Baseball Writers Get it Right – Cheaters Have No Place in Hall of Fame

Former Boston Red Sox slugger and designated hitter David Ortiz, better known as “Big Papi,” was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday, the lone player chosen this year by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

The Veterans Committee announced six additional selections, including Gil Hodges, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Jim Katt, Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neil. 

Notably missing once again from induction ceremonies in Cooperstown this July will be Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa – three players with stellar statistics who dominated their shared era, shattering records and grabbing headlines for decades.

All three were also accused of using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).

The “steroids era” encompasses nearly three decades, beginning in the 1980s and carrying on thru the early 2000s, when Major League Baseball finally began testing for them. Officially, 89 players were accused of using, though common sense would suggest many more partook given the number of years with no oversight or accountability.

Fans of Clemens, Bonds and Sosa might be disappointed, but in so many ways, it’s refreshing to see baseball writers doing what even Major League Baseball executives didn’t – holding players accountable for cheating and disgracing the game. 

With Tuesday’s vote, Clemens, Bonds and Sosa have all exhausted their ten years of eligibility for normal induction, and will now be at the mercy of the Veterans Committee, which could still someday vote them in.

Playing by the rules is a fundamental precept of life, especially sports where small advantages can make a big difference. As parents, we stress the importance of fairness and warn against the pitfalls of cheating to our children – whether in school or sports. So, what kind of message does it send when kids see adults doing the exact opposite? It undermines the teaching and plants seeds of doubt regarding its importance and practicality.

Cheating in baseball didn’t begin with steroids, of course. From spitballs to shoe polish, sandpaper and even corked bats, “dirty” players have existed since the game began. Sometimes umpires catch it – but often they don’t. The infamous “Black Sox” game-fixing scandal in 1919 led to eight members of the White Sox being banned from the game. 

Our children need to recognize there are consequences to bad decisions. Oddly enough, few of the players who used steroids have ever admitted it – but Roger Clemens certainly doesn’t speak the language of an innocent man.

In a tweet following Tuesday’s announcement, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner claimed he and his family had “put the HOF in the rearview mirror ten years ago.” He also suggested “hopefully everyone can now close this book and keep their eyes forward focusing on what is really important in life.”  

Roger Clemens is correct in noting there are many more critical things in life than election to the Baseball Hall of Fame – but honesty is a key and important policy, whether on the diamond or in the home.

One has to wonder how these players feel now, looking back on their once great careers now tainted by accusations of illegal drug use. It was Cicero who warned, “Ill-gotten gains will be ill-spent.” No matter who you are, regret is an awfully heavy burden to carry.

Photo from Twitter.

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