Once the results from baseball’s 2013 Hall of Fame voting were released, the howls began.
Not only were Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and the rest of the game’s steroid-tainted heroes denied induction, but the collateral shrapnel also prevented innocent victims like 3,000-hit club member Craig Biggio and catcher Mike Piazza the prestige of a first-ballot selection.
So the party in Cooperstown this summer will be thrown for three long-since-passed old-timers – including an umpire (Hank O’Day, an owner (Jacob Ruppert) and a bare-handed catcher (Deacon White). That’s not going to swell the little baseball town with tourists and help dependent business in the area.
So the argument begins: Come on, folks: Let the juicers in. We all enjoyed watching all the homers. And everyone cheats.
They are no worse than the guys who came before them. Ty Cobb was a racist and sharpened his spikes. Gaylord Perry had Vaseline in more places than Bruce Jenner has had work done. Willie Mays took so many greenies that he could have run down a fly ball in the gap that he hit.
So what if McGwire looked like he’d stuck an air hose in his mouth or Barry Bonds looked like a tag-team wrestler? They got rich. They set the records. And now they deserve to be honored as baseball gods because we all enjoyed the show. It’s part of the game.
Really? Is that where we are? Is it time let the cheaters skate – and I’m not talking about Tanya Harding – and drag out the asterisks?
Let’s give Lance Armstrong all his yellow jerseys back — along with other Tour de Fakers like Floyd Landis who injected more often than they pedaled. No need to come clean Lance — “Lie Strong.”
Let’s give Ben Johnson and Marion Jones those Olympic gold medals back. They finished first after all. Let’s just tell ourselves that all those East German swimmers in the 1980s were just big-boned.
What about Rosie Ruiz? She surely deserves her 1980 Boston Marathon title. She was smart enough to know you can get to the finish line a lot faster if you take the subways. If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying. Let’s give NBA referee Tim Donaghy one more chance. I’m sure he learned his lesson. How cool would it be to see Danny Almonte toe the Little League rubber one more time?
Many Baseball Writers’ Association of America members who vote for the Hall of Fame as the same scribes defied the performance on the field. Many openly apologized for not digging deeper, not listening more to the whispers or following more leads. Should they now use their power of the vote to cleanse their own consciences?
A tough call to be sure, but turning a blind eye a second time isn’t the best answer.
To this day, many of the baseball dopers — Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and the like — claim they have been unjustly accused. They point to their numbers and say “How can you keep us out?” Others have come clean, and feel that the admission along should be enough to win hearts and minds. Some of them were a credit to the organizations and cities where they played. Some were sullen stars that saw every request for their time from fans and media as outrageous and a personal affront.
But induction into the Hall of Fame means more than a plaque and spot in baseball royalty. It means big money in the world of memorabilia. And what has saved players from earlier decades from bankruptcy and will go a long way toward allowing this era of very rich players to maintain the lifestyle to which they are accustomed.
In other words, the cheaters will continue to prosper, and for that reason more than any other, I hope the doors of Cooperstown remain closed to the steroid generation.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.