Seriously, what were the voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame thinking? There are some people who I feel should never be allowed to be in Cooperstown unless they pay an admission fee. A few of those include Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Then there are players like Fred McGriff and Curt Shilling.
There is no question that the need for steroids or other game-improving substances is there, considering the amount of money that marquee players are paid and the pressure placed upon them by the front office and their owners. They feel the need to do whatever they can to stay on top of their game for as long as possible. I'm sure if I were paid by the word, my stories would be pages long with eloquent and extremely detailed descriptions of everything, including an overusage of adjectives. Of course, there's more excitement in watching someone hit a ball into the upper decks.
However, if you take into consideration that these players tarnished the purity of the game, can one honestly say that they belong with other baseball legends who never did anything to harm the game?
There's no doubt that Bonds' numbers, on the surface, are impressive. How can they not, with him hitting 73 home runs in 2001 and breaking Hank Aaron's legitimate career home run record of 755 with 762 of his own. (Yes I feel that the record should still belong to Hank.) It makes me suspicious when Bonds hits 49 home runs in 2000 then goes yard 73 times a year later.
Then there were the great home run battles of 1998 and 1999 between Sosa and McGwire. In 1998, Big Mac bested Sosa by four homers hitting 70 to Slammin' Sammy's 66. It wasn't any different in 1999 when McGwire again got the best of Sosa by hitting 65 to Sammy's 63. Not only was it a great battle, it was one of great respect, which was evident when they were tied and the Cubs and Cards played each other. Even though they each wanted to win, whoever took the lead was always congratulated by the other. But one has to wonder just what would their numbers be if they didn't have steroids helping them out? It could be that their numbers would not have changed. But at the same time should these players be rewarded for breaking the rules?
Then you have players like Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling and Fred McGriff. Did these players not make it because they don't deserve it or was it because they got caught up in the anti-steroid movement. I really feel that those four deserve to be in the Hall of Fame but did not get the votes needed because of the company they kept on the ballot.
I know that the voters hardly ever induct a pitcher unless he has at least 300 wins. Even though Schilling is far from that magical number with only 216 wins, other stats are impressive, like his 3,116 strikeouts and an 11-2 postseason record. Good ol' McGriff has more than 1,100 RBIs, plus he was the home run leader during his career when he was in the American and National League. And even though he was a Met, can anyone really say that Piazza was not one of the top catchers of all time?
I feel if Barry Bonds and the other roid-users are given a free pass, then all other players that gave baseball a black eye should be forgiven and admitted as well. Is there any doubt that Pete Rose could not be in the Hall of Fame if not for the gambling issue? In his defense, he never bet against his own team. Who else has numbers like 4,256 hits, playing in 3,562 games and 15,890 plate appearances while getting 14,053 at-bats?
Even though Shoeless Joe Jackson was part of the 1919 Chicago White Sox team that was involved in fixing the series against Cincinnati, there was no solid evidence that he took money or did anything wrong. If he was part of the conspiracy, then why would he have had a series-leading 12 hits and a .375 average? He didn't commit any errors and even threw a player out at the plate. That doesn't sound like someone playing to lose. Though Shoeless Joe did not have impressive numbers over a 12-year career -- 54 home runs, 168 triples and a .358 average -- there's no telling how much more he could've done with a longer career.
If the steroid kids are eventually allowed into the Hall of Fame, then Pete Rose, Shoeless Joe and other rule breakers should be allowed in as well. But if everyone is allowed, would it be such a big deal to be inducted?
I know that Dale Murphy was in his final season of eligibility but I really don't think his numbers are that impressive. I'm sure that if he weren't a longtime Atlanta Brave most local fans would not be on the Murphy bandwagon or care.
Manny Fils is a sports writer for The Citizen. Fils can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.