded by Simmons the next day. Schuerholz’s recollection of that phone call is priceless:

“We have a problem,” Simmons said.

“What do you mean a problem?” Schuerholz asked. “Don’t want to release it just yet? What?”

“I can’t do the deal,” Simmons said.

“You can’t do the deal? You DID the deal? Ted, we agreed over the phone, general manager to general manager? We MADE the deal.”

What happened, in Schuerholz’s memory, is that when Simmons told manager Jim Leyland about it, well, as you might expect, Leyland went coconuts and rushed in to see the team president and, well, as you know, Bonds stayed a Pirate for one more year (he hit .311/.456/.624 with 109 runs, 103 RBIs, a Gold Glove and an MVP award). Then he signed with San Francisco and history played out.

What happens if the Braves get Bonds? Does history change? We can never know, of course. Schuerholz thinks it might have changed. He thinks the Braves would have found a way to sign Bonds long term (using money the eventually spent on Greg Maddux) and that Bonds might have gone down a different path. I don’t know.

See the thing about the 1990s that gets overlooked all the time is that steroid use, PED use, it was normal. I mean, nobody was doing it openly, out in the public, and nobody was talking about it. But it was normal. There was no testing. There was no obvious rule against it. There was no team pressure to stop using. There was no fan pressure to stop using. There was no media pressure to stop using. Quite to the contrary. We celebrated the long ball, all of us. We celebrated ball players who worked out. We celebrated the way the game had come back from labor oblivion. There were a few opposing voices in the wilderness, no question, but the power was thrilling to watch. McGwire was thrilling to watch. Sosa was thrilling to watch. Home runs are joyous.

Barry Bonds had nothing to prove by 1999, the year that according to legend he decided to start using PEDs.By that point in his career, he had hit .290/.411/.556 with 411 home runs, 445 stolen bases and had accumulated 99.6 WAR. He was a locked-down Hall of Famer and he was just 33 years old.

BUT he was not viewed as the greatest player of all-time. Most people did not even consider him the best player of HIS time — Ken Griffey Jr.had that unofficial title. If a three-time MVP could be considered underappreciated, Barry Bonds was. He was not well-liked. He had never played in a World Series. He was not being talked about in that class with Mantle and Mays, Aaron and Gehrig, Ruth and DiMaggio. As a 34-year-old he only played in 102 games because of injuries and he hit just .262, his lowest average since he was 22 and in his first full season.

And PED use,  yes, it was normal. You couldn’t get caught. Nobody was even trying to catch you.

This is not to excuse Bonds — he knew what he was doing.They all knew. But, again, it was normal. The irony is that it was Bonds, more than anybody, who made it all feel, well, not normal. There was a fascinating debate* in the magic community about David Copperfield making the statue of liberty disappear back in 1983. If you were alive and aware then, you will remember: It was a HUGE deal. My friend Joshua Jay, a brilliant magician himself, had listed that as one of the 16 greatest magic tricks ever in “The Final Four of Everything.” I completely agree.

*Well, fascinating to me because, don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I’m writing a book about Houdini’s impact on our time.

But the reigning star of magic Doug Henning apparently didn’t like it. The main reason? It was too impossible. Magic is so much about suspending belief but, Henning believed, no one can suspend belief that much, nobody will really believe that the Statue of Liberty itself just disappeared. I side with Copperfield on this one; the idea of big magic seems to me to stretch the limits of what we will and will not believe.

But the point of suspending belief is real. We have to believe that players, many players, had used steroids before Bonds, and they had put up preposterous numbers the like we had never seen before. From 1978 to 1993, 15 years, one player hit 50 home runs From 1994 to 2000 there were TWELVE 50-homer seasons. There were four 60-homer seasons. We had the McGwire-Sosa chase. There were so many 40-homer seasons during those seven seasons (82 if you’re counting) that 40-homers stopped mattering at all.

In other words, we had become immune more or less to all of the causes for the home run explosion — it’s not only PEDs, there was also the tiny strike zone, high-altitude ballparks, harder bats, dearth of pitching because of expansion, etc.

Whatever, we had accepted most of it. Then Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001 — one homer for every 6.5 at-bats — everyone basically at the same time said: “OK, that’s it. I have stopped believing. This is ridiculous.” Managers started saying, “OK, we’re going to walk this guy every time he comes up.” Fans started saying that it had gone too far. Congress got involved. We all know the story.

Does that whole, big story change if Bonds is traded to Atlanta? I kind of doubt it.

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179 Responses to Ballot 1: Barry Bonds

  1. Marco says:

    It’s always felt fairly straightforward to me for guys like Rose. The Player deserves the honor, but the Person does not. Wait until he passes away, put him in with a line on his plaque: “Served a lifetime ban for betting on baseball”

    • Marco says:

      Hit the button too fast.

      As for Bonds, it has always seemed to me that his biggest crime was cheating too well. Joe, your magic analogy is spot on.

    • Matt says:

      Pretty sure Rose doesn’t have a lifetime ban. I know Kieth Law always says he can’t get in even after he dies anytime someone mentions the ban. Has to do with the actual wording of the ban.

      • Chris M says:

        It’s a “permanent” ban, not lifetime. Technically Rose, Joe Jackson, et al are on the “Permanently Ineligible List” which obviously extends long past their death.

        • William Keane (@largebill68) says:

          Correct. Permanent doesn’t end.

          • Donald A. Coffin says:

            The “permanent” ban is from MLB–he cannot play, coach, manage, work in a front office.

            The HoF is not a part of MLB. If it wants to induct Bonds, or Jackson, or me (for Brilliant Reader comments on Poz’s blog?), it can.

            Again. The HoF is not a part of MLB.

          • Tim says:

            That’s true, Donald, but the HOF adopted a rule that players on MLB’s ineligible list can’t be placed on the ballot. They could always rescind the rule, but until they do, ineligible according to MLB means ineligible for the Hall.

    • SDG says:

      The problem with that plan is that the reason Pete Rose was banned wasn’t because what he did was SO TERRIBLE he loses the privilege of Cooperstown, but because these kinds of draconian measures are the only thing preventing the gambling free for all that existed in the 1910s. If Pete Rose gets in Cooperstown (and I agree he will after he dies) then we’ve lessened the incentive to avoid another Black Sox. Essentially, in order to keep gambling out of baseball, innocent people are going to have to be hurt and there’s no way around it. We have to hardcore punish everyone even slightly involved in gambling or we risk losing the integrity of the game.

      Not saying I agree with that, but that’s the argument.

      • Daniel Prenat says:

        There is no incentive for today’s players to throw a game. Usually if you’re good enough that you’re needed to be a part of throwing a game that means you’re probably making millions of dollars or are on the cusp of signing that huge multi-million dollar deal, the money you would get from throwing the game just isn’t worth it for todays athletes. If I remember the book I read many years ago those Black Sox teams had an owner that was always low balling their salaries which is what caused them to throw the series.

        • MikeN says:

          Yet Pete Rose did it. He can deny it, but if you are betting on your own team’s games, and you didn’t bet on all of them, then the ones you didn’t bet on, you are betting against your team.

        • SDG says:

          Apply it to steroids. The argument would be that in order to truly ban steroids from the game, we need to make the punishment sufficiently severe. In order to do that, some deserving people are going to be hurt. If keeping Bonds out is what keeps the players clean, then he has to be out.

          And Pete Rose gambled on baseball even though he was rich and paid very well.

  2. Matt says:

    I personally think anyone that thinks Bonds doesn’t belong needs to get off their high horse. Dude was GOAT.

    • SDG says:

      Exactly. That’s the issue. It’s possible to have a HoF without Peter Rose, the third-best player on his own team. You cannot have a baseball Hall of Fame without Bonds, Clemens, and A Rod and have it means something. Just call it “The Hall of Pro Ballplayers Who Did Community Service and are Nice To Their Mothers” and leave excellence out of it.

      The real way Bonds should have been kept out of the HoF was MLB should have had strict testing measures and he should have suffered suspension when he was caught, which should have reduced his playing time, making it hard to put up GOAT stats. But they didn’t, so here we are. I hate the steroids mean we don’t know who really was the best and what Bonds/Clemens/A Rod mean in context, but all those arguments also apply to the color line and it doesn’t mean we appreciate Babe Ruth any less.

  3. Ron Kitchell says:

    Here’s the thing. Pete Rose cheated. He broke the rules clearly outlined by baseball and in every clubhouse. Barry Bonds didn’t cheat, if cheating mean breaking the rules. If there were rules against steroids, there was no punishment. This would be like telling your child, “Remember to clean your room,” but giving him no consequences if he doesn’t. It irks me that writers, who must all have impeccable character, get to choose what they think is right and wrong.

    • david benbow says:

      You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.

    • SDG says:

      “Here’s the thing. Pete Rose cheated. He broke the rules clearly outlined by baseball and in every clubhouse. Barry Bonds didn’t cheat, if cheating mean breaking the rules. If there were rules against steroids, there was no punishment.”

      Using that logic, Shoeless shouldn’t have been punished either because at the time there were no specific rules against consorting with gamblers. There are no technical rules against plenty of things. There’s no technical rules against, I don’t know, saying to an opposing pitcher “Throw me meatballs or I”’ tell the media you’re gay,” but if it came out that that’s where Bonds’s HRs came from it would certainly be invalid.

      I agree with you about the writers having a real unattractive self-righteous streak. I hate that they cheered the HR chase and pretended it was all about how McGwire and Sosa had just started eating lots of kale.

      • Joe says:

        The rule prohibiting gambling on baseball with a permanent ban predates the National League. The first such permanent ban for gambling happened all the way back in 1865. Though those bans were later rescinded, the first permanent ban that stuck happened in 1876.

  4. AndyL says:

    Even if you view the Hall of Fame as simply a place to acknowledge greatness and not an honor, how do you determine the greatness of the player? You look at the numbers. Ok, but the numbers are always viewed in a context. We all recognize that hitting stats achieved in Colorado mean one thing and that the same numbers put up in L.A. or the Astrodome mean another. Hitting stats achieved in an era dominated by pitching (the ’60s) mean a lot more than the same numbers compiled in the ’90s and early ’00s. The problem with the PED guys for me is the difficulty in evaluating what their numbers really mean. How “great” were they? Do we try to guess what they would have achieved absent the use? Simply accept the numbers as is, because the usage was widely known and not punished. Of course, then we have the problem of identifying who actually used and who didn’t.

