For the first time since 1996, the Baseball Writers Association of America did not elect a new member into the MLB Hall of Fame. This was the first year in which the biggest names from the ‘Steroid Era’ (Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa) were eligible for enshrinement. And while I don’t agree with the final decision, that is not the purpose of this piece. I could easily delve into the infinitely cyclical argument of whether these players that have been linked to steroids deserve a spot in Cooperstown, but I won’t. I will however, question some writers’ rationale behind keeping them out.
Each season, the BBWAA vote for the MVP, Cy Young, Manager of the Year, and Rookie of the Year winners in each league. They also have the aforementioned Hall of Fame vote. According to www.bbwaa.com, there are approximately 700 members in the BBWAA. While each member gets to vote for the HOF, only two members from each baseball city get to vote for the awards. But with that said, the issue lies with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens both receiving fewer than 40 percent of the vote. They were penalized primarily for the infraction of the “integrity, sportsmanship, and character” portion of the voting guidelines due to their association with steroids. Both Bonds and Clemens were denied HOF membership despite never having tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.
But for the writers that used this as their reasoning for keeping out two of the greatest ever at their respective positions, where were you when your very organization (the BBWAA) was voting these men as the best in their league amid allegations of steroid use? If writers feel “cheated,” “deceived,” or that the “integrity of the game” was destroyed, why was nothing said when these “cheaters” were being revered? Steroid allegation began with Bonds in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s. Rather than being called out or punished (in voting and media) because of his possible involvement with steroids, the BBWAA rewarded him with four MVP awards from 2001-2004 and a second place finish in 2000 behind teammate Jeff Kent. Likewise, Clemens won four Cy Young awards from 1997 to 2004, right in the heart of the ‘steroid era.’
If writers believe Bonds was cheating and didn’t deserve to have his numbers “count” or that what he was possibly doing was going to prevent him from Hall of Fame admittance, why bother voting him to win MVP? It’s a mild hypocrisy that he was praised by writers who were giving him MVP awards (award voters are swapped out after 3 years per bbwaa.com) for the astronomical numbers he was able to achieve, but then punished by the same group because he may have cheated. It’s like ignoring the fact that your child is eating sweets and junk food before dinner, but then scolding them for spoiling their appetite when they don’t finish their meal at dinner.
The same people that have the power and ability to judge baseball players and whether they ‘deserve’ to be in the Hall of Fame and are keeping these players out based on steroid use, were the same people for the most part that were lauding the home run records being chased and the high scoring game. Fans and writers across the nation were enthralled with Sosa and McGwire’s home run race. The same can be said of Bonds hitting 73. The very people that are against these guys getting into the Hall are the same ones (as well as commissioner Selig and the MLBPA) that were supporting the epic spike in power numbers.
They had an opportunity to crack down on steroid usage in the mid 1990’s, but instead allowed usage to happen to help save baseball. All parties involved were more concerned in saving the sport following the 1996 work stoppage than doing what was right long-term for the sport. So to keep these players (with the right numbers like Bonds and Clemens) because of something that was encouraged by almost all major facets of the sport, including the writers themselves) is a travesty.
All statistics obtained from www.baseball-reference.com