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If you’re anti-Barry Bonds now, how can your position about him change over time?

Dec 17, 2012, 11:07 AM EDT

Barry Bonds headshot

The San Francisco Chronicle is running a one-on-one of local writers with Hall of Fame votes. Bruce Jenkins takes the pro-Barry Bonds argument, Ann Killion the anti-Bonds. These arguments aren’t rhetorical, though, as they reflect their own votes.

Each side makes a now-familiar case so I won’t rehash them, but Killion’s does add something I’ve seen an awful lot of lately — Bob Ryan had it in the column linked this morning too — and which I find curious: the “I won’t vote for Bonds now, but I may change my mind later” thing:

Just as my views about Bonds have changed over the past decade, they could change again over the next 15 years that his name remains on the ballot. While I’m not one to withhold my vote based on whether I think someone is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, a process I’ve always found inane, I am willing to keep my mind open as the years pass.

The steroid story, as we’ve learned in 2012, is not a closed chapter. It continues to play out and in 15 years, with baseball under a new commissioner and with the perspective of time, the story and its fallout may look different. I could change my mind and check the box next to Barry Bonds.

But I can’t do it right now.

I don’t follow this, at least with respect to Bonds.  While we may have doubts about some players, there are no doubts about Bonds and steroids. He did it. He clearly did it. To suggest otherwise is pretty unreasonable, really. There is no truly relevant information about Barry Bonds playing career or PED use that is going to come out. Waiting will get you nowhere in this respect.

So, it seems, the only possible thing Killion and others who make this argument could be waiting for is for people (i.e. people like herself) to become less dogmatic about PEDs in baseball in the future. To give that “perspective” she’s admitting is possible. Which is a strange position to be taking: “PEDs in baseball is a horrible, horrible thing, so horrible that I can’t abide honoring a person who did them, but maybe in a few years I will be proven wrong about that and I will then change my mind.”

It seems like the only possible basis one’s position could change here is if they discover that Bonds’ transgressions were no different than the transgressions of hundreds of other ballplayers. Which is something we pro-Bonds people are arguing now, but which folks like Killion dimiss out of hand as beside the point. But she’s willing to buy that later?

There may be borderline cases out there for whom this treatment makes sense. McGwire, maybe. Palmeiro, perhaps. But it seems to me that if you’re anti-Bonds now, intellectual consistency demands that you be against him later.

  1. stex52 - Dec 17, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    Intellectual consistency? What is? Oh, you make the joke……

  2. jwbiii - Dec 17, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    You want intellectual consistency from sportswriters?

  3. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Dec 17, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    Let’s make an example of him and keep him out for now. Once someone we all like but who was known to use PEDs gets in, then it will be OK to let everyone else in.

    So really, the sportswriters are waiting for the PED messiah.

    • joecool16280 - Dec 17, 2012 at 4:40 PM

      You – 1

      Sports”writers” – 0

  4. dowhatifeellike - Dec 17, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    Intellectual consistency is a myth. As more information becomes available, opinions must be reevaluated. In this case, the passage of time itself means nothing, but what we learn over that time is important.

    • chadjones27 - Dec 17, 2012 at 11:44 AM

      But the only think to be learned over time, in this case, is the names of other athletes who used PED’s. So the only way this would change one’s opinion of Bonds if if someone whom the media respects was caught (or admitted to) PEDs and now they have to rethink their views on Bonds.

      • dan1111 - Dec 17, 2012 at 12:09 PM

        What if in 10 years, we know that 90% of baseball players were using PEDs? That could convince someone that steroids were so much a part of the game that steroid users just have to be accepted into the hall.

        What if in 10 years we find out that the Giants training staff was actively encouraging PED use? That could convince someone less of the blame for steroid use should fall on Bonds personally.

        What if it is later discovered that a large number of current hall of famers used steroids? That could convince someone that it is not fair to exclude Bonds just because his use was known.

        Whatever you think of the merits of these arguments, there is nothing logically inconsistent about someone changing their mind for any of these reasons.

    • paperlions - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:31 PM

      Intellectual consistency is in no way a myth. There are plenty of people that use it in the professions an personal lives.

  5. stex52 - Dec 17, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    Actually, though, I am not buying your argument, Craig. You say that “people like Killion” reject the numbers argument. Does she? I can think of several other items that could change significantly. The real benefits of PED usage are not clearly defined on a player-by-player basis. If it turned out (I don’t think it will) he was taking a fancy placebo, that makes a huge difference. Were they OK to use if it was for healing? How about various surgeries used to prolong or enhance players’ careers? Will they still be regarded as ethical? And if they are, why not PED’s? And you know there will be a dozen new, wacky treatments to improve performance over the next ten years that make PED’s look tame by comparison. We are on the edge of a bio-revolution that will make this stuff look simple.