    • Ross says:

      Good point. Though that argument is a factor if we’re talking Sosa or McGwire maybe, as their numbers may not be HOF quality in any context, but Bonds is clear cut in any context (I don’t mean to say you were implying otherwise, but I wanted to add that).

      • Marc Schneider says:

        The real issue with Bonds is not whether he deserves to be in the HOF-clearly he does because his numbers would have been worthy-albeit perhaps not as stratospheric as they were-if he had never taken anything. The issue is, as Joe says, how you look at him relative to other great players like Griffey. But that has nothing to do with whether he should be in the Hall of Fame. Not every player in the Hall is as good as others. If you don’t want to accept him as the all-time HR champ and so forth, fine, but you can’t legitimately say he doesn’t belong by performance in the Hall. And, while I’m sure the roids contributed to his late career numbers, no one can really say how much. Did they add 100 home runs? 150? Who knows? As you say, I could sort of see the logic of not voting in, say, McGwire, but I can’t see any reason not to vote in Bonds.

        • SDG says:

          Exactly. And that’s not unique to the steroid era either. We look at Koufax’s godlike seasons, acknowledge they were in a pitcher’s park in a pitcher’s era and still are impressed.

          Yes, a part of the Bonds conversation is always going to be “Yes, but he juiced”. Just like we say “Yes, but Pete Rose wrote himself into the lineup after he started to suck.”

          The Sosas and McGwires are going to be a real, real, challenge for the writers. Because at a certain point we have to guess. We have to guess who was hitted roided pitching. What that means. It’s dumb to say “We’ll let you get away with streoids but only if you were good enough” because there are some exceptions on either side (Bonds is clearly in, Canseco is clearly out) but there are all sort of cases in the middle we have to make a judgement call. That’ll be fun.

          • Dano says:

            Look at Koufax’s ERA in the World Series. I grew up when he was pitching. We were Cubs fans so never went to a game he pitched. You knew it would be a loss..or a loss that was perfect game. And he was even better in the WS.

    • Tim says:

      I think you evaluate the PED guys the same way you do everyone else. By their numbers. You have to judge every player by the context of the time. You wouldn’t compare a player from the dead-ball era with a modern player without taking account of the states of the game when they played. So with the (supposed) PED guys, you compare them to the other players of their era. And I don’t mean that in a “well, everyone was doing it, so it was fine” way. More of an “everyone was doing it, and Barry Bonds STILL managed to be worlds ahead of everyone else.” You think the pitchers he was hitting against weren’t doing steroids? Or the batters on the other teams that his numbers towered over? And that’s not even taking into account other factors that affected offense, like the almost-certainly juiced balls, ballpark size, and changes to the strike zone, or the fact that long before steroids all the best players were on amphetamines, which are absolutely performance-enhancing.

      • SDG says:

        “I think you evaluate the PED guys the same way you do everyone else. By their numbers. You have to judge every player by the context of the time. You wouldn’t compare a player from the dead-ball era with a modern player without taking account of the states of the game when they played. So with the (supposed) PED guys, you compare them to the other players of their era.”

        Of course, the problem with that is that unlike juiced balls and smaller parks (which affected everyone) steroids were haphazard. Plenty of players were using, but not all of them. Griffey almost certainly wasn’t. Neither were Jeter or Gwynn or Maddux. And even if we do ever get a complete list of who was using what and when, we are still missing exactly how it affect power hitters vs pitchers, exactly what the numbers would be without them. We’ll never be able to fully say. I think that’s what people resent.

    • SDG says:

      That is exactly the case. But that’s why baseball nerds like us obsess about the numbers. Sure, no one thinks Hank Aaron is a better player than Babe Ruth, and he hit his HRs in more ABs, but we still (until Bonds) celebrated Aaron as the HR king. We still think Ted Williams is the greatest hitter ever even though his counting stats don’t reflect that, because we understand context.

      Steroids are another part of the conversation. I get it. It’s hard to know what the numbers mean, how steroids affect hitting, or pitching, and whether the records matter. And that sucks for a game that’s obsessed with numbers, but just as we say “Walker benefitted from Colorado” or “Hank Greenberg spent 5 years in the service” or “Bob Gibson got to pitch on top of Everest” or “Maris did it in a longer season” we can say “Bonds used steroids”. It’s not the first time we’ve made that adjustment.

  5. Isidore the Farmer says:

    Posnanski seems more willing in this article than he ever would have been 5-8 years ago to admit just how big an impact steroids had. He still throws in the caveats, but he seems to have come around some, which I respect. I will say that one bad thing about steroids is that it also makes it harder to see that a guy like Larry Walker might just be a HOF player. Assuming Walker was clean (I suspect he was), one of the other things that makes it harder to see his greatness is that too many of his peers had artificially inflated numbers right during his prime.

    After thinking about this, I googled ‘larry walker steroids’, and below is one the first results. It’s not entirely accurate to think of guys like Bonds not being in the HOF as victims of the steroid era. In the end, there will surely be 3-5 non-users who don’t make it precisely because they weren’t using when a large minority or small majority were. That group has a much bigger gripe than the known users who are punished. Anyway, I know I can be naive, but I believe him:

  6. Dan says:

    An easy solution to this is to not allow any of them in the Hall until while they are living. Ron Santo & Buck O’neil didn’t get to enjoy that moment, and the men who cheated shouldn’t either. Wait for them to pass, THEN they get in.

    • TWolf says:

      Buck O’Neill was never elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      That’s just being vindictive. If they deserve to be in, they deserve to be in.

    • SDG says:

      “An easy solution to this is to not allow any of them in the Hall until while they are living. Ron Santo & Buck O’neil didn’t get to enjoy that moment, and the men who cheated shouldn’t either. Wait for them to pass, THEN they get in.”

      I think you’re overestimating how much of a deterrent that is. Pete Rose gets more money and fame being out of the Hall than in it. If everyone knows their plaque is assures and we’re just making them wait as a formailty, then they have no incentive to care at all.

  7. TS says:

    Never understood the argument of steroids not being against the rules. They were against the law. Do you have to have a rule on something that’s against the law? There’s not a rule in baseball against murder is there? Bonds got caught. So did others. Too bad for them. Others didn’t get caught. Good for them.

    • Dr. Doom says:

      The argument is this: speeding (while driving) is also against the law. Should it affect your standing in regard to the Hall of Fame if you drive too fast? You don’t punish people for things that have nothing to do with their job, like getting a speeding ticket. If it DOES have to do with your job, there should be a rule.

      You can take or leave the logic, but that’s the gist.

      • SDG says:

        The counterargument to that is, even if they weren’t specifically banned in baseball, they were banned in other sports (esp. the Olympics) BECAUSE they give an unfair advantage.

        No one, ever, has proposed kicking tax cheats or people who drank during Prohibition out of the Hall. That’s a false argument. The only argument that puts steroid users out of the Hall is that it created an unfair playing field.

    • SS says:

      Hyperbole aside (murder and steroid use aren’t the same – or similar), I tend to agree. Perhaps we all were complicit, but I’m not sure that matters. As Joe points out, there are unabashed racists in the Hall and society was complicit in that. Maybe we ought to figure out a way to get people OUT of the Hall after they’d been been voted in. I’m all in favor of that.

      Oddest thing about all this is (1) that I love reading Joe’s work, hell I read the NASCAR stuff he writes and I don’t like NASCAR; and (2) before reading this piece I would’ve said I tentatively favor Bonds being in the Hall. But having read this, I guess I do feel like being in the Hall is a privilege. It is a “special right or advantage”, no? Buck O’Neil deserved it. I’m not so sure Bonds does.

      • SDG says:

        I disagree. I don’t think it’s right for sportswriters to cast moral judgements on the players they cover. Babe Ruth was constantly drunk (when that was a crime) and fucked every woman in America and could be a dick. Does that balance that he visited kids in hospitals? Is there some kind of moral calculus where we balance Ty Cobb’s beating up a fan to his donating money for a hospital? Would you kick Willie Mays out if you learned he had a secret family somewhere?

        The only way moral judgements should be a factor is if they affected the actual game. This would be an argument to remove Anson (his racism directly diluted the talent pool) and not, say, Hornsby. Whose racism did not. Except indirectly, I suppose, in that I don’t think he scouted or encouraged black players . . . you see? You could keep doing that. We can argue stats and put them in context. We can argue that steroids mean we don’t have valid numbers to put players into context (although if we can do it for juiced balls and Colorado, we can do it for this).

        They did cheat and people don’t want to reward cheaters. (Although they still have the money and the stats, so it’s probably that we don’t want to reward cheaters more than we already have). That’s the logical argument.

        Anson is in. Character arguments are meaningless.

    • kehnn13 says:

      Steroids WERE explicitly against the rules as of 1991. The problem was that they didn’t have a way at the time to prove that a user was using steroids.

  8. Paul Hamann says:

    The best analogy I can come up with is if the student who admits to cheating on at least one test/plagiarizing at least one paper should be named valedictorian, even if he/she winds up with the best grades.

    If valedictorian is simply a measure of grades, then yes.

    If valedictorian is a celebration of talent and hard work, I’d say not.

    Bonds/Clemens are especially challenging cases because they were the smartest kids in class who didn’t need to cheat.

    I still say no, but I do admit I’ve softened over the last decade or so.

    • Dr. Doom says:

      The problem with your analogy is that you’ve already drawn the moral conclusion. You’ve said “cheated” right in there. Joe (and those who agree with him) are pointing out that there’s something more nuanced going on.

      Perhaps it’s more like a student who hires a professional editor to read over and correct all of his/her papers before turning them in. It’s not against the rules, per se… but it’s not exactly honest, either. Maybe the other kids are doing it… maybe most. But not all.
      Then THAT kid ends up valedictorian. Maybe they were the smartest kid in class, and didn’t need the help. But they got it. And they were competing against others, some of whom did, too. But their results were still the best.
      Then, later, the school adds a rule that says you CANNOT hire an editor.
      The question becomes, if you’re naming the greatest students in this history of your school, and you include all the OTHER valedictorians, do you ignore this particular one because they did something a) morally questionable, but b) not EXACTLY against the rules at the time?

      • Darrel says:

        The problem I have with this line of thinking is simply this. Why all the histrionics from Bonds and Clemens to claim their innocence if there was nothing to be guilty of. I mean Bonds let his trainer rot in jail rather than come clean and Clemens just about ended up beside the poor guy for lying under oath. Neither has ever come out and said that they did PED’s even though the whole world, Joe excepted apparently, knows that they did. The reason is that they know it was cheating and to come out and admit it officially removes any modicum of doubt held by the pollyanna’s of the world. I think Paul has the analogy pretty spot on.

