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Today the Hall of Fame celebrates the (imaginary) purity of baseball

Jul 28, 2013, 1:03 PM EDT

Cooperstown

Today the Hall of Fame honors its inductees. Posthumous inductees, that is, as it is only inducting umpire Hank O’Day, Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and 19th Century catcher/third baseman Deacon White. One living honoree — Spink Award winner Paul Hagen — will take the stage and speak.

This despite the fact that there is no shortage of worthy living players who deserve induction. Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Alan Trammell all have strong cases on the merits. Obviously the Hall of Fame voters disagree as they tend to do. I think eventually most of those guys will make it. There are two, however, who deserve to be on that stage today but won’t be and may never be: Barry Bonds and Rogers Clemens.

The reason for this is pretty obvious. They cheated. Bonds definitely, as has been widely documented. Clemens most likely, even though the evidence against him isn’t as public and isn’t as thorough. Each of them are out of the Hall of Fame, not because their baseball cases are debatable, but because they are seen wanting in the department of character, morals and ethics.

But on this day when only the dead speak and only the pure of heart and soul shall pass, let us not forget that the Hall of Fame has long welcomed cheaters with open arms.

Gaylord Perry threw a spitball. Don Sutton and Whitey Ford (and probably almost every other pitcher in history) scuffed or cut balls. Scores of batters corked their bats. The 1951 Giants won the pennant after rigging up an elaborate, electric sign-stealing mechanism. John McGraw, both as a player and a manager, invented and carried out more ways to break rules than anyone in history, ranging from umpire distracting and cutting the corners on bases and tripping or obstructing opposing runners. Ty Cobb sharpened his spikes in an effort to maim opposing players who would dare try to tag him out. While we single out the 1919 White Sox as a unique stain on the game, many players — including Hall of Famers — fixed baseball games prior to the Black Sox scandal.

While many have attempted to argue that using PEDs is different in kind than all of those other examples — examples which are often laughed off as quirky or colorful — the fact is that there are PED users in the Hall of Fame already. Only, instead of steroids, they used amphetamines or “greenies” as they were called. Players who have either admitted to or have been credibly accused of taking such things include Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. And this leaves out all of the drug and/or alcohol users who took things which hindered their performance, which also impacted the competitive nature of the game, albeit adversely to their team’s interests. And it also assumes that there are no steroid users already in the Hall of Fame, which I do not believe is a reasonable assumption.

The common thread here: all of these examples of baseball cheating involved players breaking rules in an effort to gain some sort of edge on the competition. Rule breaking that, in turn, put the competition in the unenviable position of having to decide if they too should break the rules to keep up. There is not a black and white difference between a user of PEDs and baseball’s other cheaters.

Oh, and there are tons of racists in there too. Men who actively fought to keep minorities out of the game for decades, which is both objectively evil and which adversely impacted the game’s competitive landscape . There is also a former Spink Award winner in there — Bill Conlin — who has had more credible accusations of sexual molestation leveled at him than many players who are being kept out of the hall for steroids have had steroids accusations leveled at them. Character matters, see. Except in those cases where it doesn’t.

Not that any of this makes Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens better people than they are. Two wrongs don’t make a right. But let us not forget that, until very, very recently, the Hall of Fame has never cared about wrongs in the first place.  Why it should start caring about them now is beyond me.

114 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. bills399 - Jul 28, 2013 at 7:48 PM

    “oh” americanofafricandecent I did know that bonds did not hit 3000 I know it was 2800 (something) without looking up stats (to attempt to sound smart like u enjoy doing). I also said he won 1 league MVP prior to 1991 and I believe I am right however I did not look it up to make it sound like I know what I am talking about so i may he off by 1 mvp. so easy to look up stats as (as u apparently do ) as opposed to speaking off the top of your head and possibly be off by a small margin on a rare occasion. my forte is football, however one on one minus the ability to look up stats on our smartphones, I am certain baseball knowledge wise I could still wipe the floor with u. unfortunately for u, u never address the argument (that minus steroids bonds and Clemens miss the hall….I’ll repeat myself) u instead pick the irrelevant fringe of a statement that has little relevance to an argument because u have no rebuttal.

