You guys have probably all heard enough about the debate around whether guys with alleged or proven PED backgrounds such as Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. I generally tune this out now as the debate will never end until the last of the current old guard of national sportswriters retires, or they somehow find a way to win and have these players inducted.
This week some notable items came up that I found interesting. First was an opinion posted by Buster Olney, a respected baseball writer for ESPN, who feels that accomplished PED users like Bonds should be inducted to the Hall of Fame and reference to their PED use added to their plaque. The other item was the retirement of former Blue Jay Carlos Delgado. As soon as Deglado retired, articles appeared lauding his career but lamenting that even with 473 HRs he falls just short of the Hall of Fame in their opinion.
I found myself wondering, what if Delgado had decided to use PEDs? Over the course of his already successful career he could very well have launched an additional 70-80 HRs or more and put himself very much in the same Hall of Fame discussion as the PED cheaters. He didn't and very likely will not be inducted, having very good numbers but not seen as enough.
So now I think back to Barry Bonds. Would he even be in the discussion for the Hall of Fame without his PED use, or would he have been another Carlos Delgado - great career but falling just short? I remember watching Bonds in his early Pirate days in the playoffs with Bobby Bonilla. He did not look anywhere near as big then. It's impossible to be certain when Barry started his PED program, but in looking at his career numbers one can certainly see a trend. During his first 7 years while with the Pirates, Bonds averaged 25 HRs a year, although the last three seasons saw a definite uptick. During his heyday over the next 12 years with the Giants, Bonds averaged 44 HRs a year. In 2005 Bonds was injured and barely played, and he averaged only 27 HRs over his last two seasons as age and perhaps public focus on his PED use took a toll.
Again, it's impossible to say exactly how many HRs Bonds gained thanks to PEDs, but there is no question he did gain. He finished his career with 762 HRs but if you reduce his career totals to an average of the early years and last couple of years - when he most likely was not using PEDs - you come up with 551 (21 years x 26 HR average plus 5 HR for 2005 when injured). Those HR numbers would likely have been good enough to get Bonds into the Hall of Fame anyway but certainly don't create the buzz of 762.
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It's sad that prominent writers are championing the Hall of Fame cause of known cheaters when most would likely never have achieved enough for consideration without cheating. Bonds might have made it anyway but the others mentioned above like Manny and McGwire would not likely have made it without the extra help, their numbers would probably have been more similar to or less than Delgado's. Which apparently isn't enough.
In my mind, a cheater should never be recognized for their accomplishments. For one thing, no one can ever be sure what that person would have achieved without cheating. Very likely they would never have been be considered for such honours without taking the 'extra measures'. The other problem is the hypocritical message it sends out when a noted cheater is given such recognition. Basically it's saying "don't do it, it's bad for the sport and you will be caught" on the one hand, meanwhile on the other hand it's very clear that if you can get away with it not only will you make a lot more money but you have potential for immortalization in the Hall of Fame when you otherwise would not have. How is that good for baseball? People that celebrate the "purity of the game" should not send such mixed messages.
What do you think of Buster's proposal? Make your voice heard below.