By Eli Winter
HOUSTON -- Roger Clemens was acquitted this week of all six counts of lying to Congress about his steroid usage in 2008. He is also on the Baseball Hall of Fame’s ballot this year – for the first time.
Many stars will greet him in his chance to be awarded baseball’s highest honor.
Among those tagging along for the ride to Cooperstown are Jeff Bagwell, Alan Trammell, Edgar Martinez and Don Mattingly.
They also include such hitch-hikers as Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, Craig Biggio (well, of course I’m partial to the Astros, being from Houston), and Curt Schilling.
Bagwell slugged 449 homers before retiring after his powerful swing gave him arthritis. Trammell, Mattingly, and Martinez both have more than 2,000 hits and 1,000 RBIs. Biggio has 3,000 hits and the not-so-dubious record of being hit by a pitch more times than any other batter in the history of the game. Schilling struck out 3,116 batters and won a playoff game while fending off an injured, bleeding ankle. Piazza had more than 400 homers.
|Photo illustration by Kiernan Majerus-Collins|
What about Bonds? Besides his ego, brashness and penchant for hitting homers, there’s his magically swelling his head to the size of a pineapple.
And how about Sosa, with 609 homers to his name?
Lastly, what about Clemens, who managed to skirt past any alleged steroid usage with the help of lawyer Rusty Hardin, after recording 4,612 strikeouts, third-most of any pitcher in the history of the game?
Well, those last three, which I strategically grouped into a separate paragraph, all have been the recipients of numerous allegations that they used steroids during their careers.
While Clemens’ steroid usage may not be quite as certain anymore, given that he was acquitted on charges he lied about not using them, the evidence still points to his using them.
When questioned about voluntary steroid testing, Sosa ended an interview with that legendary sportswriter Rick Reilly. Bonds’ head can’t be explained without mentioning steroids.
Many are debating whether steroid users should be admitted to the Hall of Fame. Opinions are generally mixed, with some saying “Sure!” others saying “First the Cubs will win a World Series.”
Then there’s me.
I believe anyone who feels steroid users should be willingly admitted to the Hall of Fame ought to be strung up by his toenails and left hanging from them like a bat in a cave.
Why do I feel so strongly about this?
Using steroids even once in the world of cycling is enough to garner a two-year ban from racing. The International Olympic Committee disqualifies any athlete who uses them.
But Major League Baseball just hands down a rinky-dinky 50-game suspension – and even that is a relatively new penalty.
|Baseball greats Johnny Pesky,|
Dom Dimaggio and Bobby Doerr
at the Baseball Hall of Fame
in Cooperstown in 2005.
MLB’s lenience compared to other sports should be balanced out with a harsh stance taken over steroid usage in the Hall.
It’s unfair to other players who played cleanly, with no banned substances used of any kind, to add to the Hall those who looked for every loophole in the book and used it to their full advantage. It’s also unethical, and for a liberal such as myself, ethics and fair play is the name of the game.
Cheating’s not playing fairly.
Nor is dodging every question asked of you about using steroids, or claiming you were given something by your trainer you thought was flaxseed juice, or not having the cojones, so to speak, to admit the truth for fear you’d damage your already-suffering reputation.
Pitcher Andy Pettitte has my respect because he admitted that he used steroids, and he regretted it. That’s all it takes for my respect to be regained.
If we can’t agree that steroid users should be barred from the Hall of Fame like otherwise fantastic players such as Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson (unfairly, in the latter case), then perhaps we can compromise with this: Any steroid user admitted to the Hall of Fame gets an asterisk to place by his full records.
Those records set during seasons in which they juiced are removed and they receive joint records played ‘cleanly.’
For example, if someone played for 10 years and juiced for two, those 10 years’ statistics would receive an asterisk placed by them, and the two he juiced in would be removed from those 10 and clean records would be held jointly, side-by-side with the asterisked records.
If he hit 500 homers total and 427 cleanly, he would see something like this in the record books: HR - 500* (427).
This represents both sides of the story, while of course, not pleasing everyone.
We certainly don’t live in a utopia, folks, but we can make do.