As of this writing, Barry Bonds sits at 748 home runs, a mere eight from being officially recognized as the new all-time home run king. If I were a Catholic I would turn to that great patron saint of sore stomachs, St. Pepto (or his brother, St. Maalox) for some much needed relief. Like many sportswriters, I believe whole-heartedly that Barry Bonds cheated the game of baseball. This was a very painful position for me to take and I did not come to it suddenly. This is because I grew up in the late 1980s virtually in awe of Barry (Mini) Bonds as he patrolled the Three Rivers Stadium outfield, delivered game-winning long balls on demand and swiped bases with effortless ease. I cheered him when he chased Mark McGwire's single-season home run record and celebrated like an evangelical maniac when Number 71 left the yard.
Part of my reason for cheering Bonds was because I believed (and still do) that McGwire cheated the game. Come on, just look at the man now. If he lost that much weight legitimately he needs to be a spokesman for Jenny Craig, Slim Fast and the grapefruit diet. Remember, this is the same McGuire who hit a combined 18 home runs in 1991 and 1992 (nine each year). So far the baseball writers have kept him out of the Hall of Fame, and hopefully they will continue to do so, along with Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi, and of course the aforementioned Mr. Bonds. The reason I do not mention Sammy Sosa's name is two-fold. (1) He used creatine, which is a perfectly legal substance, unlike steroids. (2) Cub-bies! Cub-bies! Cub-bies!
While the Hall of Fame decides what it wants to do, the players are already running point, and their main case is that nothing has been proven and even if it is, steroids were not banned until 2002 and first offense punishments were not instituted until 2005. This is a move I like to call the Pharisee Gambit. In other words, a strict letter-of-the-law interpretation that leaves no room for moral implications or considerations. Simply put, the players don't care that they did wrong, and they don't care that the record books will now be tainted by cheaters. I'm from the old school, and if you have to cheat to claim a record, you are a coward. Plain and simple, when it comes to the sporting arena, you are less than a man and less than a human being (notice I didn't say private arena-I'm sure many of these people are fine human beings off the field, but this is a sporting column). And then these players have the gall to celebrate and throw it in the fans' faces as if they had legitimately earned their accomplishment. Hell, pop my fat behind with stanozolol and even I could hit 20 homers a year.
The truth, when all is said and done, is that most of the accused will end up in the Hall of Fame. It's virtually inevitable, and Bonds arguably deserved a spot even before he supposedly began receiving extra help. The others, with time, will eventually find enough sympathy, along with enough votes, to be enshrined as well and we the public are just going to have to live with it. But at least we can make baseball pay a price for it.
Okay, I'm up for a little Devil's Advocate here. Let's go with the argument that no one has proven these players guilty of any wrongdoing, the fact that a mentally deranged orangutan could figure out otherwise notwithstanding. Then that means it's time to revisit another old case where no one was proven guilty of any wrongdoing and was banned from the sport and its Hall of Fame for life.
Shoeless Joe Jackson.
Pete Rose is a completely different animal since he confessed to betting on baseball, but Shoeless Joe is a topic worth revisiting. Accused along with seven other members of the 1919 White Sox in a conspiracy to throw the World Series, Jackson was never found guilty of anything (none of them were) but baseball commish Kenesaw Mountain Landis disregarded the trial outcome and banned the eight for life anyway. To this day, Shoeless Joe Jackson remains banned and ineligible for the Hall of Fame. This is an accused cheater, folks. An accused cheater who had nothing proven against him. So why does he have to suffer in perpetual limbo while the Freakazoids of the Steroid Era waltz on into immortality? I'll say it like this; if baseball wants to honor Bonds, McGwire, Palmeiro, Sheffield and any other who may or may not have been on the juice, then for credibility's sake they have to reinstate Shoeless Joe Jackson, and allow him to take his rightful place in Cooperstown where he belongs. There's no getting around it. If you want the others in, you have to let Jackson in.
I've got a feeling that, with enough begging, Rose will eventually get there too somehow, but there's no excuse for Jackson continuing to be left out. None whatsoever.