Playing God: Bonds and Clemens

Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens didn’t get into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This may seem sad, and it may seem ‘correct.’ If you’re on one side of the fence, you’re probably wrong, and a little bit right.

Things like this don’t require anyone to “put it into perspective” for you. They “are what they are.” Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens likely took steroids for long periods of time, which is bad, but hitting 762 home runs, and striking out 4,672 batters are good.

Suggesting that Bonds and Clemens would not have been as prolific without the steroids is similar to saying an alpaca could hit 700 home runs if you gave it steroids. We don’t know. We can assume, but in the end, we’ll simply never have an accurate estimation of how the PEDs affected their numbers.

But they took steroids, which is bad. So, we shouldn’t let them into the HoF; at least, that is the thinking of some baseball writers.

If it’s a question of character, remember we have Ty Cobb, an admitted and hateful racist, many more among him, and we have steroid users. If you’re one of the poor few living under the delusion that not a single player in the Hall of Fame ever took steroids, here’s a bit of news: Hall of Famers are not Gods. They are baseball players. They are people. They do bad things just like everybody else. They drink beer, snort coke, and Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter on acid.

How many roided-up batters did Roger Clemens strike out? How many home runs did Barry Bonds hit off of pitchers who were also on steroids? I’d venture to suggest that at any given point during the “Steroid Era”, you could pick a game, and at least a third of the players on the field would have been juiced. If we’re going to exclude players from the Hall of Fame for taking steroids, then we have to take their juiced opponents into account. Baseball prides itself on being fair.

Bonds may not have hit 762 home runs without that extra power, but how many of those extra home runs were powered by the juiced arms of the opposing pitcher? But, the extra power is bad.

Putting lipstick on a pig doesn’t make it pretty. Steroids don’t make a player great. PEDs are not a magic pill. There are no steroids for hand-eye coordination, or raw talent. Raw talent is good.

They cheated. They had an unfair advantage. The problem is, we’ll never really know what that advantage was, in terms of numbers. Baseball is a numbers game. Although sometimes players are given the title of ‘great’ based on their postseason performances, everything comes down to the bottom line. The bottom line is that Bonds and Clemens (and more to come) had the right numbers to be voted into the HoF. We’ll never know exactly how many home runs were steroids-induced. We’ll never know how many 41 year-old fastballs were powered by PEDs.

Bonds was destined for the HoF even before he bulked up. Roger Clemens won three Cy Young Awards and had an ERA of 2.63 between the years of ’86 and ’92.

Disenfranchising two of the greatest players in the history of the game based on the fact they took steroids seems a bit like playing God.

For the time being, the best Major League Baseball can do is test everyone, rigorously. Not just random tests; test everyone.

In the meantime, we should do ourselves a favor and remind one another that we’re not God, and that talent can not be bought, or put in a milkshake.

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Tomas Laverty
Tomas Laverty, frequent contributor to the MLB section, runs a Detroit web design company called Detroit Spaces.