    Besides, several of the great philosophers of history even confessed late in life that their views had evolved. That is in the nature of human beings and of societies. Ask the gay marriage supporters about that.

  6. MyTeamsAllStink - Dec 17, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    Until baseball lifts its ban on Pete Rose and allows him in(yes slap an asterisk on his plaque if you must) the Hall of Fame is a joke.Honus Wagner was a notorious racist and a proud member of the KKK,Ty Cobb a racist cheat and someone who assaulted someone in a wheelchair are both in.Bonds took PEDs and so did the majority of the league back in the 80s and 90s.Selig knew it,allowed it,and then cowered like a little girl when forced to stand in front of congress.Ive stopped caring about steroids and who used them when Selig knew and allowed it to happen for the sake of revenue

    • savvybynature - Dec 17, 2012 at 12:12 PM

      My guess is Rose is inducted post mortem. But I agree, Rose is more deserving of inclusion than maybe any of these PED users including Bonds, and his transgression was NOT performance enhancing.

      Induct Rose, then we’ll talk about the steroid users.

      • 18thstreet - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:02 PM

        I’m fascinated, to no end, by Rose’s defenders.

        He did it, you know.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:02 PM

        They should first remove the ban of Shoeless Joe and and then they can remove the ban of Pete Rose.

      • dowhatifeellike - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:54 PM

        18ttstreet – yes, he did it. He gambled on baseball after his playing days were over. Now tell me how that’s worse than pumping yourself full of illegal synthetic chemicals to achieve greater glory.

      • kehnn13 - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:19 PM

        I’m tired of the Pete Rose defense. Since the Black Sox scandal, the cardinal rule of baseball has been “Don’t bet on baseball.” He knew the rule, he broke the rule. I am more inclined to be forgiving of those who used PEDs prior to 2002 than I am of those who broke the cardinal rule. Things were a lot more sketchy regarding PEDs.

      • savvybynature - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:34 PM

        Of course he did, and he also happens to be a huge ass hat too, btw, in case there is one person out there who hasn’t noticed yet.

        In that sense, no one is defending him. I’m merely saying that based on his contributions to the sport he easily deserves induction to the Hall.

        A case can be made to keep him out as a deterrent to anyone in the future who may consider betting on the game, but then shouldn’t that argument apply to the PED users as well? Isn’t there even more incentive to deter future PED use, considering it has been a much bigger problem recently?

      • clydeserra - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:56 PM

        OK, his playing days were over. But were his managing days over?

        No. No they weren’t. That is even worse.

      • savvybynature - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:59 PM

        Are we electing him as a player or manager? Because he wasn’t anything special as a manager. He was as a player.

  7. mrwillie - Dec 17, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    More reason to take the voting away from the writers. If they want a vote let them vote on which writers have the best verb conjugations or best use of a past participle. Leave the voting to a more qualified group than the ones who received a journalism degree.

  8. hughhansen - Dec 17, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    Intellectual consistency is overrated.

    I’m fine with her saying that she’s going to keep an open mind and allowing for the possibility that she may be persuaded that she’s wrong.

    A bunch of people could’ve said that when Blyleven became eligible, because many did change their minds. We’ve lauded those people for realizing their reasons for excluding Blyleven were deficient, and not blasted them for intellectual inconsistency (rightfully so).

    • Craig Calcaterra - Dec 17, 2012 at 12:32 PM

      I’d be better with that if she didn’t spend her whole column explaining why the arguments of others are utterly unconvincing.

      • paperlions - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:33 PM

        They are only unconvincing, until they aren’t….at which point she can change her mind.

  9. pilonflats - Dec 17, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    id vote for barry

  10. moogro - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    The voters are ridiculous and cowardly, the process is weird. But I think there is a little wiggle room for the wait-and-see. It’s not like all information stops as of today. They are curating a museum by committee, for better or for worse. For example, there are lots of artists that have set the world on fire in recent history, but it will take time to situate them in the textbooks.

    • dowhatifeellike - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:56 PM

      Right. I’d rather see the voters err on the side of caution because once someone is in, they’re in for good.

  11. wpjohnson - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    It won’t change whatsoever. The Hall of Fame needs to clean up its membership. It already has too many mediocre players. It doesn’t need cheaters.

  12. lpd1964 - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    I wouldn’t vote for Bonds, as for Rose, I would put him in as the all time hits leader obviously but wouldn’t allow him to manage because of the gambling issue.

