I sat last night, along with millions of other people at 6:15 pm ET as the MLB Hall of Fame director was getting ready to make the announcement of who was elected in the 2022 class of Hall of Fame on The MLB Network. Right before the announcement, they went through the criteria on what it takes to make it into the Hall of Fame. Player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) that person has played on. Integrity and sportsmanship. Those two words rang loud and clear right before the announcement of one player that was inducted by the BBWAA, David Ortiz. He got in on his first ballot. 77.9% I believe was his total. Congratulations to him. He was one of the most feared, clutch players during his tenure in Major League Baseball, especially with the Boston Red Sox. But unfortunately, his announcement has been vastly overshadowed by who was not elected, most notably Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa.
As you know by now, this was their tenth and final year of eligibility to be voted in by the writers. Now they have to rely on the veterans committee. Both Bonds and Clemens did a touch worse than they did last year with around 65% of the vote, around 10% less than what was needed. Integrity, sportsmanship and character. Words that cost Clemens, Bonds, and Sosa. You might as well add Alex Rodriquez to that list as well. He only received 34.7% of the required vote to get in on his first year of eligibility. That is a lower pace than Bonds. Unless things drastically change in the next ten years, he will not make it either, no matter what PR campaign he continues to concoct.
Bonds and Clemens are amongst the all time greats, there is no doubt. Both had the trajectory of Cooperstown half way through their career. Bonds was a three time MVP and runner up a couple of other times by the time he got to San Francisco. Clemens was a three time Cy Young winner when he arrived in Toronto. Both had the world at their feet. But something happened on their way to Cooperstown. Bonds had a natural swing that to me, was one of the best I have ever seen, next to Ken Griffey, Jr. Clemens had that menacing fastball that put the fear of god in many a hitter while he donned the Red Sox Cap. But the fear of decline and Father Time may have gotten the best of them. Ego, greed, the drive to be the best at all costs got the best of them as well.
Now, I hear all the arguments that Mark McGuire and Sosa saved baseball with their home run stats, and long bombs back in the late 90s after the strike. The Strike of 94 really hurt baseball. Many purists never came back. At the time, it was very riveting, and the long ball did save it. But looking back on it, it was tainted, artificial. Just because they may have turned a blind eye to it, that doesn't mean it was right. That's like when everyone was getting all of that money under the table in college sports was ok, because the NCAA turned a blind eye to it. Baseball made it illegal. But Bonds and Clemens still were determined to abuse the baseball law and skirt it.
"But Bonds is the home run king run king and one of the best hitters of all time." Was he? He was a feared hitter, but how many of those home runs were due to his juicing? I go back to Griffey, Jr. Look at his numbers. I contend that if he juiced like Bonds, he would have hit 800 home runs with his style. To me, his swing was purer. Roger Maris and Babe Ruth are still in my mind, the true single season home run kings. And I'm sorry, Hank Aaron is still the home run king. One has to wonder, where would Clemens be on the all time strikeout list if he was clean. Steve Carlton gets justification today, along with Bert Blyleven and Tom Seaver. Clemens was great, but not in that class. Seven Cy Young Awards? No way does he get there with out the juice.
"But You don't have to be a choirboy to be in the Hall of Fame!" That is right. But integrity, character and sportsmanship during the game has nothing to do with being a choirboy. Ty Cobb was an SOB. But he played within the rules. When you step over that line and put yourself above the integrity of the game, there is no return. Just ask Pete Rose. He is the hit king. But he bet on baseball, and he cheated the integrity of the game. Using PEDs to put yourself above the rules and spirit of the game is inexcusable. Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, and A-Rod did just that. A-Rod said he did it because he felt he had to live up to his contract with New York. What was the excuse of the other three? We will never know with Sosa, he now claims he cannot speak English.
You shouldn't feel sorry for Sosa, Bonds and Clemens. They never got punished once for this. They all made life changing money and have cashed in on their fame to take care of future family generations. Clemens seems to be at peace with it, though he put out his annual rebuttal with a laughable line saying he did it the right way. A little Aaron Rodgers narcissism in his speech. Bonds always thought he was a step above everyone else he was around, on and off the field, as well.
Now I will say the Baseball Hall of Fame voting is flawed at all levels. The BBWAA is so biased towards the east coast that it is laughable. With some of the players that the veterans committee has let in, it has many ways become the hall of very good.
Integrity, character and sportsmanship towards the game. All too much, that gets lost now. I'm not saying the hall is perfect. And I know there may be some that juiced that may have slipped in. But I applaud the ones that had the guts to stand up with those three words and not vote Bonds, Clemens and Sosa in. The next question is, will the veterans committee vote them in. Only time will tell. Hopefully those three standards stand the test of time and still mean something.
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