Let's Hear It - Steroid Era Catches Up With Hall of Fame

Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE

How do the Hall of Fame voters handle this year's class? How does one judge a clean player from that era? Do we only punish the 'visible' users? How would you vote?

Another baseball-empty month down, as we close November for the upcoming December. A's Spring Training Tickets will go on sale as the season resumes in a mere three months.

But until then, let's talk about the Hall of Fame this year. Your 2013 nominees:

Holdovers

Morris (66.7%; 14)
Bagwell (56%; 3)
Smith (50.6%; 11)
Raines (48.7%; 6)
Trammell (36.8%; 12)
Martinez (36.5%; 4)
Fred McGriff (23.9%; 4)
Larry Walker (22.9%; 3)
McGwire (19.5%; 7)
Mattingly (17.8%; 13)
Murphy (17.8%; 15)
Palmeiro (12.6%; 3)
Bernie Williams (9.6%; 2)

New

Sandy Alomar Jr.
Craig Biggio
Barry Bonds
Jeff Cirillo
Royce Clayton
Roger Clemens
Jeff Conine
Steve Finley
Julio Franco
Shawn Green
Roberto Hernandez
Ryan Klesko
Kenny Lofton
Jose Mesa
Mike Piazza
Reggie Sanders
Curt Schilling
Aaron Sele
Sammy Sosa
Mike Stanton
Todd Walker
David Wells
Rondell White
Woody Williams

Obviously, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are the main controversy in this year's ballot, but there are other names that should raise eyebrows, as well. What are the voters going to do with this era? Will they blackball any player who has his name associated with the Dark Days of baseball to make a point? Will they not vote a steroid player in this year, but maybe the next? Will they try to ignore that era of baseball?

The decision is a tougher one this year. Mark McGwire was an easier decision; an easier player to put off. Barry Bonds is not. Like it or not, like him or not, blatant cheater or misunderstood star; he is still the best, most game-changing baseball player I've seen in my lifetime. And I have mixed feelings, for sure.

On one hand, I abhor the cheating. I think it's awful that the A's signed Bartolo Colon this year. Way to reward bad behavior and force me to root for a cheater who hurt my own team. I think it's sending a horrible message to everyone; the clean pitchers on the team, in Triple-A, and all the way down the line to high school. Don't worry, even if you get caught with steroids, you'll still hit your payday. Look at Melky Cabrera.

But at the risk of sounding like "get off my lawn", things were different back then. We loved the homeruns, the Canseco/McGwire/Bonds at-bats, the glitz and glamor that came with monster shots in baseball. Everyone-- including the fans--including me--turned a blind eye to what we always knew was there. The homerun hitters made baseball fun in that era, if not artificially so, and they supplied us with the homerun chases that may have been tainted, but can't be completely forgotten. And we reward them now by taking the moral high ground.

"I don't even know how to explain it," Bonds said in an interview with Barry Bloom of MLB.com. "The world has become so negative. One day, I'll be able to say things the right way. But it's tough when you have so many people out there who don't want to turn the page and want to be angry at you forever. I don't understand why it continues on. What am I doing wrong?

"I can sit here and say, 'You know what? Baseball is great. I love it.' I can sit here and say in a very kind way that I'm sorry about the way things ended. I can sit here and say that I respect the Hall of Fame, which I do. But I don't understand all the controversy we're having about it. For what reason? What's there to be gained by all of this? What's the point?"

"I do really care. I may say I don't, but I do really care. I've been through a lot in my life so not too many things bother me. Making the Hall of Fame, would it be something that's gratifying because of what I've sacrificed? Sure. Baseball has been a big part of our lives. We've sacrificed our bodies. It's the way we made our living.

He's not wrong. If he wants an honest answer to "What am I doing wrong?", it probably falls more along the lines of "How about not being a complete jack*ss to everyone while you were playing, so that everyone hated you and you became an easy target for the steroid righteousness years later" (see also: Clemens, Roger), but that's not really important. I've long argued that the Hall of Fame isn't The Hall of Really Nice Guys that Everyone Liked, but rather it should be a historic representation of the game of baseball for future generations.

From Danny Knobler:

The decisions become harder every year, and have since the steroid guys began appearing on the ballot. Did they do it? How do we know? How do we know that we're not voting for someone who did, while excluding others we think did?

The answers are impossible, and I don't blame any voter who responds by saying he'll just ignore the steroid issue and vote on what the player did on the field.

But most of those voters are the ones who end up saying, "I don't feel good about it."

I've been there. I voted that way, for a couple of years.

But I wanted to feel good about my vote. I wanted to feel that if a guy I voted for was standing on that stage in July, I wanted him to be there.

Will all due respect to his vote, I completely disagree. Again, if this is the Hall of Very Nice Guys We All Want to Root For, he makes sense. But the Hall of Fame, at least to me, is supposed to showcase the very best in baseball, and have we really forgotten Barry Bonds already? Don't you remember watching Giants' games just for that one at-bat? Don't you remember Bonds being walked with the bases loaded because the single RBI was preferred to four? Don't you remember entire stadiums going quiet, fans stopping everything they are doing, to watch him hit; at home and away?

Barry Bonds cheated. He tainted baseball. He was also a jerk while he was cheating. But he didn't do it alone, and it's kind of ridiculous to pick and choose who the writers *think* were clean during that era. What happens if that changes? Will new information coming out in the future affect this year's inductees? Bonds was still the best of the best of all of the other cheaters, after all. It's not like steroids made everyone the same kind of better.

Regardless, that era in baseball is gone, although remnants still remain. There will always be players trying to get a leg up on their competition. Has baseball every really been clean? Haven't players looked for a performance edge since its inception? I think cherry-picking players at this point in time turns the Hall into something it wasn't supposed to be. Put an asterisk on it; explain the story in a plaque, but to pretend that Barry Bonds didn't exist may punish him in his lifetime, but it lies about the history of the game of baseball.

You can't punish players retrospectively, in my opinion. Current players? Yes. I think Colon and Cabrera should have been blackballed, personally. But it's a little ironic that no one seems to mind that both are signed for next year; yet a player who wasn't even subjected to the same rules and regulations is preemptively blackballed.

What do you think?

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