Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Leave Baseball Better Than You Found It

Some of the biggest names in America’s favorite past time are back in the news and bringing with them arguably the greatest major league baseball controversy of their heyday.    Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa, first timers on the ballot for a spot in baseball’s Hall of Fame, also are all linked to use of performance-enhancing steroids.   

Because of their incredible numbers, they are eligible for entry into the baseball shrine via a vote of about 500 sportswriters, however, should they get in? 

Bonds is MLB’s  all-time home run hitter.  Clemens set a record as a seven time Cy Young award winner. And, Sosa, number eight on the homer list, helped revive interest in baseball with his legendary home run battles against former major leaguer Mark McGwire.  (McGwire, who also is linked to using the banned substances, repeatedly has been denied entry into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, since becoming eligible.)

This sparks a debate as big as whether all-time hit leader Pete Rose should be kept out of Cooperstown because he allegedly, but now admits, he bet on baseball…against the rules of the sport.  

Their numbers are amazing, but sometimes it’s not just about the numbers.
Based on stats alone, without a doubt, the three should make it in.  But, to get into baseball’s Hall of Fame, sportswriters are to consider a player’s character, integrity and sportsmanship….and therein lies the dilemma. 

I grew up watching baseball and other sports with my Dad…in the days when you could watch ALL the Atlanta Braves games for free on TV.  I am a baseball purist.  Don’t like the designated hitter rule, don’t like artificial turf (called AstroTurf back in the day) and have capitulated to baseball under the lights.  (No domes, though.)  And, this doesn’t work for me.  It leaves a stench in my nostrils.
Bonds, Clemens and Sosa have, at the least, plausible reasons or denial in disputing the rumors of steroid use associated with their names.  Bonds says he was duped by a trainer into using banned substances, Clemens was recently found not guilty of lying to Congress when he said he had not used steroids—though his former teammates say he did.  And Sosa, we now know, failed a drug test—but maintains he never used.  

Some argue to keep them out of the Hall of Fame would be a travesty. Others argue the many of the sportswriters , who have publicly said they’ll vote to keep them out, have no real proof. 
They have evidence…and while evidence is not always proof, this is not a court of law; it’s just baseball.

The three are among more than three dozen players being considered for a spot among baseball’s immortals.   But, the perceived scandal has overshadowed the accomplishments of the other players. 
Character, integrity and sportsmanship are part of the criteria under consideration.  They have to count for something , too. 

The fact that Bonds, Clemens and Sosa bring with them the baggage of baseball’s steroid-tainted era is enough for me to bring doubts about their integrity. If I had a vote, I’d say “no” to the home run king, the pitching great and the ever-popular slugger.  

The sportswriters , who have until later this month to cast their ballots, also have a right to their doubts and suspicions. However, the players have no “right” to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.  It is, and should remain, an honor and a privilege to be there.  

Copyright 2012  Artis Media Group  All rights reserved.

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