Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Barry Bonds and the Hall of Fame

The Veterans Committee announced today that no new enshrinees were chosen for induction into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. This announcement comes about seven weeks after Mark "I Don't Want To Talk About The Past" McGwire was denied induction by a number of writers unhappy with the possibility that Big Mac might have used steroids. But with baseball opening soon, we now turn our attention to what is unquestionably the next big story: Barry Bonds, home run champion.

Mark my words: barring an indictment or another O.J. Simpson sighting in the white Bronco, Bonds will be the number one home run hitter of all-time sometime during the next seven months. And that moves us to what may be the most intriguing question of all: might the all-time home run champion join the all-time base hit champion (Pete Rose) on the blacklist? Will Barry Bonds make it to the Hall of Fame?

What disturbs me is not whether Bonds lied under oath. He is not the President, after all. And what disturbs me is not the fact that Bonds is a selfish pig who would rather hit five homers in a World Series game for all his personal glory than actually win a championship ring. What bothers me is the number of writers overcome with writers block (or at least its cousin, common sense block) when discussing McGwire and Bonds.

Now let me say this: Bonds is far more worthy of the Hall of Fame than McGwire. He has not only pounded a ton of homers, he has stolen a ton of bases, won a living room full of MVPs (McGwire never did), and holds the regular season home run record that McGwire held for less than three full baseball seasons. McGwire's one claim to fame is his career home run total. So the argument is not whether one is more deserving than the other for Bonds surely is. The question is whether either one should go in at all. And the writers are truly illogical when it comes to this one.

The writers spoke with fractured unity about McGwire - not on the first ballot, they said. McGwire will get 14 more chances to make it while Bonds will have to wait five years after he retires to see what turns up. But it is when you isolate the comments the writers make about McGwire that I get troubled. The argument goes like this: McGwire wouldn't have had all those home runs without steroids so he's not worthy. Bonds, on the other hand, is worthy because if he had retired in 1998 far short of the record, he would still be a Hall of Famer. Also, Bonds has never tested positive for steroids. This last is ironic in how the media treats the two: McGwire is assumed guilty because of his less-than-impressive appearance before Congress in 2005. But McGwire never tested positive for steroids. Indeed, McGwire has never even come up with the lame 'I unkowingly used the cream and clear' excuse that Bonds uses. And Bonds didn't even appear before Congress, so why does he get a free pass?

In the long run, I suspect that both McGwire and Bonds will be in the Hall of Fame, perhaps even the same year. And on each star's plaque, a bottle of juice - just for history.

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