      • MikeN says:

        Are you sure Clemens didn’t need to cheat? He was about 40-40 in 4 years before going to Toronto, with lots of disabled list visits.

    • BillM says:

      The irony of both Bonds & Clemens is that both could’ve achieved at least 90% of their PED results with a ‘clean’, well-structured workout/nutrition program. Looking at their younger selves, Bonds in Pittsburgh esp was a relative toothpick.

      Both were vastly more naturally talented players than Canseco, McGwire & Sosa.

      All that said, Green Day getting into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (on top of Black Sabbath’s 19 year wait) made me stop caring one whit about any of the HOFs.

      • Ron Kitchell says:

        I should’ve mentioned this in my comment earlier. It’s the Hall of Fame, it’s not Heaven, and ultimately it doesn’t matter who gets there or doesn’t.

        • invitro says:

          Who gets in the HoF may not matter to you, but it does matter to millions of other people, and it’s beyond obnoxious for you to claim that what doesn’t matter to you shouldn’t matter to anyone else.

    • Benjamin Wildner says:

      Perhaps we could think of it as something more like presenting the results of your work to a boss or client in such a way as to highlight the things that went well and downplay the things that did not. That seems to me to be an example of a somewhat skeevy practice that is nonetheless common but not talked about.

    • Doug says:

      Should greenie users be in the Hall of Fame

      • SDG says:

        The situations aren’t the same. Greenie users are like corked bats or eating sheep testicles. Players think it gives them an edge, but it doesn’t (or at least nothing besides a psychological one). It’s “dry cheating.” Morally they might be the same, but in terms of the stats, they don’t have much of an effect. This is different from steroids, which (as far as we can tell) have a measurable, objective, significant effect on how hard you can hit/throw a ball, and how fast your muscles recover so you can play more games at full strength.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      There is a bit of naivete there, with all due respect, Paul, because you act as if cheating started with the steroid era. Gaylord Perry is at least arguably in the Hall because of cheating. Players took greenies all the time to maintain their performance. Comparing it to a valedictorian is not a good analogy unless we have evidence that prior valedictorians also cheated. The fact is, in professional sports, players have always looked for edges and pushed the envelopes of the rules, whether on the field or off. Steroids were just a more effective way to push the envelopes. I think steroids are a bad thing, not because of their effect on the records, which are contextual anyway, but because they are dangerous. To me, the only sound argument for keeping Bonds and Clemens out of the Hall-if there is one-is that their success would make steroids more appealing to others. But, if it’s just a matter that they cheated, that’s part of high-level sports.

      • Zach says:

        I’m actually not sure that PEDs (because that’s what we’re really talking about, not steroids) are all that dangerous, especially in the current landscape. Part of what we learned about BALCO was how far beyond horse steroids athletes had gotten (unsurprisingly, given the stakes).

    • SDG says:

      This is why it’s still so frustrating that Selig et al didn’t implement real tests and real punishments.

      My issue is, the stats are already on the books. The damage has been done. Is this about punishing Bonds or is it about the integrity of the game? The reason the gambling punishments are so harsh is that we decided that was necessary to keep people from throwing games. Now we’re in this weird position where we say, “Fine. If you use steroids you’ll hold all the records and be a zillionaire and be the idol of a generation of kids. But you don’t get to share the plaque room with Jesse Haines and Lloyd Waner.” So we aren’t really discouraging steroid use. We’re just engaging in performative punishment.

      In your analogy, it’s like the student still gets a full ride to Harvard but they don’t get to walk in the graduation ceremony. You haven’t disincentivized cheating.

  9. Nathan says:

    I’ve always wondered if the reason the public/media decided to care about the effect of PEDs on baseball was because a) when Bonds hit 73 home runs it became too unbelievable or because b) it was Barry Bonds who was breaking the record. People liked Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, but too many people have found Barry Bonds off-putting. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed Barry Bonds’s cantankerousness. But I think I’m in the minority. In my opinion, if it had been Ken Griffey, Jr. who suddenly hit 73 home runs, public opinion about increased home runs and the specter of PEDs would not have changed. The public/media really started to care about PEDs because Barry Bonds was seen as a villain.

    • Chris M says:

      For me it was less about the 73 homers and more about the obscene OBP/OPS numbers over the ensuing 5 or so years. Bonds basically became a video game player with a cheat code and it made baseball less fun for me to watch. I get that other people feel the exact opposite, but he took some of the joy out of the sport for me.

      He still belongs in the HOF though.

      • fivetwentyone says:

        It’s really misguided to be mad at bonds for that. You should be mad at all the mediocre players that couldn’t challenge him. It’s like being mad at barry sandets cause he gained too many yards or Michael Jordan cause he won too many championships.

    • BillM says:

      It’s hard to remember now just how much of a jerk he really was. I’m a Giants fan & Lord, those teams were unlikable, which just made Bochy, Rags, Panda, Bum, Posey, Timmy et al’s rings all that much sweeter.

      But I do think the 73 combined with all the walks was a big factor too. He broke the game.

    • Justin says:

      I definitely believe the latter played a role – everyone cheered McGwire and Sosa breaking records, but public opinion turned when it became the generally despised Bonds doing so.

      Of course, there’s also the face that his numbers were SO off-the-charts, they defied belief, as Joe alluded. Looking at McGwire/Sosa and the Bonds putting up massive homer seasons in such close proximity, along with Bonds’ ridiculous OBPs, it was easy to see how some might have feared that baseball as we knew it – or at least statistical norms – might be on the verge of being broken.

      I have a suspicion that if Bonds had never juiced, not only would he already have sailed into the Hall of Fame, but so too would McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Clemens, Bagwell and possibly others. Everyone with an interest in baseball and an ounce of brainpower knew steroids were a thing. It wasn’t until someone who was (by all accounts) a contemptible heel started making a mockery of the record books that everyone decided that the behaviour they’d been implicitly endorsing by cheering on other juiced stars was now completely unacceptable.

    • SDG says:

      Maybe. People DID make that argument at the time. That the real problem was an African-American athlete wasn’t all smiley and grateful. I don’t think so, though. The baseball community is super weird about the HR record. People hated Maris. (And if it had been Mickey Mantle they would have hated him too). Aaron got actual death threats, and had people complaining that he still wasn’t a better player than Ruth. They we loved McGwire and Sosa, but that was partially to get the Maris taste out of our mouths. Then of course, Bonds is Satan.

      I think if it had been Griffey, the public would have found some way to complain.

  10. Chris Burke says:

    With the election of Bud Selig we now have the biggest enabler of the PED-era in the HOF. He had no problem having MLB bask in the glory of the McGwire-Sosa summer of 1998 even though we already knew McGwire was using PEDs. Remember that the spitball was outlawed at the end of the dead ball era but there are still players who used it and are in the HOF. We never went back and judged them retroactively. It’s time for everyone to get off of their high horse about the PEDs and judge the players who used them after it became illegal instead of the ones who used them prior to the new rules.

    • Darrel says:

      Simply can’t mention Bud Selig without mention of Don Fehr. I’ve said it a thousand times but people seem to think that Bud could have just decided to test for steroids and punish offenders at his will. Don Fehr and the union finally accepted testing but did so kicking and screaming the whole way. Not saying Bud was blameless but lets not forget the Union pretty much owned the owners at that time and IMO most of the blame lies at their feet.

      • KHAZAD says:

        Bud never made an effort and never really admitted there was a problem until he was forced to. He smiled and counted the money right up until the very day he did a 180.

        Considering the fact that steroids were a frequent topic of conversation among fans and even somewhat in the media, I find it disingenuous for him to claim he did not have any idea.

        Fehr was always against it, yes. It was his job to be. But Selig’s job was to police the game, and he never made it a real issue in the agreements, or even seemed to believe it was important. To me, that will always be his legacy.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          “Fehr was always against it, yes. It was his job to be. ”

          Really? It was his job to support something that was physically harmful to his clients? Was his job to be nothing more than a mouthpiece for whatever the players wanted?

          • Zach says:

            The evidence that players were harmed by steroid use is pretty vague. Yes, there were players like Ken Caminiti who had issues, but he was also using cocaine and opiates, so it’s hard to claim that the steroids were the problem.

            Even by the late 90s we’d come a long way from the early days of steroid use: athletes weren’t even really using steroids in the scientific sense, but human growth hormone and other compounds. The heath effects are somewhat unknown, because it’s a hard topic to study without drawing all sorts of moralizing, but the truth is, we don’t even know if what they were doing was dangerous at all.

            And yes, the head of the Players’ Union was responsible for representing the interests of the players. Everyone in baseball had a vested interest in keeping the gravy train rolling.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            Zach, even if what you say is true, in hindsight, didn’t Fehr have an obligation to at least investigate the effects? As for representing the interests of the players, it seems to me his job was more than just blindly doing whatever the players wanted. For example, what if the players had wanted an agreement that helped them in the short-run, but hurt them in the future? I’m pretty sure Marvin Miller had to work hard to keep players from caving in the early days of the union. I would think that he at least would have an obligation to try to educate the players, not simply say, ok, if that’s what you want, you got it. Same with PEDs; I’m sure there were concerns about the effects of PEDs at the time. It seems to me that Fehr should have at least educated himself about it and tried to educate the players. Maybe he did and they didn’t care, but I don’t buy that his job was simply to blindly reflect what the players wanted. I don’t think we would want a member of Congress to blindly vote for something that is going to be bad in the long run just because a majority in the state wants it now. (Of course, they do do that.)

      • SDG says:

        If Selig had gone public with a testing platform, the union would have been forced to cave. I don’t believe the union ever owned the owners.

        The reason I blame Selig is the Commissioner has ONE job. Stuff like this. The players don’t want testing. The owners don’t want testing. It’s Selig’s job to do what’s best for the sport with no other agenda.

    • Rob Smith says:

      We cannot judge Bonds based on stuff unrelated to Bonds, his career and PEDs. What others did in other eras in different circumstances is irrelevant. Gaylord Perry and Don Sutton, right or wrong, were judged. Selig was judged on his contributions and his impact on the steroid era. Bonds is being judged on his career, his contributions and his use of The Clear. His usage of PEDs is not rumor or hypothetical. He just claims he used stuff he thought was flaxseed oil that somehow made him huge and powerful. That’s a HOF worthy lie in any case. But what someone else did in 1973 that had nothing to do with steroids is not relevant. Judge him on his pluses and minuses.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        I think that’s wrong. You have to look at what Bonds did in the context of sports ethics generally. Players in all eras looked for whatever edge they could. It is definitely relevlant, IMO, that Gaylord Perry got into the HOF, at least party by cheating. Of course, there are different levels of cheating and it’s legitimate to judge one worse than another. But I don’t think it’s fair to judge Bonds without looking at him in context.

