Jeff Pearlman

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Barry Bonds, Hall of Famer?

barrybonds

Was just driving my car, listening to Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on WFAN. Have much respect for both guys … think their show is significantly less ego-driven than those hosted by Mike Francesa or Mike & Mike.

That said, I was screaming at the radio as I heard both men say Barry Bonds deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Their arguments were familiar: He was an unparalleled hitter. He was great pre-steroids/HGH. His personality shouldn’t be a factor. Etc … Etc.

Sigh.

Barry Bonds doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. Not even in the Hall of Some Fame. Or Hall of Moderate Fame. I’m not sure what happened in this country … when, at some point, it became OK to accept cheating. Perhaps it has to do with volume—sooo many people have cheated that we started grading the level of cheats. If, say, Alex Sanchez took steroids, it’s somehow worse than Bonds, because the drugs probably made him a major leaguer. Bonds merely used the stuff as enhancers.

It’s all rubbish.

Here is, literally, what the Hall of Fame lists as its criteria:

Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

Interity. Sportsmanship. Character. I’ve bolded those words for a reason. Think about it. Really, really think about it. Using that criteria—the stated, understood criteria—how can anyone knowingly vote for someone who cheated? I don’t care if Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa hit 1,000 home runs and batted .700 for the first 10 years of their careers. As soon as they chose to cheat—to violate the law of the United States in an effort to enhance their careers—they deemed themselves ineligible.

We all face tough choices in life, not all that different than the ones confronting ballplayers. As a journalist, if I’m struggling in the midst of crippling writer’s block, do I copy the work of others? As a doctor, do I over-bill the insurance company, even though I didn’t perform the listen procedure? As a student, do I sit diagonally behind the smart kid and copy his answers? As a cop, do I file a faulty report to make myself look better?

Maybe the answers are murky, maybe they’re not. Maybe circumstances matter.

But, come day’s end, we as a society do not reward deception, and never have.

Now is not the time to start.

  • http://the-daily-something.blogspot.com Bill

    “I’m not sure what happened in this country … if, at some point, it became OK to accept cheating”

    I don’t know about the country, but it’s been OK in baseball for more than a hundred years.

  • http://www.thatbootlegguy.blogspot.com/ Aaron C.

    At some point – and perhaps it’s happened already – the sportswriters are going to put someone in the HOF who used PEDs but managed to fly under the radar of overt suspicion.

    I think it’s quite quaint that sportswriters fancy themselves at the gatekeepers of this grand sanctuary, especially when those same writers failed their readership during the entirety of the so-called Steroids Era.

    They’re not going to “catch” everyone that juiced, but you can bet they’ll beat the holy hell out of everyone they do and the public had *better* care or else the public has no morals.

  • http://twitter.comgreggferrara Gregg Ferrara

    Here we go again with Jeff’s “holier than thou” bullshit. So using this ridiculous thought process, Hank Aaron is not in the HOF then either, since he has written in his book that he took PED’s (amphetamine’s are both illegal in baseball and the real world). Using this same bullshit theory, Whitey Ford shouldn’t be in the HOF, since Elston Howard specially made his shin guards to scuff and scratch balls for Whitey. We can go on and on and on. If anyone truly wants to learn about this topic, pick up Kirk Radomski’s book, and made sure you read up on Tom House. House pitched in the Major League’s in the 60′s and 70′s, and said that as early as 1968 half (half!) the pitchers in baseball were experimenting with STERIODS. Yes folks, steroids in the ’60′s. Am I the only one who remembers the Soviet Union dominating the Olympics through PED’s??

    http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/2005-05-03-steroids-house_x.htm

  • http://twitter.comgreggferrara Gregg Ferrara

    And Bill, thank you for having half a brain and understanding that every athlete cheats.

