STARTING POINTS: My Bonds-in-the-Hall idea was not well-received

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.

STARTING POINTS: Hall of Fame; Lakers’ latest; Musburger’s gaffe

Another steroid-free edition of Starting Points where the only performance-enhancing drug is Diet Coke.

FIRST POINT: Getting the Hall call

At 11 a.m. this morning, the Major League muckety-mucks will announce that no one will join the elite brotherhood of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. That’s the feeling heading into today’s announcement. It is unlikely that Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa or Mike Piazza will get the call because for every RBI, strikeout and homer there is a syringe or in Sosa’s case a syringe and a hollowed out bat full of bouncy balls. That leaves Craig Biggio of the Astros and those long-suffering holdouts like Jack Morris as the most likely people to get the call today. But most likely of all is that no one will get the nod. Which brings up a greater question: Is the whole notion of making the Hall of Fame in essence meaningless these days? If the 15 best players of the last 25 years can’t be in the Hall because of PEDs, and players 16-25 aren’t good enough to make the Hall, what’s the point? Anyway on that downer of a note, my column in today’s paper details how I would vote in Barry Bonds despite the fact that he did steroids. But not other guys who did it, because I think you can take each player on a case-by-case basis, and I believe Bonds had the most honorable reason to cheat, if there can be such a thing. I would vote in Bonds, Biggio and Morris if I had a vote today. Here’s a link to my column explaining why I would induct Bonds, but not Clemens, McGwire, Sosa, etc. http://www.mydesert.com/article/20130108/SPORTS12/301080060/I-ll-say-Bonds-belongs-Hall

POINT TWO: Oh those Lakers

I can think of better times for the Lakers’ next two games to be nationally televised contests against the Spurs and Thunder. The reeling and now-shorthanded Lakers lost to Houston on Tuesday to fall to 15-19, and 15-21 certainly feels like three short days away with two road games against two of the league’s best on the immediate horizon. The phrase “This is going to get worse before it gets better” is flashing in neon lights around the Lakers right now.  Interesting side note: This would be hard to look up, but I wonder when was the last time the Lakers were a double-digit underdog (as they are tonight at San Antonio) on the same day the Clippers were a double-digit favorite (as they are tonight at home against Dallas)? My guess would be that it’s never happened in Kobe Bryant’s Lakers’ career. I’ll have to ask my Vegas guy RJ Bell about that.

POINT THREE:  Musburger with a side of overreaction

There was a bit of an uproar after Monday’s BCS championship game after announcer Brent Musburger fawned perhaps too much over Katerine Webb, the girlfriend of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who was shown repeatedly in the stands. “You quarterbacks get all the good-looking women,” Musburger said to his booth-mate Kirk Herbstreit, an ex-Ohio State quarterback married to an ex-Ohio State cheerleader. Some thought Musburger went too far when he added that if you’re a young boy in Alabama you should get out in the back yard and start throwing the football around. The whole thing was way overblown. It was a completely innocent, off-the-cuff reaction to the image of Webb on the TV. ESPN went so far as to send out an apology Tuesday, but that was unnecessary. I mean, ESPN has tons to apologize for, but not what Musburger said. Take the level-headed words of Webb herself. “It was kind of nice,” Webb, a former Miss Alabama, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I didn’t look at it as creepy at all. For a woman to be called beautiful, I don’t see how that’s an issue.” Well said Ms. Webb.

I want to hear from you. Should Bonds be in the Hall? If not him who should? Will the Lakers make the playoffs? Were you offended by Musburger’s remarks? Tell me what you think. Comment on this blog, e-mail me at shad.powers@thedesertsun.com or follow me on twitter at TDSshadpowers. Thanks.

STARTING POINTS: MLB Hall call? Sosa, no; Clemens, no; Bonds, yes

The list of Major League Baseball Hall of Fame nominees for the 2013 class was released Wednesday and it is positively bulging with big names. The list is much bigger than it was last year, almost suspsiciously bigger.

POINT ONE: Needles to say

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa all clearly have the RBIs, HRs and ERA to deserve first-ballot qualification, but it’s the PEDs that give us pause. It’s the yearly question. What do we do about guys we know did steroids? I think you can take each player on a case-by-case basis.

Mark McGwire. No. One-trick pony whose trick was entirely the result of steroids.

Sammy Sosa, a big fat no. Although I will give him credit for really going the extra mile. While most simply super-charged their muscles with drugs, Sosa super-charged his muscles with drugs AND used a corked bat. Know that’s a guy dedicated to hitting some homers. I think he just wanted it a little more than the simple steroid users.

Roger Clemens. No. Again I think a power pitcher is the same as a power hitter. Everything he did was based on artificial strength. Plus he’s a jerk. Yes, I would use my Hall of Fame vote for spite. Personality would mean something to me. I know that’s probably not altogether honorable of me, but hey, it’s my vote. P.S. Curt Schilling you’re not going to get my vote for the same reason. Hey Shad, but what about someone like Ty Cobb? He was a despicable human, but he’s in the Hall. He wasn’t a jerk as much as he was just mean. He might slice a chunk of your face off sliding into second, but he wouldn’t cheat. He had some integrity. And he definitely wouldn’t cheat and lie about it.

Barry Bonds. Yes. And it’s not because the 170-pound Bonds was a great player just like the 270-pound Bonds. It’s because in a weird way I can understand why Bonds did steroids, and sympathize with him. McGwire, Sosa, they cheated to get ahead. They weren’t elite players and cheated to become elite, blowing past actual elite player like Bonds. With MLB brass turning a blind eye and letting it happen, Bonds was put in an awkward spot. Don’t cheat and hit 40 homers a year, while cheaters hit 70 homers and got all the endorsements. Or join the fun. And since he was way better than those guys when none of them were cheating, he was also way better than them when everyone was cheating. Bonds gets my vote because I don’t believe he wanted to cheat, he just wanted there to be an even playing field where he could show he was the best player in baseball.

POINT TWO: Losing luster

An even bigger question might be does anyone really care who is in the Hall of Fame in this day and age. Doesn’t it feel like the whole notion of being in a sports Hall of Fame has lost its luster. It’s great for the player and his friends and family, obviously, but to me as a sports fan it doesn’t mean much. And to the generation younger than mine I think it means even less. True confession. I’ve literally never watched one minute of a Hall of Fame induction ceremony. I mean the MLB Hall of Fame doesn’t have the guy with the most hits or the guy with the most homers in it. How hard is it to have a Pete Rose area in Cooperstown that says, this guy had the most hits ever, played really hard, had a bad haircut, gambled on baseball and got banned from the game. Simple. The same could be done for players from the steroid era. But again, if McGwire, Bonds, Clemens and company all make it this year or never make it, who cares? Their careers will still stand in your memory bank the same as they always will. I’d like to see Jack Morris in the Hall of Fame, but whether he is or not makes no difference in my opinion of him.

 

How would you cast your Hall of Fame vote on these players in the Steroids era? E-mail me at shad.powers@thedesertsun.com or follow me on Twitter at @TDSshadpowers.