  11. Steven Kaplow says:

    The uncontrovertible fact is that Barry Bonds cheated, successfully, for an undetermined number of years to enhance his performance. Maybe he did it for only five years. Maybe seven. Maybe ten. We’ll never know which of his accomplishments were legitimately reflective of greatness, or of chemistry.

    If Bonds gets into the Hall, the plaque should be straight forward and objective. It should provide his stats and state that it was subsequently determined (or, “substantial and convincing proof was subsequently discovered which showed…”)that Bonds knowingly used drugs for a substantial part of his career for the purpose, and with the effect, of artificially and illicitly enhancing his playing performance. For this reason, some, or all, of the performance achievements reflected in these statistics are illegitimate.

    The fans can then make their own judgement.

    • BillM says:

      Yep, this has always been Bill Simmons point about Bonds & Clemens: Put it on their freaking plaques.

      The idea of unpersoning them like the NCAA vacating wins is ludicrous. They’re two of the most important players in history. Don’t get me started on Rose. (Put him in as a player, not a manager, while keeping him out of working for a team)

    • Zach says:

      This is a dumb idea, first because it HASN’T actually been proven that Bonds willingly and knowingly used substances against the rules (personally, I think he did, but my opinion is not fact), nor can anyone state with any certainty what effect if any it had on his statistical accomplishments, not the least of which is because we have no idea who else was using around him.

      Again, we are never going to know with anything approaching 100% certainty who used and who didn’t, for how long, and to what effect. Arbitrarily deciding to put asterisks on certain plaques if anything minimizes how widespread PED use was in baseball (and may still be, honestly), and again serves to scapegoat a few specific players instead of starting an honest conversation about why everyone involved thought it best to turn a blind eye.

    • Justin says:

      Seems as though you’ve already made a lot of the judgment in what you suggest should go on Bonds’ plaque (and, for that matter, the plaques of Babe Ruth, Pud Galvin and Mickey Mantle, all of whom are said to have dabbled in early forms of steroid/testosterone injections.)

  12. Darrel says:

    I’m really not sure how anyone can view a HoF nomination as not an honour. Of course it is an honour and the greatest one that can be bestowed on a ballplayer. We can argue all day long about big Hall or small Hall but saying that inducting a player isn’t honouring him is simply a way to dance around the uncomfortable conversation. This is also true when you hear Joe, and others, argue that the Hall is a museum and the story of baseball can’t be told without player X inducted. Well in the case of Bonds, Clemens et al their story is I’m sure well represented in the museum through balls, bats, and other artifacts.

    Bonds may indeed be the GOAT as mentioned earlier but unfortunately we will never know because he didn’t allow us the opportunity to judge him on his own merit. Now there are many of us who can’t trust the numbers and as such have no idea how good his career could have been had he played it straight. It’s a shame really because Barry Bonds the Pirate was one of my favourite players and Barry Bonds the Giant was a cheating $%&^&$^ who deserves no honour.

  13. Bruce M says:

    A couple things:

    1 – Joe doesn’t care about the stinkin rules.

    2 – especially if you allow pedophilia on a grand scale.

  14. John Baranowski says:

    If taking PEDs were normal, why wasn’t it discussed openly but rather done clandestinely?

    Driving over the speed limit is commonplace. I would guess that most everyone has done it at one point. Some do it regularly. To find someone who has not driven over the speed limit would make that person abnormal. So therefore it’s a normal thing. That doesn’t make it right.

    • Thomas says:

      To answer your question John, , they probably didn’t openly discuss using PEDs for te same reason that Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, and Hank Aaron didn’t openly discuss their use of PEDs – it was nobody’s damn business. (Although Hammering Hank later admitted to it in his book.”

      And no one gets their nose all out of joint at cheating trio is in the Hall of Fame.

      The hypocrisy of the those who praise and worship the previous generations of cheaters but suddenly become all morally judgmental and indignant towards the later generation is simply appalling.

      • Rob Smith says:

        Hank Aaron admitted to doing it once & not liking the effects. I agree with him. I tried greenies to study in college and it made me jittery, just like Hank noted. I went to coffee and No-Doz. At any rate, today’s ball players get the positive effects of greenies without all the negative side effects with natural stimulants in energy drinks. Are you upset by that too?

      • Mark Daniel says:

        There is no double standard. Barry Bonds got busted for using amphetamines in 2006. He failed a drug test. Did you even know that? Most people don’t. Why? Because nobody cares about amphetamines. If this was the only thing Bonds was accused of or suspected of using, then he’d be in the HoF right now.

  15. Robert says:

    Small quibble, but Fortune 500 refers to the top grossing companies. The Forbes 500 is the list of wealthiest people.

    Bonds and Clemens should be in. You can’t tell baseball’s story without them. Like another commenter said, they didn’t break the rules in place at the time. That should mean something.

  16. Josh says:

    Bonds cheated the game. He cheated the record books. He cheated the fans. He could have continued to play the game the right way, and he could have been in the same class as Junior. Instead he chose to take PED’s and tarnish an otherwise beautiful Hall of Fame career. It truly is sad, and it is even worse that, to this day he has yet to own up to his indiscretions.He knew exactly what he was doing, and anyone who thinks otherwise is naive at best. It was all an illusion. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t even believable. Houdini, Bonds was not.

    • Doug says:

      Do you think players who cheated in ways other than steroid usage should be out of the Hall of Fame? or is steroid usage a special case here?

    • Dano says:

      Bonds may have ended up with 600 homeruns and been seen as quite a great player. I never saw him as one of the best 5 ever because I saw him when he was in his 20s and early 30s. Great player though he was, he wasn’t one of the best ever. Seems as if Griffey got voted on to the all century team and Bonds didn’t. Bonds had 59 batting WAR after his age 34 season. Aaron had about 32 and he is considered to have aged very well. Mays had about 34. Does anyone really think Bonds was twice as good as Aaron or Mays? Willie Mays’ last 9+ WAR season was age 35. Aaron’s was 29. Bonds had 4 9+ WAR seasons after age 35. Bonds hit 317 HRs after his age 34 season. Aaron had 245, with 42 coming in his last 3 seasons. Bonds barely played the 3rd season before he stopped playing but he hit 54 in his last 2 seasons. Point being that Bonds’ stats are severely skewed because of steroid use.

      • Rob Smith says:

        And this is the issue. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the HOF being an honor or whether it’s recognition of great play. It’s whether,and by how much did PEDs have an impact on his. career. Obviously Bonds had a great career. The last several years are severely tainted. One voter tries to normalize the numbers by “siphoning” off tainted stats. Personally, I love that approach. It’s really a logical way to approach it. I’ve never respected the concept of “everyone did it” or “you can’t know if it made a difference ” or the ludicrous Joe comment about expansion and the ballparks being an equal or bigger factor. The SAME teams and the SAME ballparks are here today. Nobody is hitting 73 HRS. Or 63. Or 53. We know what it was. Btw: the siphoning guy is still voting for Bonds. He’s just not making lame excuses for him.

    • He didn’t cheat this fan. I loathed Bonds as a player and that made his defeats all the more enjoyable. But, every time he came up in a tight spot, it was pure drama and tension. If he succeeded, it was maddening. If he failed, it was glorious. The fact that he was so good made his every at bat a must see event: even though I was rooting for him to fail. As a fan, you can’t ask for anything more. Put him in already.

    • SDG says:

      So did every spitballer. I agree he was cheating, he knew it, he embarrasses himself by talking about flaxseed oil and the whole thing is unfortunate. But . . . spitballers.

  17. That home run against Troy Percival in the 2002 series is one of my most memorable baseball moments. I remember sitting in front of the tv doing the clap… pitch to barry clap-clap-clap-clap-clap, pitch to barry clap-clap-clap-clap-clap… and then just sitting there in awed silence after he hit it. the look on his face was something I never saw any other time. it was like pity mixed with contempt; contempt that that was the best anyone could come up with to try and make the game not easy for him.

  18. jdn says:

    I guess the two players that Joe is talking about are Vlad Guerrero and Manny Ramirez . Given a vote, I would probably end up voting for Manny over Vlad, but it would be a very painful choice.

    • BillM says:

      That is also my guess. Manny was clearly better, sadly enough.

      • Ed says:

        Was he, though?

        I personally don’t think steroid use should disqualify someone from the HoF for the same reasons as Joe. But, with that said, we KNOW Manny was taking steroids. He failed tests and was suspended. We have no idea if Vlad ever did. It’s not a stretch to believe that the difference between their numbers were down to ballparks and steroid use.

  19. Ian says:

    I think it’s pretty insulting to a lot players to say that everyone was roiding at the time. Clearly, they all weren’t. Even the biggest estimates I’ve seen put it around 50% of the players at its peak. Their were a lot of players who didn’t cheat. Maybe that doesn’t mean Bonds is or isn’t a HOFer. But it does mean that the excuse we’re giving him is bullshit.

    There are a lot of players I think who played clean through that era – Brad Radke of the Twins, for example, has a pretty traditional career path and broke down. Compare him to Pettitte. They were pretty similar for 12 years. But one remained healthy and is a HOF candidate and Radke is not remembered by anyone. The Big Hurt spoke out against PED use and from 90-2000 was essentially Albert Pujols at the plate. Then he stopped being the Big Hurt. Fred McGriff’s HR production didn’t change much but the players around him sure did.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Yes. It takes character not to cheat when many others are. What is the character of someone who says “wtf. Everyone else is doing it”? Exactly. What value then should we give to the accomplishments of someone who blatantly cheated? Don’t think too hard personal accountability fans.

    • SDG says:

      I think the real question, is is there any players whose HoF case rests entirely on knowing they were clean? Like, Bonds is good enough regardless, but what about Pettitte?

      • MikeN says:

        I don’t think Pettitte gets in either way. Clearly if Raines was suspected of steroids, he’d be out. Not sure what you are asking.

        • SDG says:

          Whether there are any players who, based on their stats would sail in if voters never suspected them of PEDs but will never get in if they’ve taken them. Bonds and Clemens get in (eventually) no matter what they did because their careers were too amazing to overlook (one day this will be the case for ARod). But what about Pettitte? Or Irod? Or Ortiz or McGwire or Sosa? They are more borderline cases.

