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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.

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