  • http://stealingfirstbase.wordpress.com/ Steve

    Usually I agree with you, Jeff. And while I do agree that Bonds shouldn’t be allowed to buy a ticket to see the HOF, “Integrity. (not Interity) Sportsmanship. Character.” is a pretty high bar. Most people would argue that Ty Cobb was one of the greatest, but does he fulfill all those categories? And then just a few days ago, you advocate for Rose to be in the HOF while claiming he is “Selfish. Greedy. Sleazy. Dirty.” Those terms might be the exact opposite of integrity, sportsmanship, and character. Rose at least fails miserably on the character category, but he still gets in? Again, I’m not in complete disagreement with you, Jeff, I’m just confused at these varying blog posts?

  • Lee

    When did the Hall establish its voting criteria? Because if they really held players to these characteristics, it’d be a pretty sparse building.

    Ty Cobb certainly wouldn’t be in it.

  • http://the-daily-something.blogspot.com Bill

    Bill James just posted a big meandering article about steroids today on his site. Most of it is, frankly, kind of iffy, but I hope he’s right about this:

    “It seems to me that, with the passage of time, more people will come to understand that the commissioner’s periodic spasms of self-righteousness do not constitute baseball law. It seems to me that the argument that it is cheating must ultimately collapse under the weight of carrying this great contradiction—that 80% of the players are cheating against the other 20% by violating some ‘rule’ to which they never consented, which was never included in the rule books, and which for which there was no enforcement procedure. History is simply NOT going to see it that way.”

    That and everything Aaron C. said.

  • http://Jeffpearlman.com Charlie

    Give Bonds and any other supposed great players from “the Steroid Era ” the Eyeball test. If in your mind and eyes, such a player would have been a HOF even w/o enhancers, PUT them in the hall but somehow make note that this era’s stats may have been enhanced by streoids. Anyone who watched all of Bonds and Clemens career and truly gives it the eyeball test will have to admit although they went down the wrong path later on. They were and are definately HOF Material. And as much as I hate to say it so is Pete Rose. They were all jerks, and cheaters at some point of their careers but their greatness still shines.

  • jweb271

    Ty Cobb and Barry Bonds are not comparable. One is a jerk. The other stole records from honest players, awards from honest players, money from honest players, and destroyed the collective memory of a decade plus of baseball.

    Bonds knew he was cheating. He broke the law to do it, and hid it as best as he could. If what he did was so okay at the time, as many seem to be claiming, why didn’t he do it openly? Why did they all deny and hide it?

    Give me a break. What Barry Bonds did was exactly the same as what Pete Rose did. They impugned the integrity of the Game in a way that a scuffed ball or corked bat does not compare.

    I only hope the baseball writers who failed us during that era will make up for it now by keeping the Hall of Fame the great institution that it is, and keep these guys out.

  • http://www.sportsfan4.com Josh G

    I was so glad to find this article after being directed by Chuck Hanf from TCFB.

    I recently plunged through Jose Canseco’s two books, Juiced and Vindicated and it really gave me lots to think about in the Hall of Fame aspect for players found using steroids.

    I think with the amount of players that have been found using steroids, the Hall will not have new additions for many years if they are all given a no. On the other hand, we can’t say yes to some and no to others, however it happens, it needs to be consistent across the board.

    I’m still wavering a little bit back and forth each day, but I’m getting closer and closer to changing my opinion from a straight no to a straight yes, nothing official yet.

  • http://www.worldofb.com/wordpress Brandon

    Dude, for the hundredth time, please tone down the misplaced rage. Performance-enhancing drugs can’t create an athlete; they help build muscle and uphold energy through the dog days of summer. There is absolutely zero proof of the effects. Which makes your so-called comparable examples unrelated and irrelevant.

    If anything, this is closer to the journalist coping with writers’ block by smoking a joint, the doctor popping a few pills without a prescription to keep his energy up while doing procedures, the student taking Adderall while studying to maintain focus, the salesman taking his prospective client out for a few drinks to get him to loosen up. None are ethical, I realize, but are open to a lot more discussion about circumstance than the laughably cut-and-dry examples you came up with.

