Have you heard the news? Barry Bonds finally got busted for steroids! Hallelujah! As an A’s and Dodgers’ fan, a Giants hater, and a guy who has tons of respect for the game, I was elated when the news first broke. But then the inevitable question was posed, and I was shocked hearing various opinions on TV. I wanted to scream, “Are you KIDDING me? Should Barry Bonds be in the Hall of Fame? YES!”
The Hall of Fame is just that. It’s literally a hall in which famous people of a certain group are enshrined for their accomplishments in that field. The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame exists for one purpose: to celebrate the game’s best players. Let’s read that again; to celebrate the game’s best players, not necessarily the game’s best people. If it was a Hall of Fame and Morality it might be different, but Cooperstown, New York has nothing to do with morals. If it did, there would be no room for bad-boy alcoholic Mickey Mantle to grace its walls.
I could be wrong, but I’ve always assumed that the world `fame’ meant to be widely acclaimed and celebrated by the general public. Snoop Dogg is famous and everyone knows he’ll never have his last dance with Mary Jane. Terrell Owens is famous and he is the most obnoxious player in the NFL. The point is, just because you’re famous doesn’t mean you are a good person. Bonds lied to the Supreme Court and the American public on multiple occasions. He also took steroids, a cardinal sin in today’s game of baseball. Let us not forget though, that Bonds is also one of the greatest athletes to ever step foot on a baseball diamond.
Barry Bonds should be a unanimous, first-ballot Hall of Famer for his accomplishments as a baseball player prior to 2001, when it first became apparent that he was on “the juice.” Let’s take into account his first fifteen seasons, from 1986 when he initially broke in with the Pittsburgh Pirates, to 2000 with the San Francisco Giants. In that time, Bonds averaged the following numbers: a .289 batting average, 33 home runs, 94 RBI’s and 31 stolen bases. Not too shabby. Now, there’s no doubt that Babe Ruth was the most feared and talented hitter in the history of baseball. With that in mind, let’s look at the numbers from his first fifteen seasons. Ruth averaged a .327 batting average, 31 home runs, 94 RBI’s and 6 stolen bases.
The numbers are pretty close, and a player with stats that similar to Babe Ruth should really be a clear-cut Hall of Famer. If you simply take into account Bonds’ pre-steroid accomplishments, he’s a legend. In his entire career, Bonds has also captured seven MVP awards, appeared in 14 all-star games and won 8 gold gloves, all numbers above and beyond Ruth’s. In no way am I arguing that Bonds is a better player than Ruth was, because then I’d have to wonder if I’d been hanging with Snoop too much; I’m simply stating that Bonds deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
How should he be inducted though? Certainly not without an explanation! Put him in the Hall as he deserves, but have a small explanation next to his exhibit explaining that Bonds used steroids for a few years and therefore his single-season and career home run records are questionable. Just like there is an explanation by the plaque of Roger Maris because he hit his 61 home runs in more games than Ruth hit his 60, Bonds should get the place in history he deserves with just a small disclaimer.
Another problem is that of Bonds’ record-breaking home run ball. Not that it should matter too much now, because Hank Aaron should be recognized as the career leader since Bonds has been indicted. But, if the actual ball Bonds hit for number 756 is put on display in the Hall of Fame, it should just be there, plain and clean like any other noteworthy ball. No asterisks branded onto it, no notes inscribed, or anything else for that matter. And not because it would tarnish the already tarnished ball, but because Bonds said he would refuse his own induction if that ball had an asterisk on it. In a sport that already has two strikes against it when it comes to Hall of Fame inductions (Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose), denying Bonds his rightful place in Cooperstown would give them another swing and a miss.
Call me crazy, but Bonds may also have been treated unfairly throughout the entire steroid speculation saga. He’s the face of the sport and widely assumed to be a major league-sized prick, so it’s easy for packs of reporters to attack and ravage him. Being the best player of this era is going to get him attention in the first place, so when speculation of cheating surrounds him, it’s going to be a much bigger deal than if, say, Rafael Palmeiro is under speculation. In fact, in the case of Bonds, the possibility of him being juiced was a bigger deal in the baseball world than that of Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire combined. Can you imagine having everyone outside of your family and San Francisco attacking and accusing you all day, every day? Add to that the pressure of carrying a franchise almost entirely on your own shoulders and trying to win a championship in the longest, most grueling season in any professional sport, and you have a man who is being treated in a way I would never wish on anyone. Even a Giants player.
In reality, Bonds probably just wants the one thing he hasn’t gotten in his illustrious career: a World Series ring. It looks now as though he may never get that chance because he made the huge mistake of taking steroids and the even bigger mistake of lying about it. Though technically steroids were legal at the time he took them, he must have known what the implications of such a decision would be. But since he can’t really be imprisoned or banned for using steroids; honestly, since when do athletes and celebrities get sent to jail for LYING? Darryl Strawberry went to jail for doing drugs, Ray Lewis stood trial for murder, and various athletes have taken the stand for driving under the influence – all things that endanger the general public. How many have been put behind bars or even faced as much criticism as Bonds has over the last eight years, for lying?
Essentially, barring a catastrophic injury, this entire public debate and the time I put into writing this article serve no purpose, because Alex Rodriguez should demolish both Hank Aaron’s and Barry Bonds’ home run totals in seven or eight years. But for now, the debate surrounding Bonds and the possibility of not being elected to the Hall of Fame is an important issue. Maybe it’s just comforting for people to know that our suspicions about him were right and that he finally got busted and received the punishment he deserved…at least the punishment many people believe he deserved. But that’s exactly it. He’s been punished enough; he’s out of baseball, hated by 90% of America, and still doesn’t have his ring. So, take it from a Dodger fan: Barry Bonds should not be punished any further and should be sent where he deserves to go – not to jail, but to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, the rightful place for legends of the game.