[NOTE: This is my first article written for Yahoo, which is currently under review by editors.]
Earlier, Yahoo Sports asked over Twitter whether Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were worthy of a place in Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Now I refuse to use Twitter or anything else that sounds like something I might have done to your mother last night, and thus, was not able to partake in this discussion.
But in my mind, the question still stands: Are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens Hall Of Famers? Why, yes. Yes they are.
Would I vote for them? Yes. I would.
Strangely enough though, the big question I keep asking myself as I read this article is this: Why is there even a debate in the first place?
When it comes up, the major discussion point that seems to come up again and again is that folks like Bonds and Clemens cheated somehow. That by using PEDs, they broke a written law of the game.
But here’s the thing: They didn’t. There was no policy in place for PED abuse in MLB until 2005. Sure, there was the matter of federal laws banning the recreational use of PEDs. But with no policy in MLB (and thus, no rule), the players were free to use whatever they wanted.
So if you want to be nitpicky, you could say that these players never broke the letter of the law regarding this in MLB.
“But that isn’t important”, you say. “By knowingly taking PEDs, these players broke the spirit of the rules!”
But did they really?
Well to be fair, I suppose the better question is: By taking performance enhancing drugs, did these players violate the “sanctity of the game” any more than Gaylord Perry or Whitey Ford did whenever they’d doctor the ball? And if you believe that they did, then by this logic, shouldn’t we retroactively go through the Hall Of Fame and remove all trace of these great cheaters of yore? Do you REALLY want to have to do that?
Look, let’s be honest here: Yeah, that time was bad for everyone. Baseball has taken a serious hit to its credibility because of this. And for years to come, The Steroid Era of Baseball will hang over a generation of fans and players like a bad odor. Which brings me to my final point:
It’s OUR fault it happened in the first place.
From the folks within the Commissioner’s Office who looked at PEDs not as a problem, but a profit. To Donald Fehr and the MLBPA who saw the growing use of enhancers as leverage in future CBA meetings. To the players who took them in an effort to produce bigger everything from muscles to contracts. To the media who continued looking the other way while vilifying those who’d publicly say anything (Remember Steve Wilstein?). And finally to the fans, to us, who drank the kool aid, cheered on command with each new record set, and threw MLB our wallets while willfully ignoring the signs of something amiss… we are to blame.
We created the Steroid Era. This is our time… Our era. And this is our responsibility. If we ignore it, don’t we run the risk of running into the same problem in the future?
Personally, I’d rather see men like Bonds and Clemens get the due they deserve: I’d rather see them in the Hall Of Fame, if not because they flat out put up the numbers to warrant entry, then because their very place there will continue to invite open and honest discussion of that time.
And there should always be a discussion.