          You can’t see definitive proof one way or another being the thing that pushes them over the line?

  20. Pat says:

    Here’s the way I think about it: If the voters aren’t going to keep out everyone from the steroid era, they’re going to have to grapple with the question of which (potential) steroid users they’re going to let in.
    And they’ve already let in players from the steroid era, so that first option’s out. What else can they do? Well, the way I see it, they can:
    1) Admit all players whose stats (clean or not) warrant the Hall of Fame because you can never really know who used and what the impact was;
    2) Admit players who used if they have the stats, but punish them by making them wait longer;
    3) Admit players who used, but discount their stats to guess what they would have achieved if they hadn’t used;
    4) Admit players who used, but discount their stats more than (3) to make a moral statement;
    5) Admit players who used, but discount all their stats after they started using (again, because you can never really know);
    6) Keep out everyone who admitted to or was proven to use steroids;
    7) Keep out everyone even suspected of using steroids.
    Some time ago I read in the NYTimes that baseball fans were more willing to forgive Clemens than Bonds. (This was very long ago.) It seemed insane to me. One thing we have a pretty good idea about Clemens and Bonds is not just that they used, but also when: Clemens when he was teammates with Canseco in Toronto, and Bonds when he decided to show these mere mortals what a real power show looked like (and his hat size changed).
    What if both Clemens and Bonds were unbeknownst to everyone deathly allergic to steroids? What if their careers had stopped then? (Option (5) above.)
    Clemens would have won 192 games with a very good ERA, three Cy Youngs and an MVP, but he wouldn’t have had a World Series ring yet. His top comparables would have been Doc Gooden and Bob Welch, and yeah, Seaver and Maddux and Gibson are on the list, too, but they’re not all HOF members. Is he a Hall of Famer? I would say probably, but without 200 wins, who knows.
    Bonds would have been the only player in history with 400 home runs and 400 steals. The 40/40 club is a big deal; how much bigger is the 400/400 club? Three MVPs, 8 Gold Gloves, and enough black ink already to make the hall (runs, home runs, RBIs, and total bases; four times OBP, three times slugging; four times OPS and five OPS+). His top three comparables at that age were Frank Robinson, Ken Griffey, and Duke Snider—Mays and Mantle are also on the list.
    Is he a Hall of Famer? If his career had suddenly ended then? The more interesting question is whether his critics would have conceded that yes, maybe he could be the other member of the Willie Mays HOF.

  21. Jamie says:

    I have always wondered why PEDs are terrible/cheating when Tommy John surgery is normal and essentially what all pitchers do today. PEDs take chemicals that naturally occur in the body and up the amount within the body. Tommy John surgery takes a ligament from one location and moves it to another. Both are advances in medical technology not available to players of other eras. How is it possible to view these 2 so radically different? I get there are risks in PEDs not in the surgery, but to say surgery doesn’t carry risk along with it is to fundamentally misunderstand surgery.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Do you view surgically fixing a broken leg as the SAME as PEDs? This analogy is just blatantly stupid. You’re comparing surgical techniques that restore functions to nearly it’s original state to altering body chemistry to artificially enhance performance far beyond its original state. Come on!

      • Jamie says:

        If you go to a country where a PED is legal and receive treatment under the supervision of a doctor with no rule against it though, what would be the problem?

        • Rob Smith says:

          I never said anything about “legal”. I said surgery restores natural function while PEDs distort and enhance natural function. Tommy John surgery, like any other surgery, just allows a player to get back on the field. Sometimes their performance returns to pre-surgery levels, often it does not. The impact of PEDs on players is completely different. The numbers bear that out. 73 HRs doesn’t happen without PEDs. It’s like comparing a mechanic that fixes your car to having NASA install a rocket engine into your car. The analogy is way off, that’s all I’m saying.

          • Walter says:

            BS. Natural function was broken, full stop. As soon as you change anything at all, its not natural. At least by some definition of the word.

            So what is natural? This in many ways will parallel the PED/sex/gender issues in women sports. How do we draw this line and why? Are there factual biological tests (is this your natural ligament and your natural testosterone), or something else (i.e. is this testosterone in acceptable levels etc). And are the reasons due to health concerns (which are fairly minor unless you go truly nuts), is it competition reasons (and thus do you think of having natural/”enhanced” leagues), is it PR?

            The issues Jamie bring up are not black and white, and in the broader sports world, the answers to them will impact things well beyond Barry Bonds getting into the HoF.

      • Weight lifting and working out enhance your body beyond it’s natural state, too. So do nutritional supplements, etc.

        But, what happens in the not too distant future when there are surgeries and technological advances available to enhance your natural state? If a hitter can wear a contact lense that instantly predicts the spin and location of a ball right as the pitcher throws it and communicates to the player’s brain, will that be considered the same as PED’s?

        At the end of the day, it’s the natural advancement of technology and medical science. If you’re wearing optics in everyday life, why can’t ballplayers? To me, that’s the longer term question for sports in general.

      • MikeN says:

        I’ve read that the main benefit of PEDs is to keep people healthier.

    • invitro says:

      Yes, if you don’t understand the difference between steroid (ab)use and Tommy John surgery, you need to research why steroids were made illegal in the first place. And if you’re not capable of understanding the different *magnitudes* of risk between PED use and Tommy John surgery, you need to educate yourself before you sit at the big boys’ table.

      I’m seeing a whole lot of people here who can’t understand, or maybe are too unintelligent to understand, that most of these issues are not black/white binary things. There are numerical values, like a range of probabilities from 0% to 100%.

      • Rob Smith says:

        Agree. Some of the statements made are ridiculous. If you want to be OK with steroids, and want Bonds in the HOF, then just say so. Instead people are comparing PEDs with Tommy John surgery, racism, greenies, gambling, cheating at cards, etc. Also they are using the “everyone does it” cop out and Joe even used the “expansion and smaller ballparks” explanation.

        Fact: Bonds used The Clear (and other PEDs). It was a steroid. He hit 73 HRs one year, broke the all time HR record, and generally dominated the game in his late 30s. There is no way to reasonably argue that those numbers happened without PEDs. Bonds explanation that he didn’t know and thought it was flaxseed oil is a whopper of all whoppers. To believe he didn’t know is, to be generous, highly naive.

        An honest statement would be “Bonds used steroids. I don’t care and I want him in the HOF”. But instead people have all kinds of excuses, false equivalents and nutty analogies to try and justify their opinions. It’s all nonsense not at all based on rational thought.

        • Daniel Prenat says:

          Steroid use is definitely comparable to using greenies. Greenies are a performance enhancer and where pick me ups for players when they were tired during a grueling season. If they didn’t help the players performance the players wouldn’t of taken them. The use of greenies allowed players to focus better day in and day out which allowed them to get better numbers, how much better we don’t really know because there is no way to quantify it, same as with steroids. Amphetamines are also an illegal drug while not being a drug baseball tested for at the time just like steroids.

          You may have justified the use of greenies and not of steroids for yourself but they are very similar.

    • Pat says:

      You can extend this reasoning to LASIK surgery. Heck, even contact lenses. Probably plenty of surgical procedures (could you repair an ACL in Ruth’s day?).
      One big difference: Nobody was keeping it a secret when they got Tommy John surgery or contacts. But despite the argument that there wasn’t a rule against it, all the steroid users knew there was something wrong, and they kept it quiet, lied about using, otherwise covered it up.
      Another note: “chemicals that naturally occur in the body and up the amount within the body”—this also describes cocaine, amphetamines, nicotine, etc. Drugs wouldn’t work on our brains if there weren’t already dopamine, adrenaline, etc. already in there. We use a different set of criteria to determine which we allow.

    • Mr Fresh says:

      I kinda like this comparison.. if we’re just talking about HOF credentials, how many of these short career guys from the past might have benefited from accumulating numbers over a few more years if they had Tommy John surgery available to them?

      The advancement in science of the surgery simply returned someone to the same (or better) condition than they were before. Not much different than the steroids. It’s not like the steroids automatically made Bonds a great home run hitter.. he worked his ass off.

      The only counter argument that I can make is that steroids are illegal.. but that seems at least a little arbitrary to me.

      • Rob Smith says:

        “The advancement in science of the surgery simply returned someone to the same (or better) condition than they were before. Not much different than the steroids. It’s not like the steroids automatically made Bonds a great home run hitter.. he worked his ass off.”

        Oh brother. Do you really believe that if Bonds worked his ass off without The Clear that he would have hit 73 HRs and dominated the league in his late 30s? Come on people. Use your brains. And Tommy John doesn’t enhance performance. If you’re luck, your old performance levels return. There is a fair amount of thought, however, that the exercise and rehab after Tommy John might increase performance. But not the surgery itself. It’s just a replacement of a worn out and damaged body part.

        • Jamie says:

          “Just a replacement of a worn out and damaged body part” sounds pretty unnatural to me.

          • Zach says:

            Agreed. Plus sometimes you’re getting a replacement ligament from a cadaver…

            It always strikes me as strange how some folks seem to believe that they can draw a very clear and broad line between “totally acceptable medical procedure” and “utterly unacceptable form of cheating.”

            I understand that steroids (and I guess PEDs, because we somehow treat those two words as synonyms even though they’re not) have some sort of negative connotation, especially among slightly older folks, because we remember the anti-drug PSAs and the looks of Olympic athletes who used the early forms of PEDs, which in some cases ravaged their bodies.

            This is simply not really the case any more. Yes, PEDs can allow your body to do many things which might push the limits of the human body, but they are vastly safer than they used to be.

    • SDG says:

      Because one is doing something out of the bounds of normal activity. You may as well punish modern players because they have access to decent nutrition or video and they don’t have to work in coal mines in the offseason. People every day get surgery or wear glasses. People study (ie/ using tape). But steroids are drugs specifically designed to increase your muscle mass in a way that’s not possible without taking them. It would be like a writer taking a drug that connected his brain to Philip Roth’s and then winning the Pulitzer.

    • wjones58 says:

      And why is cortesone approved? Isn’t that essentially a steroid too?

      • Mike says:

        Completely different. One is an anabolic steroid that promotes muscle growth, while the other is a corticosteroid that is an anti-inflammatory.

        My two cents, I honestly don’t care about the holiness of records the way a lot of people do. As much as I hated/respected Barry Bonds (Dodgers fan!), I have never seen anything like him. It felt like any game he didn’t hit a home run was an aberration. And his bat speed was unreal. He was terrifying in a way I just don’t think anyone else has ever been (in my lifetime at least). And even if you want to discount his numbers due to PED use, what’s left over is more than enough to justify inclusion into the hall. YMMV.

