By Steve Silverman
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New Year’s Eve is the deadline for all members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to have their annual Hall of Fame ballot back to the organization if they want their vote to be counted.
This will be the most controversial – and important year of voting since Babe Ruth and the first class was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1936 along with Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson.
The Hall of Fame voters have made statements in the past by not allowing stars with deserving numbers like Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro into the Hall of Fame, but the presence of Bonds and Clemens will make the 2013 election the strongest precedent for keeping those who chose to use performance-enhancing drugs out of the shrine.
Barry Bonds was on his way to becoming one of the top-25 players in the history of the game before he ever became associated PEDs. There was no debate about his greatness as an all-around player. Remarkable hand-eye coordination as a hitter, along with tremendous skills as a baserunner and a fielder made him a memorable player every time he took the field for the majority of his career.
But when Bonds’ jealousy of the publicity heaped on McGwire and Sosa during their home run chase in 1998 got the best of him, he decided to besmirch his name and his career. Bonds was an even greater cheater than McGwire or Sosa as he not only set the single-season home run record, he also blasted by Hank Aaron’s career record.
Clemens was truly one of the game’s great pitchers for more than a decade with the Boston Red Sox, but by the team he joined the Toronto Blue Jays in 1997, he was starting to lose it. He was just 10-13 with the Red Sox in ’96, and he had not won more than 11 games in a season since winning 18 in ’92.
But as soon as Clemens put on his magical Blue Jay jersey, he won back-to-back Cy Young awards and won 21 and 20 games, respectively, in ’97 and ’98.
Then came five years with the Yankees that included one more Cy Young award following his 20-3 season in 2001.
But both players chose to make a mockery of their careers the moment they used performance-enhancers to improve their status in the game.
Voting for these great players would be an insult to everyone who earned their way in on their own.
But here’s the problem:
It’s easy to get up on a high horse and criticize those who chose to cheat, or at least those who we believe cheated.
What about the ones who were much better at it? There are whispers, raised eye brows and knowing looks about so-many players from the steroid era. But what about the ones who were so surreptitious that they could take the PEDs without arousing suspicion?
The players whose head sizes did not increase. The players’ whose muscles did not gain muscles.
The players who never let anything slip and took PEDs for years.
These players exist as well.
So writers may be trying to keep cheaters out of the Hall, but they can’t keep all the scoundrels out.
That’s why some of the voters may eventually elect some of the steroid-era players into the shrine.
That may stain legitimate Hall of Fame players, but they will know they played clean and they will know who to blame for their scarlet-letter status.
If Bonds, Clemens and Sosa are elected to the Hall of Fame should they have an asterisk beside their name? Share your thoughts below.