  2. bills399 - Jul 28, 2013 at 7:56 PM

    what these (hey….wait…..what about past eras) people don’t get is amphetamines ( like a shitload of caffeine) are not the same as steroids. and as far as the hall is concerned, the fact that there are clearly steroid sympathizers (which ironically enough are the people who only appear to be fighting for bonds….) and people against anyone associated with steroids, u in turn have an argument. People elected to the hall….there isn’t supposed to be an argument…..is he a hall of famer……definitely. if u have the “well I can argue for…..and well he had those seasons in the mid 80′s…..or well if he didn’t take steroids he may have still been but we will never really know….” they don’t belong in. period. If there is a debate they don’t belong in.

    • DJ MC - Jul 28, 2013 at 9:13 PM

      If amphetamines are equivalent to “a shitload of caffeine”, then steroids are just like drinking a protein shake (since, at least in your perception of what steroids do, they have the same result).

  3. bills399 - Jul 28, 2013 at 9:14 PM

    um ctony, u do have proof that mantle used greenies right? I mean he tested positive, a lab was raided with his name all over the place, or a federal grand jury indicted him…..right? Were greenies even illegal when he played? Any answers? Probably not.

    • ctony1216 - Jul 28, 2013 at 9:43 PM

      bills399 — I was being sarcastic. The /snark tag is short for sarcastic remark, meaning that it’s ridiculous to compare Mantle and Mays, whatever they supposedly did, to today’s players’ use of steroids. I mean, it’s really ridiculous.

      So, I agree with the point you’re making.

  4. bills399 - Jul 28, 2013 at 9:34 PM

    dcmc I would love to respond but I have no idea what the hell u r talking about

  5. jimeejohnson - Jul 28, 2013 at 9:48 PM

    Ever notice how people in power are full of crap? At least Donald Trump is what he appears to be: son of an orangutan and dumb as sin.

  6. ctony1216 - Jul 28, 2013 at 10:18 PM

    It’s too bad HBT didn’t even mention the 3 guys who actually were inducted into the Hall of Fame today: Jacob Ruppert, James “Deacon” White, and Hank O’Day.

    From MLB.com:
    “Ruppert took over the Yankees in 1915, and during his 24-year tenure as owner, established the foundation of a franchise that has become one of the most heralded brands in professional sports. White caught for 20 years without the benefit of equipment, and O’Day is the umpire who called out Fred Merkle for not touching second base in 1908 on what would have been a game-winning hit, ultimately costing the New York Giants the pennant to the Chicago Cubs. … O’Day was a pitcher and later an umpire, from 1888-1927, who worked a record-tying 10 World Series.”

  7. caliscooter - Jul 29, 2013 at 1:47 AM

    Amen, Craig…

  8. mbankston - Jul 29, 2013 at 6:46 AM

    Once again Craig, I don’t see how you keep a job. These players not only took PED’s, they like Pete Rose did, continue to lie about it. There is no place for these individuals where Ruth, Aaron, Mays and Mantle reside. It’s “sacred ground”. I applaud the HOF voters that continue to say no. Too bad that as they move on, people like you will think it’s time to let these guys in.

    • muhangis - Jul 30, 2013 at 2:24 AM

      You just stated absolutely nothing. You merely expressed how you don’t like the writers article/argument, but fail to give any explanation as of why.

      LOL.. And Pete Rose is banned from the HoF due to betting, not cause of PED accusations you idiot! Seriously… you sound dumb man.

      And nobody has moved on from this issue. That’s why it’s constantly written about, and brought up on ESPN and the media. You have not moved on either, as you have bothered to comment on the matter.

  9. bills399 - Jul 29, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    ctony my apologies

  10. umrguy42 - Jul 29, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    “While we single out the 1919 White Sox as a unique stain on the game, many players — including Hall of Famers — fixed baseball games prior to -and after- the Black Sox scandal.”

    Fixed. Seriously, for a good book on the whole thing, read Burying the Black Sox.

  11. doubleogator - Jul 29, 2013 at 9:16 AM

    Greenies are the same thing as “speed” amphetamines that could be prescribed by a doctor. They would not have anywhere close to the same effect as steroids. That being said, the biggest shame is that Bonds and Clemens were legit hall of famers before they ever were accused of taking PED’s, and I am not a fan of Bonds. In essence they screwed themselves because they were sure fire inductees without having to cheat. Pete Rose on the other hand belongs in there before any of these others, and baseball needs to recognize this at some point…

  12. tullyboy80 - Jul 29, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    So, where do we draw the line? It’s ad enough to bet on a baseball team that you get banned for life, yet we should reward players who use substances that enhance them physically to give them an edge over average players, or even good players? C’mon! I am glad to see people actually beginning to take an interst in the type of character that gets in there. Good job, I say!

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