  13. itsabergthing - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    Barry Bonds and Pete Rose are both Hall of Famers regardless of their negatives. The Hall of Fame is in place to recognize the greatest players the game has to offer, and both of these players more than fit that criteria.

  14. offseasonblues - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    Why is intellectual consistency required to cast a subjective vote? Denying Bonds and Clemens first ballot entry is a legitimate protest, I think.

  15. randygnyc - Dec 17, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    I’m sure many voters, like myself, know that these steroid users are talented enough to be in the HOF. The thought of them being voted in on the first ballot is disgusting to me. At the very least, I’d vote no for the first few years. I’m sure MANY writers agree with me.

  16. stoutfiles - Dec 17, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    A nuke from N. Korea is launched at San Fran and Barry Bonds uses his steroid leg strength to leap miles in the air to take the explosion head on saving the city, as seen in the movie Iron Giant.

    Then, and only then, would I forgive him.

  17. makeham98 - Dec 17, 2012 at 3:48 PM

    Didn’t Rose sign an agreement that excluded him, all the while continuing to deny? And then later on, while clear that he was being held to what he signed, “revise” his stories, more or less admitting that he had been lying all along? And we’re supposed to take him seriously? Good luck with the marriage, Pete, at least you have that going for you.

  18. unlost1 - Dec 17, 2012 at 4:26 PM

    fine if ya wanna change your view on Pete Rose too

  19. phillyphannn83 - Dec 17, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again…Shoeless Joe and Pet Rose are two completely different situations. Shoeless Joe and his teammates threw the World Series in which they played! Pete Rose merely bet on games he was not involved in – I say again, games he was NOT involved in. He never bet on a game in which he played or managed. It is no different than you or I betting on baseball games. Pete Rose deserves to be in, Shoeless Joe no. As for steroids players…they wouldn’t get my vote, ever.

    • stercuilus65 - Dec 17, 2012 at 6:28 PM

      Rose DID bet on games he managed!

    • umrguy42 - Dec 18, 2012 at 9:15 AM

      Also, the “Black Sox” weren’t the first, nor the last, group to throw games (and possibly a World Series), despite what Baseball would have you think. And the list of people *after* includes a couple folks IN the HoF, if memory serves. Look it up.

  20. ducksk - Dec 17, 2012 at 9:36 PM

    B bonds is a world class ahole. Everyone that know anyting about him knows it. Should it eliminate him from HOF? With all the PED crap it’s enuff fore. F/u Barry

  21. jeffbbf - Dec 18, 2012 at 1:01 AM

    what if, in 10 years, scientific research proves that steroids provides no discernable advantage for a baseballl player? As someone mentioned above, what if, in 10 years, it’s proven that 90% of the league was using? Either way, those are 2 potentially valid reasons for a voter to change their mind. Right now, users look like cheaters unworthy of enshrinement. Pete Rose would have made the HOF before he bet on baseball games. Shoeless Joe would have made the HOF before the 1919 world series. Just because Barry had the resume to get into the HOF before he started cheating doesn’t mean he should be allowed in.

  22. andyvictory - Dec 18, 2012 at 1:23 AM

    What ever happened to credibilty? Why do we CONSTANTLY ramble on and on about Bonds, Maguire, and Sosa types? Remember Ken Griffey Jr? Remember Frank Thomas? Remember AMERICAS FAVORITE PAST TIME? Forget all the media-freindly contraversy and forget all these half-whits who stained a wonderful thing. Cut, quit, and move on from the cheaters who made this sport illegitimate. Get back to what made it as amazing as it once was. Great baseball, riveting history, role models with enormous/unselfish hearts, and children’s heroes putting on a show.

    • paperlions - Dec 18, 2012 at 8:13 AM

      This is from a movie, right? Because those guys never existed.

  23. louiespoon - Dec 18, 2012 at 10:21 AM


  24. survivor3306 - Jan 9, 2013 at 8:34 PM

    One thing to realize about Ann Killion – she never lets truth inhibit her argument. Most professional writers value truth and make their argument to persuade without lying. But Ann will saying anything, so you have to always fact check her when she makes a declaration. Remember the women in the locker room argument that was raised due to the Jets incident in 2010? A reader objected to the double standard that women were free to enter and see male athletes undressed while men reporters never got the same access to women athletes, like when they cover the WNBA. Ann responded that the conditions were exactly the same, thus winning the argument with the ignorant reader. But of course she knows that the conditions are not the same. WNBA only lets reporters in for a brief time, the players will always be dressed, and no cameras are allowed. Hence a vast double standard exists. But Ann didn’t want to admit to that so she lied. People may not care about that issue but the point is don’t ever trust what she says without checking facts from a real professional. .

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