Barry Bonds for Hall of Fame
I got my Hall of Fame ballot in the mail last week. The first two names of the 10 I could pick were Barry Bonds, the best player of his generation, and Roger Clemens, the best pitcher.
Yes, I know: Both are considered steroids users. Yawn.
I don’t like the idea of steroids in sports because I believe they are a danger to the health of the players taking them. They have been a much more serious problem in football because they’ve contributed to injuries and concussions. Former NFL players have had serious problems and the concussions he suffered were a contributing factor in the post-career suicide of Junior Seau.
Yet, sports fans and many writers have been more concerned with the use of steroids in baseball because they believe the game’s records are sancrosanct, which only shows their total ignorance.
They should take a look at what happened in the 1930s. Desperate to get more offense into the game and get people back to the parks in the Depression, owners agreed to juice the ball. That’s not difficult because the liveliness of the baseball depends primarily on how tightly the wrapping around the core is.
As a result, there was a great offensive outburst in the ‘30s. Bill Terry was the last National Leaguer to hit over .400, at .401 in 1931. Hack Wilson established league records in home runs, 56, and RBIs, 190. The RBI record still stands.
The Hall of Fame is packed with players from that era who really don’t belong, just because their offensive stats were padded. My favorite doesn’t-belong candidate is Lloyd Waner. His older brother, Paul, was a legitimate choice but Lloyd would have had very average stats without the help of a lively ball.
I won’t vote for a player who I doubt would even have been considered without steroids; Sammy Sosa is in that category. But Bonds was Player of the Decade in the ‘90s. Steroids boosted his home run total but he was a great player before that. Clemens was always a dominating pitcher, even in a period when nobody thought he was taking anything.
I’ve heard sportswriters say they wouldn’t vote for Bonds because he “cheated”, which again shows their ignorance of baseball history.
One known “cheater”, Gaylord Perry, is in the Hall because he learned how to throw the spitter from Bob Shaw. Perry was probably only a couple of months, at best, from being released by the Giants when that happened. There have been many other successful pitchers who have been thought to have used something to doctor the ball before they pitched it. Hitters? Remember when umpires discovered that George Brett had a corked bat?
As I learned when I researched books I did on the history of both American and National leagues, there is a long tradition of cheating in baseball. One of the earliest involves John McGraw, when he was a third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1890s. Because there weren’t enough umpires to check this, McGraw used to hold the belt of a baserunner tagging at third to try to score on a fly ball. He would hold it for just a moment, and that often would be enough for the runner to be thrown out. He stopped only when a baserunner unbuckled his belt, so McGraw was left holding it.
Everybody has been in on the cheating. There were stories that the Giants had a man in the Polo Grounds bleachers stealing catcher’s signals during their dramatic run to the 1951 pennant. Catchers have often had to change signs when there was a runner on second who might steal them.
Groundskeepers have routinely slanted baselines to either help bunts stay fair or make certain they go foul, depending on which would help the home club. In 1962, Giants manager Alvin Dark had the groundskeeper put so much water on the base path between first and second, to slow down Maury Wills, that the umpiring crew ordered sand to be poured on the basepaths. During this year’s World Series, the Royals complained that the area around first was wet. The Giants said it was moisture from the air. Yeah, I’m sure of that.
Belatedly, the Old World group running the HOF has put in a morals clause for candidates. Good thing they didn’t apply it retroactively. Ty Cobb’s plaque would have been the first to go; in his autobiography, Cobb confessed to killing a man in a Detroit alley during his playing career.
I’m quite sure that neither Bonds nor Clemens has a chance to get into the Hall, with the holier-than-thou group of sportswriters dominating the voting. But I choose to vote for those who were best on the field. By that standard, which should be the only one, Bonds and Clemens belong.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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