  22. E.H. says:

    At least with Bonds we now know how good a player can get. He made millions more off those PED’s and he also treated a lot of people very badly. Lied under oath, rough-handled his girlfriend, even joked about his ailing grandma. He’s a talented, rich jerk. Still, put him in the HOF for christsake!

  23. Rick Rodstrom says:

    One of the reasons that Bonds was underappreciated was that for much of his career he played so poorly in the post-season. His slugging averages in his 3 playoff appearances with the Pirates was .167, .185 and .435 as the Bucs lost each time, and the only thing people remembered about Bonds was that he couldn’t throw out lead-footed Sid Bream at the plate from short left field, which won the League Championship Series for the Braves. He didn’t fare much better in his early playoff appearances with the Giants, slugging .417 and .353 in two more first round exits. Put simply, Bonds choked in the clutch.Legends are not made in this manner.

    That all changed in 2002, by which time the 37 year old Bonds had become the steroid monster he is remembered as today. In 3 post-season series, Bonds slugged .824, .727 and a whopping 1.294 in the World Series when they bothered pitching to him at all (his WS OBP was .700). I think that was when most people got a look at Big Barry and said, Holy Moley, this guy’s the Hulk.

    What I remember most about Bonds during that time was not just the unbelievable power, launching balls into McCovey’s Cove, but the almost supernatural pitch recognition. If Bonds was lucky, he might get one pitch a game to hit, as pitchers usually walked him, but if they accidentally left one over the plate, he would crush it. It was uncanny. He was the greatest hitter I ever saw.

    He was too good actually, as people stopped even pretending to pitch to him, resulting in the preposterous 120 intentional walks (out of 232 total) that he received in 2004. He was even walked with the bases loaded. When your best hitter is never allowed to hit, you’ve got a crisis in the game. They had to change the rules regarding steroids before baseball became a walkathon.

    Even after eliminating steroids from the game, and returning stats to earthbound levels, I don’t know that baseball has ever fully recovered from the Bonds experience. It’s become common practice now to avoid challenging a team’s best hitter whenever possible. That’s Barry Bonds true legacy. Mike Trout had a career-high 116 walks last year, which is not a stat to celebrate. I think baseball needs to implement a rule whereby a batter can decline a 4-pitch walk and start with a fresh count, and if he then works out a walk, he is awarded two bases. Of course, if that rule was in effect during the years that Bonds laid waste to pitchers, he might have hit 100 home runs in a season.

    • Darrel says:

      Games might also last 7 hours.

    • Michael C Lorah says:

      Games would last 7 hours and pitchers would hit 100 pitches in the third inning.

      • Rick Rodstrom says:

        I disagree. This would only apply to 4 pitch—ie intentional walks. It would guarantee every better got at least 1 strike to swing at each at bat. By forcing pitchers to throw strikes, it should increase the amount of balls put in play and reduce the number of walks overall.

    • Squawks McGrew says:

      So right about his pitch recognition. Over a weekend series in Atlanta, Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone told reporters Bonds wouldn’t see a strike from Glavine, Smoltz and Maddux. Bonds saw five. He swung at four — each left the yard. Most amazing thing I’d seen a hitter do in nearly 50 years of watching baseball.

  24. Johnny P says:

    All I’ll say is that, if that trade with Bonds going to Atlanta had panned out, it would have gone down as one of the biggest disasters in MLB history from Pittsburgh’s standpoint.

    Pena had a bad 1992 and didn’t play at all in 1993; he would never again be a very effective player. Keith Mitchell, although he had a good cup of coffee with Atlanta in 1991, never even played fifty games in a season. Meanwhile, the Braves would have gotten Barry Bonds.

    • invitro says:

      “would have gone down as one of the biggest disasters in MLB history from Pittsburgh’s standpoint” — No, it absolutely would not have. Bonds was a free agent after 1992, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to re-sign with the Pirates. So the Pirates would’ve lost him for just one season, not nearly enough to be even a minor disaster, much less one of the biggest disasters in MLB history.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        The real question is whether the Braves would have done better in the playoffs (or even made the playoffs) with Bonds instead of Maddux.

        • MikeN says:

          The Braves spent more on pitching than other teams. Having Bonds would have put them back into alignment.
          However, having Leo Mazzone suggests they could benefit more from good pitching, or perhaps it means they should spend less and Leo will make the weaker pitchers better.

  25. birtelcom says:

    There is no evidence that Bonds used PEDs before he was 34. Let’s look at the highest position player WAR totals (baseball-reference version) through age 33:
    1. Rogers Hornsby 119.6
    2. Babe Ruth 114.5
    3. Ty Cobb 113.1
    4. Willie Mays 109.0
    5. Alex Rodriguez 105.2
    6. Hank Aaron 104.4
    7. Lou Gehrig 100.6
    T8. Barry Bonds and Mickey Mantle 99.6 each
    10. Tris Speaker 97.3

    Mantle abused chemicals and probably shortened his career. Bonds abused chemicals and probably lengthened his career. Not sure why the former should be an easy choice for the Hall and the latter barred from it

    • Rick Rodstrom says:

      Wasn’t Willie Mays generation hopped up on speed they got from the team?

    • Marc Schneider says:

      Mantle’s abuse of alcohol obviously did not improve his performance and wasn’t intended to. Bonds used chemicals specifically to improve his performance. It is sort of different.

      • Justin says:

        What about Mantle developing an abscess for being injected with a mixture of steroids and amphetamines? That obviously didn’t improve his performance either, but do you give him a pass because his use of steroids was disastrous instead of beneficial? I would suggest his intent was the same as Bonds’ intent in using.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          I thought you were referring to alcohol. But I agree about the intent. The only difference is that Mantle, as far as I know, did the injections once, in order to play in the 1961 World Series. (And, FWIW, he got them from the same doctor who was injecting President Kennedy. It didn’t seem to improve JFK’s performance at Vienna with Khruschev.) It’s not a moral judgement; each is equally culpable. But if the issue is the effect of PEDs on career performance and, assuming, that Bonds took them and they led to his later seasons, then Bonds’ use of PEDs had a lot more impact than Mantle’s. You certainly didn’t see Mantle have monster seasons afterward. That’s all I’m saying.

    • SDG says:

      Because the argument against steroids isn’t about punishing people for being bad, but the fact that steroids make it impossible to determine who really won a game or put up a stat. Mickey Mantle turned his liver into a catcher’s mitt, but the Yankee wins and his tape measure homers are still earned in the context of fair play and legitimate competition.

      With the PED users, you can’t say that for sure.

      • Jamie says:

        Because punishing a player for helping his team win makes a lot of sense. Especially when we reward similar behavior that costs wins. This makes so much sense.

        • SDG says:

          OF COURSE you punish a player for helping his team win if the win was dishonestly obtained and thus, meaningless. If Bonds had bribed pitchers to go easy on him or umps to give him a big strike zone, would you still think his wins counted?

          • Jamie says:

            Except there was no testing for or way to administer a punishment for using steroid or other PEDs, and there are rules about bribing and other forms of cheating along those lines. And don’t say that since 1991 or whatever there was a rule against steroids because there wasn’t. Because Fay Vincent said so did not make it a rule that was agreed to by the union and the other parties involved. Baseball doesn’t work that way.

  26. Scott P. says:

    “And there isn’t a single example I know of where an esteemed player whose baseball credentials fell short was voted in anyway. ”

    Rabbit Maranville?

  27. Jimbo says:

    Bonds had his AB/HR plummet in the early 90s so it is highly unlikely he only started on PEDs in 1999. Any arguments based around his stats up to that year therefore should carry very little weight.
    Having said that, he should probably be in the hall of fame but keeping somebody so unpleasant out does make me happy.

    • SDG says:

      I don’t know. We don’t actually know any of these people and the ones with the nicest public images could be real assholes in private and the reverse could be true as well. Remember when we all thought Steve Garvey and Kirby Puckett were total sweethearts?

      It makes me uncomfortable that a bunch of sportswriters are passing character judgements. If that were the standard we used Ted Williams would have had to wait for the Veterans Committee.

  28. KHAZAD says:

    The biggest problem is fans and media wanting to hold on to the misguided illusion that the game is pure somehow, when it is not and never has been.

    Steroids and other performance enhancers have always been a part of the game, and athletes have always done whatever was available to help their performance.

    It is an established fact that Mickey Mantle (someone held up by the old timers as an example of when the game was pure) was taking a steroid and amphetamine cocktail by injection in 1961. It is also true that the only reason we know about it is that he developed an infection because the person injecting him did not use sterile needles. How many other players were doing the same thing in an era where it was easy to keep a secret, and the media, unlike now, was complicit in keeping the illusion alive?

    There is testimony from teammates of Hank Aaron’s that steroids were rampant in the clubhouse of the team he was on when making his run at 714, and at least anecdotal evidence that he also used steroids (as well as the amphetamines he has always admitted to, which are also performance enhancers.) In his career before age 35, Aaron hit a home run every 17.4 at bats, with a yearly best of one every 13.2 in his age 28 season.
    From his age 35 season until he hit #715, (game #3 of his age 40 season)Aaron hit one home run per 11.7 at bats for 5 years, peaking at one every 9.5 in his age 39 season and the first 3 games of his age 40 season as he chased the record. What would we think about that in the 1990s or 2000s?

    Steroid use waned in the mid 1970s, not because the players were any purer, but because the side effects got a lot of notoriety, and players were unsure of the actual benefits. They ramped up again in the late 1980s as the benefits were more apparent and the methods more scientific. They really took off in the 90s, and the game changed. Not just because of the increase of the number of players using, but because of more scientific knowledge of the proper doses and regimens to achieve positive results. In the meantime, the commissioner and many fans wanted to still believe that the game was pure, many of them coming up with other excuses for the power surge, like modern workout techniques, legal supplements, smaller ballparks and pitchers that threw harder. (All things that still exist today without the same results) The one thing that I do think shared blame for the power surge with PEDS was the incredible shrinking strike zone of the 90s and early 2000s.

    Barry Bonds made it impossible for anyone to stick their head in the sand anymore. He quite literally DID break the game, and many hold a special antipathy for him because he made it impossible to hold on to their illusions.

    I may be alone in this, but I am glad he did it. I can’t help but wonder if the game would still be cruising along the same way if he had not. Would the big investigation into Balco have happened without him? Would congress have gotten involved without that? Would Canseco’s book have been published, and even if it had, would it have just been considered the rantings of a blowhard who is a few fries short of a happy meal? (Like his twitter account today)Would Ken Caminiti (as well as Canseco) have been considered a more isolated case?

