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Kettmann: Bonds will eventually make the Hall of Fame

Apr 11, 2011, 3:58 PM EDT

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My view: no matter what happens with the perjury trial — and the jury is still deliberating, by the way — Barry Bonds should still be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Sure, we can disagree about Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmiero’s worthiness or unworthiness, but Bonds is so far over the line that no one who even pretends to understand how physics and chemistry work can say that he’s some sort of bogus steroid creation.  To quote Bill James’ comment about Rickey Henderson: if you cut him in half, you’d have two Hall of Famers. In Bonds case way may even be able to go thirds.

But there’s the morals clause, of course. I hate the morals clause and don’t believe that it was actually designed to exclude immoral actors from the Hall — rather, it was inserted to give a boost to good guys who may have fallen just short on the merits — but it’s there. And it will be the basis for the Hall of Fame electorate to exclude Bonds, much to their own embarrassment once these hysterical days have passed and some perspective on the matter is gained.

One guy who has thought a great deal about steroids in baseball and other sports is Steve Kettmann. The former A’s beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle was the ghost writer for Jose Canseco’s “Juiced” and was sounding the steroids alarm a couple of years before anyone was.  Over at the Huffington Post today, he makes a prediction about Bonds and the Hall of Fame that sounds about right:

There will always be cheating in the game, as there always has been, and there will always be fall guys for that cheating, who are punished when rich men behind the scenes dance away from blame. Bonds used steroids, but he’s really on trial for being stupid — and he may be found guilty of a charge or two. I still say that when the wash comes out, when we look back on all this years later, it will all look much different than it does now — and that one way or another, maybe after he’s dead and gone, or at least enfeebled and incapable of taking any pleasure in the news, Barry Bonds will be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

How much nicer if we could just cut out the silly interim period, cast out the morality of it all and do right by history?

  1. largebill - Apr 11, 2011 at 4:22 PM


    You say “How much nicer if we could just cut out the silly interim period, cast out the morality of it all and do right by history?”

    That leads to a couple questions. First, by silly interim period are you referring to the 5 year waiting period? If so, I have to disagree for a couple reasons, primarily is my belief that the 5 year period gives time to reflect on the merits of a players career. Sure, with some all time greats it seems odd to make them wait. However, rather than think of it as a negative I see it as a chance to shine a light on a guy a few years after his career is over. Even guys with little chance of election get remembered when the new ballot comes out and you see Player X’s name look him up in BB-Ref and recall some anecdotes from his career.

    As far as the “character clause” goes, I don’t think it has been a problem. Are there a bunch of players who should have been elected but were not despite stellar careers mainly because of character blemishes? I can’t think of any. I suppose it could be argued that some took longer to get elected due to character issues (cocaine, whatever). However, in most of those cases we are talking about players who were not shoe in automatic HoF’rs anyway. Maybe Albert Belle would have lasted on the ballot a few more years if he wasn’t perceived to be a sociopath. His career was short enough that voters may have just thought he didn’t merit election. If anything, I think the character issue has helped nice guy borderline cases get elected (or get elected more quickly). Puckett was loved and many thought his career was derailed by a pitch to the head (though I doubt glaucoma works like that).

    The process may be slower than we’d like, but I believe 50 years from now the right players from this era will be in the HoF. Personally, I see the Rose thing as clearly being a different issue from steroids, but I believe his being excluded is helping some writers justify to themselves not voting for some of these guys.

    • RickyB - Apr 11, 2011 at 4:32 PM

      I believe the interim period to which Craig refers is “after he’s dead and gone, or at least enfeebled and incapable of taking any pleasure in the news,” not simply the five-year waiting period after last playing in the big leagues.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Apr 11, 2011 at 4:39 PM

        Right — the interim period meaning the decades it may take for everyone to get over steroids users.

        And I don’t think the morality clause has, to date, kept anyone out except McGwire, who no matter what some voters have said after the fact to cover for their moralizing, most certainly would have been a shoe-in inductee by now. Maybe not on the merits — he’s more marginal than a lot of people think — but on the “fame” side of things he’d be in.

        The morals clause is working against Jeff Bagwell. It will clearly bar Bonds and Clemens.

      • largebill - Apr 11, 2011 at 6:14 PM

        Okay, gotcha. I assumed he was referring to the 5 year thing. Personally, I think things are going to play out okay in time. Hopefully not as long a period as Craig is expecting, but at this point who knows. I’m fairly certain more used some form of PED during the past generation than most people realize. Over the next decade we will knowingly or unknowingly see a past user or two elected. I hope one will use their induction speech to admit usage and to say it did not make them a great ball player and wasn’t cheating anymore than vitamins taken by the athletes of the 1960’s was cheating compared to athletes of the 1920’s who did not take vitamins. Every major league player has spent decades doing everything possible to be the best so who is surprised that most used “special vitamins?”

