What an atrocity.
The undisputed home run champion, both career and single-season, and the most decorated pitcher in the modern era received their de facto walking papers Tuesday from the Baseball Hall of Fame. And there’s no doubt who loses the most: the Hall itself, a museum now positioned to tell an insufficient tale of the game’s history.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, contemporaries inextricably linked for the wrong reasons, fell short of the required 75 percent election in their 10th and final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s ballot. They both peaked, Bonds reaching 66 percent and Clemens 65.2.
The Hall’s process enables the duo to get a second look by the Today’s Era committee, which will convene this December then again in December 2024, and maybe one of those will provide a pleasantly surprising outcome. Yet what we know about the current Hall members, who will constitute a healthy chunk of those committees, is that most take it personally when they contemplate players who allegedly used illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
So barring that upset, Bonds and Clemens will pay an eternal price for not employing more discrete (alleged) suppliers. Never mind that both men, to their credit (and our entertainment), fought the law and won, our government spending millions upon millions of dollars in futile attempts to bring them down. Just another case of individual wins being devalued in baseball.
Yes, it’s awfully hard for any candidate to accrue 75 percent. Red Sox icon David “Big Papi” Ortiz got 77.9 percent in his first shot to prevent a second straight BBWAA shutout, which would have been mighty embarrassing. What bothers me most about the dual snubbing is these two factors:
The selective outrage. How is it that Gaylord Perry — who broke a long-established, collectively bargained rule (about throwing a spitball, of course) and served a penalty for it — is not only immortalized in Cooperstown but revered as some delightful trickster, whereas Bonds and Clemens, who were never caught and never received any discipline, irreparably jeopardized the game’s integrity? What about quickly inducted Bud Selig, who while owning the Brewers devalued his customers’ tickets by colluding with his fellow CEOs to not sign free agents? Whereas Bonds and Clemens honored the ticket holders by doing their best, if not in the most upstanding manner, to win. A lack of space, not material, prevents me from citing more examples here.
The notion of withholding an “honor.” Yes, reaching the Hall of Fame represents an honor and a financial boon. But at the risk of sounding crude, those rewards contain expiration dates. At some point, Bonds and Clemens will die. Whereas the Hall can keep going and going, and those honors transition fully to mere recognition. So when families visit the Plaque Gallery in, say, 100 years, they’ll rightly struggle to grasp why Bonds and Clemens, as well as the dynamic slugger Sammy Sosa (also illegal PED suspicions without proof) and stud pitcher Curt Schilling (everyone’s favorite bigot), received such harsh punishments while other sinners were winners.
In response to the news, Clemens tweeted a statement in which he insisted, “My family and I put the HOF in the rear view mirror ten years ago. I didn’t play baseball to get into the HOF. I played to make a generational difference in the lives of my family.”
If I don’t believe that for a second, I nevertheless salute him for taking the high road, rather than pointing out how the game giddily benefited from his greatness — his Yankees manager Joe Torre is a longtime Hall member — then ditched him curbside at the first sign of trouble.
This ballot’s gonna leave a mark. It reflects poorly on everyone involved. For those who scream, “What about the children?!” the only lesson to be imparted here concerns museum curation. This museum, one of our most popular, features some serious intellectual inconsistencies. If it’s technically not too late to fix that, it sure feels like the timer on common sense just buzzed.