The Home Run King isn't in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Hit King isn't in. The 7-time Cy Young winner isn't in. The great debate concerning the Baseball Hall of Fame rages on.
Former Cleveland Indians slugger Jim Thome is projected to become a first-ballot guy for all the right reasons.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens can't say the same. Clemens, who racked up a staggering 354 wins during his 24-year career, denied it until the end, through two trials on perjury charges, he was found not guilty.
Bonds, who belted 762 home runs in 22 years, was also charged with perjury and was convicted of obstruction of justice, with the conviction eventually overturned.
Should Bonds and Clemens and other legendary players who were accused but never convicted of steroid use be allowed in?
Do I write this because I'm insensitive to the affect that steroids likely had on their longevity and success? Is it an indication that I don't care that they went chemical to compete into their 40s while so many others did it the right way?
I write this because the HOF is filled with guys who cheated. Filled with players who certainly wouldn't hold up to most moral standards. Racists. Drunks. Drug abusers. Tim Raines, who admitted using cocaine before games (and having the drug in his uniform pocket DURING games), was admitted just a year ago.
It's not the Hall of Perfect People. It's the Hall of Fame. While the steroid cloud that hangs over the heads of people like Clemens and Bonds definitely tarnishes the game by padding the stats, the fact is that both players were the best at their position before their bodies started changing and the rumors started flying.
Historically, the playing field has seldom been level in baseball. What about the segregated era? The dead-ball era?
I believe it was baseball junkie Bob Costas who came up with what I believe to be the perfect solution: put a plaque near the entrance of the HOF outlining which issues defined which era, whether segregation or steroids or whatever, and then let the visitors judge the players and the stats for themselves.
As for the Hit King, that's where I hold the line. Pete Rose was a remarkable hitter and fierce competitor, but for six seasons he walked under that sign that hangs above every clubhouse door leading to the clubhouse and disregarded it. Major League Baseball's Golden Rule:
"Rule 21 MISCONDUCT (a) MISCONDUCT IN PLAYING BASEBALL. ... Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible."
In other words, don't bet on this game.
Rose did it for at least the six years he was managing the Cincinnati Reds, including three when he was player-manager. Took him a while, but he finally admitted it. And even if he only bet ON his team, his actions on the field (keeping a pitcher in too long, pulling a player out too early?) Certainly could have been influenced by the money he had on the game.
There's no getting around that. Nothing can impact the integrity of a game more than a participant gambling. Not even steroids.
Open the doors for Clemens and Bonds. It's time.
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