    I think Barry Bonds saved the game. Not on purpose, of course, and I am not suggesting it makes him an OK guy in any way or that those who want to punish the people that shattered their misguided naive illusions should change their mind and vote for him. Although in my personal experience, the ones that held on to those illusions the tightest and denied the obvious the longest are the same people who want to keep everyone out now. I would have voted for him when he was eligible because I never had the illusion of purity to begin with. Do I wish he, and others in the era, had not used? Sure. I wish Mickey Mantle hadn’t used either, but I don’t begrudge him his rightful place in the Hall. Do I wish there had been drug testing years earlier? Of course. But many of the angry people now were happy deniers then, and really, part of the problem. They didn’t want to believe it was an important issue. Bonds made it important, and unwittingly saved the game.

    • Thomas says:

      Thank you for the many points you make. Now prepare to be skewered by the apologists for Mantle and Aaron and Mays and the rest of the boys from the 50’s and 60’s.

      Some will be in denial, saying it can’t be proven, while rsnting about unproven accusations about Piazza and Bagwell, while somehow knowing with absolute certainty that Griffey and Thomas and Rice and Ozzie Smith were totally clean. Some will have a million lame reasons why PEDs were different back then, as if that explains why it is heresy to smear the players they worshipped in their youth. Many will to even will go into great contortions to make both arguments simultaneously.

      None will admit that the players who took full advantage of the best available PEDs at the time are no more exempt from their moral judgment and the outrage they heap upon the players who came later.

      My favorite line from past discussions is that PEDs in the ’60s were “basically the same as 5 hour energy drink today.” Wait for it.

      • Rob Smith says:

        What I would say is that I’m not in favor of HOF candidacies being derailed by whisper and rumor campaigns. Whispers about Mantle or Mays is in the same category as whispers about Bagwell and Piazza. Personally I only count steroids against KNOWN users. Barry Bonds is certainly in that category. Regardless of what you or anyone else drudges up about anyone in history, we’re talking about Barry Bonds here. Do you not believe that Bonds used PEDs? Do you believe that he thought it was just flaxseed oil? Do you believe Bonds performance was the result mainly of hard work and PEDs didn’t add much?

        I realize we’re in a fact free world. But that doesn’t justify getting our news from the equivalent of the National Enquirer. If there was hard evidence on other players when they were being voted in, it would have been weighed at that time. That’s what we’re doing with Bonds right now. We’re not throwing out evidence on Bonds just because someone else may have done something 75 years ago that was lightly related to the body chemistry experiments Bonds was doing.

        • Thomas says:

          Our first contestant checks in as a Catgory Three described above: The Contortionist, managing to both Deny and Minimize simultaneously.

          Your “National Enquirer Gambit” will be featured prominently with the “5 Hour Energy Drink Analogy” in the “Twinkie Defense” Hall of Fame.

          Thanks for playing Baseball Jeopardy, Rob Smith. Next contestant, come on down!

        • KHAZAD says:

          The thing about Mantle is not a whisper, it is an established fact.

        • MikeN says:

          At the time, I had no idea of steroid use in baseball. I saw McGwire with his balloon arms, and it still didn’t register when he was charged with using andro. I accepted Bonds’s story about flaxseed oil. It certainly never occurred to me that steroids was responsible for Bonds power boost. I had already seen the stat guys telling me that Bonds is much better than Griffey, so I had no reason to think anything strange was happening. The guy I didn’t like was Sammy Sosa who I felt was not a good player.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        To be fair to Aaron, though, there is another reason why his home run ratio went up later in his career-the Braves moved to Atlanta. Atlanta Stadium was a launching pad in those days. Milwaukee was a very difficult home run park. And once he got to Atlanta, Aaron started trying to pull the ball and hit more home runs. You can see the decline in his batting average as his home runs went up after 1965. Not excusing what he did-if he did take stuff-but there were other factors involved.

    • Simon says:

      Yes, maybe Hank “figured something out” between his age 34 and age 35 seasons. Or maybe, before his 35-year-old 1969 season MLB decided to lower the mound for the rest of his career, abruptly changing the offensive balance for the entire league.

      1968: .852 OPS –> 153 OPS+ (NL OPS = .641, AB/HR = 61.6)
      1969: 1.003 OPS –> 177 OPS+ (NL OPS = .688, AB/HR = 44.7)
      1970: .958 OPS –> 149 OPS+ (NL OPS = .721, AB/HR = 39.5)

      Don’t hate the player, hate the game 🙂

  29. Subrata Sircar says:

    Bonds was the greatest hitter I’ve ever seen live. A Hall that doesn’t recognize that greatness is not a Hall that means anything to me.

    • Rob Smith says:

      A bit overwrought. I don’t agree that one (possible) injustice invalidates the whole process. But at least you don’t make any excuses for Bonds. I can respect your position.

  30. GWO says:

    I loved watching Barry Bonds – loved it. The first Splash Hit at PacBell passed over my head in the right field seats at the first baseball game I ever attended. That ball he hit off Troy Percival – go listen to Michael Schur’s description what a transcendent moment that was.

    But here’s the thing – I loved watching Lance Armstrong race too – loved the way he gave Ulrich “the look”, loved the way he road away from Pantani on Ventoux. I was a fan him from the day I saw him pay tribute to Fabio Casartelli until the day I saw the evidence that had been compiled against him.

    You know what else I loved – I loved watching Ben Johnson win the 100m is Seoul. I loved watching Marion Jones in Sydney, and Flo-Jo in Los Angeles.

    All those things happened – Ben Johnson crossed the line first. Armstrong rode away from the field with the greatest team ever assembled. Flo-Jo redefined what we thought was possible in women’s athletics. Marion Jones in full flight was an absolutely sight.

    But no-one — and I mean literally no-one — is petitioning for Ben Johnson to go into the athletics Hall of Fame. Lance Armstrong is a pariah in the sport he helped popularise. Marion Jones went to prison. Flo-Jo paid a price far greater than any of them.

    I’m OK with the writers snubbing Bonds. He’s spectacularly rich. He’s still working in baseball (or was till recently). He got off pretty lightly.

    • SDG says:

      To me, it’s not about Bonds. Putting Bonds in the Hall has nothing to do with rewarding or punishing Bonds. It’s about the Hall. It has to means something.

      If Barry Bonds isn’t in, then every subsequent player has a mental asterisk next to his name. He belongs in the pantheon with the greatest players ever* (*plus Bonds, Clemens, ARod, etc). It degrades the standards of the institution. It makes it less valuable for everyone else.

      I do see your argument, though. I think it’s good Johnson and Armstrong aren’t in their respective record books and the athletics community threw them out. Unfortunately, it’s not so clear cut with baseball. Do we also throw away team wins on teams Bonds played for? Is that even physically possible?

  31. EnzoHernandez11 says:

    If Barry Bonds had never been born:

    1. Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, and even Rafael Palmeiro would be in the Hall of Fame.
    2. Henry Aaron would still be the all-time home run king, and the older sportswriters would still cherish their untarnished memories of #715 back in 1974.
    3. In sixteen months, MLB would be preparing for a massive, yearlong celebration of 1998, the year McGwire and Sosa had their epic battle and Big Mac set the all-time single-season home run record with 70.
    4. Selig and the enablers would have heard the growing murmurs about steroid use and moved quietly to ban their use; utimately, the murmurs would have grown loud enough that Don Fehr would have signed off on a testing regimen.
    5. The 1990s and early 2000s would be referred to as the “Home Run Era” rather than the Steroid Era, and people would understand that is was a wonderful, fluky time not unlike the dead ball era of the 1960s.
    That’s my guess, anyway. But instead, someone almost universally despised by writers and fans alike broke the game, and, in doing so, robbed us of two of our favorite baseball memories, 1974 and 1998. We were all enjoying our ice cream until Barry came along and force-fed us a whole gallon of the stuff. Then we all got sick and started complaining about how much better ice cream was back in the 1970s.
    I wish Barry had only hit 49 home runs in 2001 (his second highest total). But he hit 73 and that jolted us all from our happy little bubble of denial. But it’s not a reason to keep Barry out of the Hall of Fame. In a sense, he had two careers: one as an underappreciated inner-circle Hall of Famer, and the other as Babe Ruth’s only rival.

    • GWO says:

      “We were all enjoying our ice cream until Barry came along and force-fed us a whole gallon of the stuff. Then we all got sick and started complaining about how much better ice cream was back in the 1970s”

      I love that image.

    • kehnn13 says:

      I think that if Bonds had not turned baseball into a video game, the same thing would have happened in response to ARod, who almost certainly would have broken the career home run record.

  32. Michael C Lorah says:

    I’m all for voting in players with steroid taint. I don’t know what anybody took (I’ve argued this: I don’t believe Palmiero’s story, but just as a what if, what if he really got something tainted from Tejada, who had a few chemical infringements on his own record) or how much it helped their game (most of those busted weren’t very good anyway), but I know a lot of players used and I can’t and won’t fault their peers for wanting to keep up. I’m all for cleaning up baseball, but if there’s blame for the steroid era, it’s not on the players. MLB let it happen because it made them money. And biggest hypocrisy of it all to me — the WRITERS, the same writers who now stand in judgment on these players, let it happen.

    I see everything through the prism of the Phillies, so here’s when I knew unequivocally that baseball had a steroid culture. Spring training 1992, Lenny Dykstra shows up at training camp looking like somebody had transplanted his head onto some bodybuilding magazine body. Asked about his offseason workout routine, Lenny says with a little chuckle, “I took my vitamins.” Teenage me immediately thinks, “Oh crap, Lenny just told the world he’s taking steroids and he’s going to get suspended or something.” Except it turned out 1) to not be against the rules of baseball, and 2) that nobody cared. But I knew. I knew McGwire’s andro was a smokescreen. If I knew that, then the writers with 1000x the access I had certainly had some clue, and they didn’t care. So the hypocrisy of the writers refusing these players while enabling them infuriates me. It absolutely repulses me.

    On the subject of steroids and Bonds, here’s two things:
    1. I was among the few who argued in the 90s the Bonds was the best in baseball. Always loved watching him play. He may have been surly and cranky, but there was also an honest love for and respect for the game and the players who’d come before him.
    2. If steroids make you THAT good, I want everybody taking them. Every Bonds at-bat from 1999 onward was must-see TV, even if you were just waiting for that ONE good pitch he’d get a game. (And yeah, I acknowledge the strength steroids contributed to his video game numbers, but I’ve yet to see an argument for how chemicals enhanced his pitch recognition. To recognize and pounce on that one pitch was more impressive to me than anything else.)