  2. Vincent - Apr 11, 2011 at 4:23 PM

    Interesting perspective. He was definitely a great player, but it also seems like too much of a risk to put someone– who obviously used steroids– into the hall of fame. What would the general public think? What would up and coming baseball players think? What would the other hall of famers think? I’d rather leave that can of worms closed. We can admire Bonds for for being great– but putting him in the hall of fame would be even worse than putting Pete Rose into the hall of fame.

    • florida76 - Apr 11, 2011 at 5:22 PM

      Agreed, we simply can’t reward cheating by putting in players like Bonds and Manny into the HOF. So if we’re going to say cheating is irrelevant, you may as well legalize steroids and everything else. The ends don’t justify the means.

    • dnc6 - Apr 11, 2011 at 11:55 PM

      Imagine if we put anyone who ever cheated or played dirty or was a legitimate a-hole in the Hall? What if we glorified a guy who was a drunk and beat his wife? Or a guy who don’t pass up a chance to spike a shortstop and may have been in the KKK? Or a guy who used what he called ‘red juice’? Or a guy who repeatedly and flagrantly spat on or scuffed up the baseball? How could we live with ourselves? What would we tell our kids?

  3. 12strikes - Apr 11, 2011 at 4:55 PM

    WOW Craig, very naive of you.
    “I hate the morals clause and don’t believe that it was actually designed to exclude immoral actors from the Hall — rather, it was inserted to give a boost to good guys who may have fallen just short on the merits”
    A very liberal look at it.. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you have a rule that give somebody a boost, then by default that same rule will also hold someone down.
    Reality….welcome to it.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Apr 11, 2011 at 4:57 PM

      How is it naive to note that the Commissioner of Baseball specifically created the morals clause to benefit ex-players who had WWI service time but who wouldn’t have made it in the Hall of Fame otherwise? That, before now, the clause has never been used to keep someone out who was otherwise eligible and deserving, including felons, drunks and wife beaters?

      The practical effect of the clause is that it works both ways. But that doesn’t mean that it was intended to do that. Let alone that it should.

      • 12strikes - Apr 11, 2011 at 5:16 PM

        Craig, just because it was created for good, does not eliminate the negative side of the ruling. And that negative side should not be ignored. If someone with lesser numbers makes it to the HOF over someone one with better numbers just because of WWII (and please please please don’t think I’m downing veterans, I am a veteran and I’m just using this as an example) the guy with better numbers was held down.

  4. notdumb - Apr 11, 2011 at 5:07 PM

    the morals clause was put in to satisfy geeks that deep down resent the players for having talent being rich and attractive to women. writers shouldn’t even vote for the hall only former players and coaches should have a vote

  5. brewcrewchamps - Apr 11, 2011 at 5:46 PM

    Bonds was awesome.

    • rynev - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:35 AM

      I love the simplicity and straightforwardness of this comment…

  6. timothysutton - Apr 11, 2011 at 5:59 PM

    If the morals clause should be used to keep cheaters out, then why is Gaylord Perry in? A spitball was actually against the rules, unlike steroids, and has an evident, measurable impact on the game, unlike steroids.

  7. bigharold - Apr 11, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    “How much nicer if we could just cut out the silly interim period, cast out the morality of it all and do right by history?”

    No, it wouldn’t be nicer nor is the period silly.

    Frankly, it almost necessary in much the same way the 5 year waiting period was intended to take some of the emotion and sentimentality out of the voting process. The time and distance required that is refereed to as silly really allows the process of digesting the facts and getting past the reactionary. At some point baseball fans, regardless of the current feelings, will develop a better understanding of the affect of PEDs on baseball if for no other reason more will be learned about the overall pervasiveness of PEDs.

    Right now, I think most fans have a visceral response to PEDs in baseball. Given time I think much of the emotion will be removed and logic will drive the process. But, for that to take hold it will take time, .. silly or otherwise.

  8. Old Gator - Apr 11, 2011 at 8:55 PM

    Most of Bonds should be inducted. The incriminating parts of him – his balls, his mouth and the rest of his head – should be left out. But those parts can always be displayed at the Smithsonian.

  9. giboxer5 - Apr 11, 2011 at 11:23 PM

    If you can keep another of the best players ever, who has 100% CLEAN numbers, out of the HOF for being a gambling junkie then who really cares about dirty tainted steroid numbers. Being dirty as long as these guys were, none of their numbers mean anything in the grand sceme of mlb stats. Stop punishing Rose for indiscretions after his playing career was over, he never bet against his team by the way, then maybe we can talk about this group of players who need their own statistical column..

    • Kevin S. - Apr 12, 2011 at 12:08 AM

      Maybe because what Rose did had clearly specified consequences, while people are trying to make up consequences for steroid users after the fact?

    • dprat - Apr 12, 2011 at 1:38 AM

      “he never bet against his team by the way”

      And you know this how? Because Pete “Veritas” Rose has always said so?

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