  • http://stupidwish.net Henry Quinn

    Two things:

    1. The reaction to Manny in LA seems to me to be indicative of the fact that the outrage over steroids is fading. Not sure it’s doing so quickly enough, or among sportswriters, to get Barry in, just saying: regular people, the kind who don’t blog about it but do pay the entrance fee at the Museum, care less each day.

    2. The cheating thing is really, I mean, maybe Cobb was just a jerk, but greenies were cheating, the spitter was cheating. There are cheaters in the hall, period. If the measure of ‘great institution’ is ‘it doesn’t have cheaters in it’, then the Hall isn’t a great institution.

    I’m torn about this — I genuinely am. But I don’t think that most of the arguments to keep the bum out are very compelling. He cheated. So did Gaylord Perry. He’s a jerk. So was Cobb. He took drugs. So did half the league in the 1970s.

    I’m pro keeping him out if we’re good with going in with a prybar to yank every cheater and drug user’s plaque down. Otherwise, I don’t know what you do.

  • http://www.andaplayertobenamedlater.com/ Paul Catalano

    Totally agree with you, Jeff.

    “I don’t know about the country, but it’s been OK in baseball for more than a hundred years.” I’m sorry, Bill, just because people have cheated in the past doesn’t mean that its ok to accept it now.

    But mostly Bonds should never be in the HOF because of Greg Maddux or Dave Winfield. Guys who didn’t cheat and earned their way there. Putting Bonds in diminished their remarkable achievements.

  • Colin

    Why do people care about the Hall of Fame so much?

    I say put them all in the HOF with something on their plaque denoting whether or not they were *caught* cheating. Like it or not Bonds, at this point in time, has never failed a drug test. If it comes out he was on the list of the 104 then you can include it on his plaque.

    Put something on Manny’s plaque if you want, and A-Rod’s.

    I just don’t get why steroids are such an insult to the integrity of the game whereas playing in a segregated league isn’t. Or doctoring a baseball. Or abusing painkillers. Or taking greenies. I could keep going but you get the point. There has been massive amounts of cheating in every single era of baseball, we just so happen to live in an era where there is outrage over everything and we seem to romanticize the past.

  • Rick

    ” But, come day’s end, we as a society do not reward deception, and never have”

    So you told Rocker you were publishing everything he said,right? What a grade-A jerk

  • PeteF3

    What makes us so sure Winfield and Maddux were clean?

  • PeteF3

    And how did Gaylord Perry and all the players using illegal amphetamines in the 1960′s (you know, minor stars like Aaron, Mays, etc.) get elected if the HOF has no place for people who cheated their way to their achievements?

  • http://the-daily-something.blogspot.com Bill

    Here’s what I don’t get about this. Jeff says:
    “As soon as they chose to cheat—to violate the law of the United States in an effort to enhance their careers—they deemed themselves ineligible.”
    Now, I don’t know what he means by “deemed themselves,” but what they did was violate the laws of the United States in a way that did not necessarily violate the rules of baseball, and that certainly didn’t have the penalty of ineligibility attached.

    On the other hand, just one day before this, Jeff advocates for Pete Rose’s Hall candidacy. Pete DID cheat–that is, his conduct actually violated the rules of baseball–and in doing so, essentially declared himself ineligible for the Hall. That was the actual, written punishment for violating the very rule Pete violated. It’s not really more possible to “deem [one]self ineligible” than how Pete did it.

    So if there’s a way to reconcile those two positions, I’d really love to hear it.

    • Chris

      Jeff doesn’t need to reconcile it, because this is part of a larger tapestry of hypocritical, illogical, and inconsistent moralizing that possesses him from time to time. If I had to hazard a guess, it’s because Pete Rose was never mean to him like Randy Johnson and Barry Bonds, co-candidates for history’s greatest monsters, apparently were.

      • Jeff Pearlman

        actually, bonds was always excellent to me. he simply cheated to break the most important record in baseball history. sorry, i have morals and standards. my bad.

        • End the Hypocracy

          Enough with the piety.