    Also, I used to go to the Hall every couple years. It’s only a few hours from me in Jersey and I love it up there. Since Bonds became eligible, I haven’t gone. I don’t want to. To me, it’s no longer recognizing the best players.

    • DB says:

      Glad to see the comments of Michael Lorah, GWO and EnzoHernandez11. I graduated high school in 1990 and there were kids in my high school doing steroids then and we all knew it (as well as the liquid lunches and the coke). We know the East Germans were injecting their swimmers with everything they could starting in the 50s (and becoming ridiculous by the late 60s through the early 70s) as well as track and field strength events. We all knew that Lance was doing something (as was basically everyone) as we saw Pantani go from a mountain specialist with no time trial game to winning the time trial (as well as the Tour) to dying. I sometimes still respect Lance (not for throwing everyone under the bus though and being a d**k) as he beat the best (when everyone has the access to the same cocktails) while never being caught by the rules of the game (same as Barry). Not sure why baseball needs to be pure while football does not care (win awards in the same year that you get suspended, players losing 100 pounds plus right after they retire, the speed, the size).

      We decided that steroids in baseball were really bad recently (not kind of bad which they were before in that you did it but did not talk about) and we punished retroactively (Verducci either knew or was incompetent so not sure why he gets to be the gatekeeper). You play by the rules of the game when you are playing. I am not comparing ADHD medicine to steroids but what if we learn after the fact that players were using (and many are under right now the supposed care of a physician even though the rate of players with exemptions exceeds the population) and that it significantly increased performance, do we go back and check to see if those players were actually legally getting the prescription and then punish retroactively. I am not a Russophile but I see their point sometimes about Americans and how our athletes are pure while getting medical exemptions (that do increase performance while also being medically necessary) but theirs are not (that heart drug they were all doing). Maybe bodybuilding has it right. Do whatever you want and compete in this group. Do nothing and compete in this group. We will see what most people watch.

  33. Alejo says:

    “PED use, it was normal. I mean, nobody was doing it openly, out in the public, and nobody was talking about it. But it was normal. ”

    That makes no sense. Something normal is not taboo, they are opposite.

    You said it yourself: Bonds’ monstrosity was the last drop.

    I think it is troubling to think that you agonise over the career of someone like Fred McGriff, but are ready to vote Bonds in.

    I am with Verducci on this: no HoF for cheaters. Past generations may have voted racists and amphetamine users in, but that can be changed for the better. Especially concerning users of drugs that do what they are advertised to do, enhance performance, skew numbers.

    Bonds, and the other PED users, made a joke out of baseball.

    I think the writer is easily blinded by perceived greatness, even though behind the brilliance there is a lot of darkness (see Paterno, Joe)

    • Mark Daniel says:

      I agree. I don’t think you can call it “normal”. You can call it common perhaps, but not normal.
      Bonds, also, took the use of steroids to another level. He wasn’t just taking some banned substance he bought at GNC, nor was he using steroids that one of his teammates happened to give him in the locker room on occasion. He was in a pretty sophisticated steroid acquisition and usage process, all aimed at improving his performance while avoiding detection.

  34. Otistaylor89 says:

    “In other words, we had become immune more or less to all of the causes for the home run explosion — it’s not only PEDs, there was also the tiny strike zone, high-altitude ballparks, harder bats, dearth of pitching because of expansion, etc.”

    Joe is leaving out, what I believe, the biggest cause in the increease of offense (outside PEDs) during those years – the compressed golfball like baseballs they started using. Most of the other stuff has stayed the same, although pitching has gotten better, but they are no longer playing with superballs.

  35. JB says:

    Okay, so Bonds will get in someday. I don’t want him in, but we should just get it over with now. But the 762 and 73 HRs and the walk record should be noted in the record books****. And if Joe ever gets back to the all-time ranking and puts the cheating Bonds over the great Babe, I’ll forever quit reading him. Bob Costas has an interesting take on the absurd change in Bonds that turned him into an unnatural freak. That just isn’t fair and I can’t get over it.

    Is Clemens different? Just a little bit, because he didn’t strike out 400 in season, 5,800 in a career and get to 520 wins.

  36. John Leavy says:

    I’ve made this challenge to Joe before, and I make it again: if the Hall of Fame is NOT an honor, if it’s “just a museum,” and all that should matter are the numbers… then why is he forever whining that Buck O’Neill was never inducted?

    After all, the numbers say Buck isn’t worthy. End of story.

    So why complain about Buck’s exclusion, unless… ADMIT it, Joe, induction IS an honor!!! It’s a huge honor, one you think a,wonderful man like Buck O’Neil deserves.

    And you may be absolutely right about that. But if you’re prepared to argue that a sub-par candidate belongs in the Hall for his virtues, you cannot argue that other voters can’t exclude deserving players for their sins.

    Character matters or it doesn’t.

    • Joe Posnanski says:

      You are purposely conflating two very different things — PLAYERS who go into the Hall of Fame and CONTRIBUTORS who go into the Hall of Fame. I sense you know that you are doing that.

      • John Leavy says:

        At times like this, I sincerely wish I’d given more complimentary feedback to all the WONDERFUL things Joe has written. Because now I’m bound to come across as a bitter hater for fighting Joe on a rare issue I think he’s gotten consistently wrong for years.

        When steroid abuse was rampant, Joe either completely ignored it or had no idea what was going on right under his nose. That reflects poorly on him.

        But that’s forgivable. LESS forgivable has been his consistent downplaying of steroids SINCE then, as well as his determination to condemn everyone EXCEPT the players who used steroids!

        Joe started out saying? “Steroids? What steroids?” Then he moved on to, “Well, okay, a FEW guys may have used steroids, but the home run boom is really just about juiced balls.” Then it was, “All right, EVERYONE was using steroids, but it was really Bud Selig’s fault.” Then “Hey, Hank Aaron used greenies.” Then “It’s the Hall of FAME, not the Hall of Nice Guys.”

        I know I sure don’t sound like an admirer of yours right now, Joe, but I am. And that’s why I hate asking: are you capable of embarrassment? Is this just an issue you CAN’T look at objectively?

        • Karyn says:

          If you hate asking something, don’t ask it. If you think Joe is being inconsistent, say so. Make your argument.

          But the way you’re discussing things now seems argumentative and, well, personal.

    • EnzoHernandez11 says:

      But, John, the story of Buck O’Neill is really three stories. First, there’s the ballplayer, a top 10% talent, if not quite up there with the very best. Then, there’s the scout and mentor who also happened to be the first African American coach in the major leagues. Think of how many times his name pops up in the history of late 20th Century baseball, whether discovering Lee Smith or talking a young Billy Williams out of quitting. (I assume everyone understands why he never got the chance to manage in the big leagues and does not let that detract from his credentials.) Finally, if all that weren’t enough to get him in the H of F (and it is, in my view), he then enjoys a third life, at the turn of the century, as an iconic ambassador for MLB and the Negro Leagues. I would defy you to name anyone with even two of these three qualifications who isn’t enshrined in Cooperstown.

    • SDG says:

      The comparison doesn’t work because Buck wouldn’t be going in as a player. No one claimed Buck should be inducted as a player. The argument for putting him in as a manager can be supported by stats (in that the only stat you can use is wins and he did manage the Monarchs when they were dominant). The argument for putting him in as a pioneer (for which no quantitative argument is needed) is even stronger. But Buck wouldn’t go in as a player.

      As far as I’m concerned, the so-called character class went out the window in the very first inductuction class with Ty Cobb.

  37. MikeN says:

    Fred McGriff is being denied a Hall of Fame spot because of cheating by Bonds and others. Why should I discount that and just say let Clemens and Bonds in? Should I at least vote for Fred first?

    I think the whole issue clears up when David Ortiz misses out on his first few ballots, and the Boston media complex gears up. Is ESPN still running out of Bristol, CT?

    • EnzoHernandez11 says:

      I loved Fred McGriff as a player, but the reason he’s not in Cooperstown is because he’s the very definition of a marginal Hall of Famer. He’s a slugger who never hit 40 home runs in a season and fell short of 500 despite playing forever. His OPS+ puts him with Al Kaline and Ducky Medwick, but also with Freddie Freeman and Travis Hafner. He’s Willie Stargell without the signature season, but probably not as good as Stargell. I don’t think we can blame Barry for this one.

      • MikeN says:

        This was covered earlier this year here. Bonds and co boosted the numbers so much that McGriff’s great stats look ordinary now. 400 HR used to get people’s attention, now 493 HR, ho hum.

  38. Knuckles says:

    Hate these votes. Let the Veterans Committee vote them in. There are only 10 spots and more than 10 legitimate candidates. There is no consensus what to do with the cheaters so each vote is a waste a deserving player loses.

  39. ShowertoShowerJames says:

    Bonds belongs in the Hall. I think it’s stupid to keep out him, Sosa, Palmeiro, Sheffield, Clemens, Big Mac etc. These guys are great players, and like it or not, everyone was doing it. Everyone was looking the other way. You are much better off just holding your nose and acknowledging, like it or not, that Bonds was either the best ever or closest to it you’ve seen.

    Bill James guessed that 5 Hof members were Roiders-as a guess, he meant: Fisk, Dawson, Molitor, Kirby, Rickey or Sandberg. I can’t see throwing any of them out, either.

  40. Rower41 says:

    “There are those whose sole claim to profundity is the discovery of exceptions to the rules.” ~Paul Eldridge

    “What folks claim is right is just a couple of jumps short of what they need to do business.” ~Robert Penn Warren

    “If the rule you followed led you to this then what good is the rule?”
    ~Anton Chigurh

    The trend worldwide seems to be that any action is good once it is rationalized by those that decide. Some consider compromise noble; for instance, if you were to put your faith in an actor playing the father of Robert the Bruce in the movie Braveheart, you would accept it. (As an aside, the son not the father developed leprosy.)

  41. Gdawg says:

    Joe says:
    There were so many 40-homer seasons during those seven seasons (82 if you’re counting) that 40-homers stopped mattering at all.

    (cough cough) FRED MCGRIFF ( cough cough)

  42. Chad says:

    Keep his cheating ass out, is my opinion.

    Of course, I don’t have a vote, so my opinion matters not at all. If he gets in, it won’t impact my life. But, I will be happy every time I hear vote results and he doesn’t make it.

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