Do Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds deserve spots in the Hall?
This past week, the Baseball Writers Association of America accepted zero players to the Baseball Hall of Fame for the first time since 1996. It was not a shock that Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, both on the ballot for their first year, were not accepted, but the question remains: should they ever be accepted into the Hall or are they doomed to remain as players fallen from grace in baseball history.
While you can certainly make the argument that Bonds and Clemens do not deserve to reside in immortality with the likes of Ted Williams and Babe Ruth, you cannot dispute the fact that they were extremely talented players and at least deserve recognition for their ability to compete at a high level.
Clemens played his first 13 of 24 seasons with the Boston Red Sox and was presumed to be clean during that time. Clemens’ last four years in Boston were average, featuring three seasons with 10 or fewer wins. However, after Clemens left Boston for the Toronto Blue Jays at the age of 34, he suddenly got better at a time when most pitchers fall apart.
Let’s forget about Clemens steroid use for the time being. Take a look at his career with the Red Sox. Over 13 years, Clemens posted a 192-111 record—that’s a record many pitchers would be proud to retire with. His Rookie of the Year Award, five All-Star appearances, one MVP award and three Cy Young awards in that time-frame are also astounding feats. Clemens may have a tainted career, but even if you just look at his time with the Red Sox before his steroid use became more prevalent in his, ahem, weight gain, you cannot doubt that he is a very talented pitcher.
Next is Barry Bonds, whose career statistics are even more unfathomable than Clemens’ (if that is even possible). Over his 22-year career, Bonds posted a .298 batting average along with 763 home runs and finished just 65 hits shy of the infamous 3,000-hit club. Bonds played seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates before joining the San Francisco Giants and presumably using steroids. With the Pirates Bonds made the All Star team twice, won two MVP awards, and three Gold Glove awards.
Bonds was a good pure hitter, but whether or not he was a great one is the ultimate question. Bob Costas said he does not buy that Bonds’ is naturally skilled enough to be a great.
“There’s no way he could have been remotely near the greatest player of all time without performance-enhancing drugs,” said Bob Costas in an interview for American Sportscasters Online. “His lifetime batting average was .290 through 1998, and he hit one homer every 16 times at bat. Lots of guys were better than that. He then went into the stratosphere when he started juicing.”
The better question to ask is not if Bonds or Clemens deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, but would they have been as good as they were if they had not taken performance enhancing drugs? Both were talented players, but whether they were talented on their own or with the help of a pill is up to the baseball writers to decide.