          Bonds was Hall-worthy, even without the HR record. As a sportswriter, you MUST know that before he had even been associated with BALCO/Anderson, in 2000, he had won 3 NL MVPs and had 8 Golden Gloves, and 8 had All-Star appearances.

          Bonds is Hall worthy based on his pre-2000 career, alone.

          You need to re-think this, given the facts I just gave you. There is nothing “moral” about the Hall and its players, at all.

  • PeteF3

    Pete was “scrappy” and he ran to first base when he got walked, so he gets a pass.

  • David N

    “Bonds knew he was cheating. He broke the law to do it”

    Bonds is ACCUSED OF using THG from Balco. That was not against the law at the time he was accused of doing it.

    “and hid it as best as he could. If what he did was so okay at the time, as many seem to be claiming, why didn’t he do it openly?”

    Maybe he didn’t do it at all, which would explain why the government seems to have such a tough time proving it, unlike Marion Jones and plenty of others who it was able to quickly convict.

  • http://www.thehainer.com Hainer, The

    Hard to argue, Jeff. ( Hell, my dad’s in the Wisconsin Baseball HOF and some guys think he shouldn’t be in cuz he didn’t drink beer.)

    What would the world think if the following scenario were true: Bonds had a personality akin to Tony Gwynn’s, and who had decided early on to donate a huge percentage of his income to cancer research after his wife and 9 year-old child tragically die slow painful deaths from the disease, and then at the end of his career comes clean about the suspicions of having used “the cream and the clear” — claiming he did so only after determining that countless others (like McGuire and Sosa and more pitchers than we know) were doing it first — resulting in multi-million dollar contracts (for folks far less interested saving lives and reducing suffering in this world.) He says “hey, right or wrong, my committment — until I at last rejoin my family in heaven — is finding a cure for a dreaded disease. I believe using what others were using against me increased my contribution to cancer research by over 70 million. Please…keep your hall of fame and let God be my judge.

  • Jesse

    Pearlman makes a whole lot of money off “the bad guys in sports”. So I think he should buy Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens nice big presents because they’ve been lining his pockets pretty nicely. I would for something to come out against this writer because people who judge other people are really only dealing with their own personal issues.

  • Donald

    The day Rabbit Maranville was inducted into the Hall of Fame,
    it became a bad joke.

  • http://N/A SB

    Baseball is behind football when it comes to steroid use but most people could care less if there favorite running back is “juicing” or not! I personally feel without Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire home run push in the 90′s baseball was headed to bankruptcy!!!! Too many strikes, soft atheletes with high, high salaries, ect.. I am not endorsing steroids but I cannot blame anyone from not taking them as it could lead to a pro sports career or help make you a movie star! Steroids could even get a job as govenor of California!!!!

  • WORLJAMN

    Bonds never broke any laws. when and if he used, IT WAS NOT ILLEGAL!DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

  • Noah

    No one ever said sportsmanship, integrity and character were requirements. Voting is based upon those along with ability and record. Barry Bonds is the best hitter of our era, if not all time. Hands down. He has eye sight as good as ted williams. A more finely-tuned, perfectly mechanical swing then anyone whose ever played the game.

    Barry deserves to be in the hall of fame. Not even just the hall of fame, a first ballot hall of famer.

    And whose to say Barry wasn’t a good teammate. Just because he took steroids and wasn’t media friendly isn’t to say he had bad character. Money kills personality. Many hall of famers had the other down-sides barry had. How many hall of famers were not media-friendly, divorced, had an affair, had some controversial scandal?

    This isn’t to say he’s going to be a hall of famer. I don’t believe he will be. I don’t think baseball hall of fame voters can look past that. They’re too ignorant. But he’d definitely get my vote. Just like Pete Rose. One of the greatest hitters we’ve ever seen, and he had a controversy that keeps him out of eligibility. I’m not so sure he’ll be inducted, be yes, he definitely deserves to be.

  • Barry Bonds

    Jeff you are a douche.

  • Rick Berger

    As a journalist, do you bother to proofread? Listed for the MD, not listed.

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