The column I wrote in Wednesday’s paper, in which I said that I would vote for Barry Bonds to make the Baseball Hall of Fame, not suprisingly, drew a lot of ire from readers. I got 11 e-mails and two phone calls on the subject and all 13 were some variation of “You have to be kidding me, you idiot.”
They ranged from conversational and thoughtful – One woman laid out a whole scenario using her job as a sales rep in place of baseball to explain her point — to the less thoughtful — “An idiot like you should be terminated from your job.”
A lot of them took the point of the column to be “It’s OK to cheat.” And then followed that with “what kind of a message is that for kids.” Let’s clear the air on that first. Children, don’t cheat. It’s not the right thing to do. Of course I wish no one cheated. But they did. They all did. That’s where the column begins. The discussion isn’t “is cheating good or bad?” the discussion is “all these guys cheated, how should their enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame be handled?”
Certainly the simple stance, and a completely legitimate one, is to say that anyone under the cloud of suspicion of using PEDs should never make it into the Hall of Fame. It is perfectly logical to have that opinion. I get it. You hold the sanctity of the Hall in high esteem. No Pete Rose. No steroid era guys. That’s fine.
My opinion is that the steroid cloud happened. Tons of people did steroids. It’s an era in baseball history. I don’t think every player that played in that 15- to 20-year span should be left out of the Hall. Now starting with that rationale, how do we discern who in the steroid era still deserves it, even taking into account the black mark on their record?
Of that group, I believe Bonds deserves to be in, because his case is unusual.
One level-headed conversation I had Wednesday was with a fourth-grade teacher and he said “I strongly disagree with your logic about Bonds. I teach 4th grade and abhor cheating, regardless of the reason. Would I be justified in helping my students cheat on the state test simply to compete with other students?”
I thought his argument was a good one, and I used it as an excellent example of the situation Bonds was in. Imagine you teach a fourth-grade class. You have the best class in the state of California and you are the best teacher. You take pride in that and that you do it the right way. Then all the other fourth-grade classes in the state start cheating. Their test scores now blow yours out of the water. They are all receiving praise for their scores. The state is rewarding them with extra funding, new computers, pizza parties. They are getting to go to Sacramento to receive top fourth-grade class awards. They are on the cover of “Awesome Fourth-Grade Class Illustrated.” Now you’re in a tricky spot. Bonds’ spot. You don’t want to cheat. You never had any intention of cheating. But this just isn’t fair, and it’s killing you. No matter how honorable of a person you are or want to be. It’s difficult to sit back and watch cheaters around you not only going unpunished, but being rewarded and being given the funding and accolades you truly deserve. It would take a very honorable man/teacher to sit back and allow that to happen. Bonds is not a very honorable man. He cracked and decided to join the party. Once he leveled the playing field by taking steroids too, he was again the best player. Whenever the playing field was level. He was the best player.
After 10 years goes by and all the fourth-grade classes in the state get dinged for cheating. I would consider the person who cracked and joined the cheaters to keep pace, not as sinister as the people that started cheating because they weren’t good enough.
That’s why I consider Bonds’ situation less atrocious than McGwire or Sosa for example. Those guys cheated to become Hall of Fame worthy. Bonds was Hall of Fame worthy and then cheated. There’s a deliniation there. None of them are honorable. But I can at least understand why Bonds did it.
And again this isn’t to win a Humanitarian Award or Role Model of the Year. If that was the case, I wouldn’t vote for any cheater. But this is to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame, a place to remember the greatest players (no matter their character) and influential moments in the history of baseball. Barry Bonds and the steroid era both belong. I feel the same way about Pete Rose and his gambling.
Anyway, I appreciated all the responses I got. I had some good back-and-forths with people, and it reminded me what a hot-button issue the steroid era still is.