Reasonable people can disagree.
And unreasonable people can disagree vehemently.
HOF voters — Inc.
That’s where the Grading the Week staff finds itself this holiday season, as the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWA) prepares to deliver another lump of coal to the stockings of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
The two Steroid Era superstars are on the ballot for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame for the 10th and final time this winter. And as voters’ ballots begin to pop up on social media, including one gentlemen who saw fit to submit a blank ballot, it’s becoming more and more clear both will be denied a Hall call once again.
The Post’s own Patrick Saunders revealed himself to be among this group earlier this week when he posted his Hall of Fame ballot to Twitter, disclosing votes for Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, David Ortiz, Scott Rolen, Jimmy Rollins, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield and Billy Wagner.
Both Clemens and Bonds are suspected drug cheats with reams of reporting indicating they took performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) for several years, lied about it, and have yet to show any remorse for their actions. The PED-fueled seasons they produced ultimately did irrevocable damage to the game, and forever altered the sacred records and traditions that make baseball special.
This makes them unworthy of inclusion in the game’s most hallowed halls, if only for the horrible example it would set for future generations. And the “character clause” contained within BBWAA’s voting instructions — which calls on Hall of Fame voters to take into account a player’s integrity, sportsmanship and character when casting votes — provides voters full latitude to consider such conduct.
Taken at its face, it all seems very reasonable, if not right.
Except, of course, for one very small thing: The National Baseball Hall of Fame is not the Sistine Chapel. It’s a museum — one that should tell the full story of the game. To leave out two of the game’s biggest stars is to leave out two of its most noteworthy figures.
It’s not as if those sacred halls aren’t already filled with scores of detestable characters.
A visitor need not walk very far to come across bigots, segregationists and drug cheats of a different nature. (It’s widely known many players in the mid-to-late 20th century regularly used amphetamines to boost performance.)
Are Bonds and Clemens so despicable as to be unworthy of standing alongside them?.
Sure, mounds of evidence exists that both were bad guys. Mounds of evidence also exists that both were exceptional baseball players.
Just consider the first half of their careers, when it is widely believed neither player used PEDs.
Roger Clemens through age 33 (1984-96): 3.06 ERA, 192 wins, 2,590 strikeouts, three AL Cy Young Awards, five top-three finishes in AL Cy Young voting and five All-Star nods.
Barry Bonds through age 33 (1986-98): .290/.411/.556 slash line, 411 home runs, 1,357 walks, 445 stolen bases, three NL MVPs, seven top-five finishes in NL MVP voting, eight Gold Gloves and one 40/40 campaign.
If either one of those players died before spring training of their age-34 season, they’d be sure-fire Hall of Famers.
The fact that they didn’t, and later went on to join their contemporaries in taking PEDs, ultimately doomed their candidacies. But should it?
Saunders’ own votes show just how difficult it is to submit a clean ballot. Sheffield is an admitted PED user, and Ortiz has been implicated in PED use as well, although no smoking gun exists.
That’s the thing about the Steroid Era: It is a fool’s errand to guess who cheated and who did not.
What is clear is that Bonds and Clemens were among the best — if not the best — of that particular time. And if we’re going to tell the history of the game, they both need to be a part of it.