It’s no secret that the Hall of Fame is plagued with issues. Anyone who keeps up with baseball knows this.
The latest centers around the character clause, an archaic and highly subjective element to the voting process that seems to be keeping Barry Bonds out, though his influence on baseball runs parallel with Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio.
The clause is as follows:
“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.”
Bonds’ issue stems from the widely held belief that he used performance enhancing drugs during his career. The same belief that followed Mike Piazza, who was just introduced into the hall Wednesday afternoon.
Bonds’ case was brought to the forefront of America in the age of cable in most American homes, as well as the introduction of digital media as we currently know it.
Piazza’s career stretched through the height of the steroid era, when the science of juicing began to evolve into huge gains. He never tested positive — because he was never tested at all. Ever.
In fact, Piazza’s first big league at bat came in the same full season where steroids were officially banned. Is Piazza a terrific player who had a major impact on the game of baseball?
Is there any more evidence that Bonds used steroids than with Piazza? No. There is nothing. The FBI tried to prove it. They couldn’t even get him to trial using a grand jury, which can be convened multiple times, and serves as a prosecutors dream due to the lack of rules that a criminal trial must follow.
Baseball tried to prove it. Nobody could. Not a scrap of hard evidence was ever produced, not one single witness or corroboration.
And then there’s the worst, most ridiculous part of the character clause.
Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt and others are all in the hall, even after admitting to using performance enhancing drugs. Ken Caminiti admitted that he won the 1990 National League MVP while shooting up.
The last name was short of the necessary 75 percent of votes and will remain absent from the Hall of Fame forever.
Willie Stargell and Goose Gossage, too. They all were admitted dopers. Yet there has yet to be any serious move to denounce anyone in the hall, to even consider that Mays, or Mickey Mantle, who was accused like Bonds, have their busts put in a warehouse far away from Cooperstown.
If Mays is in, Bonds should be without any hesitation. Ken Griffey Jr.? He should be in also, and he is after a group of voters gave him the highest percentage of confirmations in the history of the process.
There’s just as much evidence that Bonds used needles, creams or any other type of drug as with Griffey.
Let’s be clear on this, too, before getting too deep: I loved watching Griffey when I was a kid. I cherished every second of the rare times I saw him on television, and in 1998, got to see him go heads up with Sammy Sosa in Spring Training.
I can say the same for Bonds, who I met in 2004, the year I graduated high school. My father won an ESPN Fantasy League for the bigillionth time, and that year the prize was to watch a game with Joe Morgan and Chris Berman during a telecast of Wednesday Night Baseball.
We were on the field, Bonds was standing in the third base coaches box, staring off towards McCovey Cove. My dad and I walked up, and the elder rattled off micro-stats that Bonds might not have known — hell, this was before sabermetrics was common, the Giants might not have known these things.
Bonds didn’t even make eye contact. With the utmost level of incomprehensible douchebagerry, he replied:
That’s who he was. A total prick. But that is no reason to keep him out of the hall — there are plenty of dicks in the world. A group of professionals charged with being objective, cannot deny any of this.
Another thing that should be made clear: I do think Bonds used performance enhancing drugs. I think he used all kinds, from steroids to testosterone, to some with names I wouldn’t even attempt to pronounce.
Baseball even believed it. Which is why randomized drug testing in the majors is so new. That included Griffey, who hit more home runs in the 1996 and 97 seasons than Mays, Mantle, Johnny Mize, Hank Aaron and almost anyone else in the history of professional ball did in a year.
The list of players who trumped Griffey’s 56 in the mid-90’s. and didn’t play in the steroid era, is short. Jimmie Foxx (1932), Hank Greenberg (1938), Roger Maris (1961), and Babe Ruth (1921, 1927). Four guys have done it outside of the last 30 years.
So why are we assuming that Bonds did it, but not Griffey or Piazza? Because the voting process is stupid, and the voters — many of whom I know — aren’t thinking straight.
And it’s wrong.