By Steve Silverman
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The baseball Hall of Fame ballots will be distributed to voters today and they will have their first chance to vote on the class of 2013.
This is the year that names like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa will be on the ballots and voters will have to decide if they belong in the Hall of Fame.
Previous suspected steroid users like Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro have been ignored by Hall of Fame voters in the past. McGwire, to his credit, has said that if he had a vote he would not vote for himself either.
Whether McGwire, not a noted deep thinker, is making an honest assessment or just pandering to what he thinks voters want to hear is not really known. However, if you take him at face value, you have to be impressed.
McGwire knows his legacy is tainted and nothing he says at this point is going to change that. There’s quite a bit of regret when he talks about taking performance-enhancing drugs, something he admitted to the MLB Network’s Bob Costas in 2010.
The issue of the game’s most talented players taking steroids is up for vote this year. Players have been ridiculed and shamed for these actions in the past, but with the notoriety of the players involved in this year’s election the voters have a chance to make a definitive statement about the issue.
Baseball writers do the voting and they have become the gatekeepers. Baseball writers must follow the game diligently and expertly. If they do, they understand all the nuances of the sport as well as the “right and wrong” aspects of cheating.
A sportswriter who is halfway decent at his job should know from his experience which players are Hall-worthy based on their statistical accomplishments, their abilities and how they played the game.
They also have to follow their instincts when it comes to players suspected of taking performance-enhancing substances.
Players like Bonds and Clemens almost certainly would have been locks for the Hall had they kept clean. Bonds hit the majority of his 762 home runs while wearing a San Francisco Giants uniform. However, the sleek Bonds playing left field for the Pittsburgh Pirates was a completely different player than the one who bashed home runs into McCovey Cove in San Francisco.
Bonds never hit more than 34 home runs in a Pittsburgh uniform and he stole 30 or more bases in six of his seven years. He was a slasher, not a basher. He owned left field and he had a strong enough arm to throw out runners who took liberties on him.
He was one of the five best players in the game when he left the Pirates following the 1992 season to sign with the Giants. It should have been a feel-good story with Bonds going to the team of his father, Bobby Bonds, and his legendary godfather, Willie Mays.
But that part was never going to happen. Whether he ever took a performance enhancer or not, Bonds’ selfish and nasty personality was always a given. He was too defensive and always suspecting someone was out to get him.
But he could play the game. His early years in San Francisco and he hit 34 or more home runs in his first eight seasons with the Giants. But in season nine, at the age of 36, Bonds hit 73 home runs.
Sick of the publicity that McGwire and Sosa got for breaking Roger Maris’s home run record, he decided he could not let players who were not close to his ability hold such a record. He decided to enhance his own ability through artificial means.
Same goes for Clemens and so did Sosa who cheated the game.
Clemens certainly had a Hall of Fame worthy career when he pitched for the Red Sox, but by taking performance enhancers and going through his “second prime” with the Blue Jays and Yankees, he invalidated himself.
Sosa would have been an ordinary player without performance enhancers.
None of the three deserves Hall induction and neither do McGwire or Palmeiro.
Seemingly deserving players like Don Mattingly, Jack Morris and Edgar Martinez have not made the Hall of Fame despite multiple appearances on the ballot. They have been wounded by being kept out of Cooperstown.
Baseball writers should not deepen those wounds by letting cheaters into the Hall of Fame.
Would you keep the cheaters out of the Hall? Let us know…