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Should you punish the robbers for acts committed when it was legal to rob a bank? In today's society (that is full of itself by the way) the answer is yes. Bonds and Clemens should never go to jail for using steroids or HGH...lying to a grand jury is something different all together. It is funny to me that a society that lives in a glass house so freely throws stones...Good Luck to Ledger when he wins the Oscar...never mind the fact that he left a little girl behind...we will find some way as a society to make Ledger's oops into the feel good story of the Oscars...too bad the same society cannot or rather will not forgive Clemens and Bonds in the same way...truth be told they did nothing wrong...at the time.

(Redacted) 07/01/08, 11:35 PM

This is a post from a few weeks back. It got me to thinking about the ideas behind the poster's thoughts and the fact that there is going to be a legitimate debate about the issues he specifies.

You can not punish someone for a crime if the act was not a crime when it was perpetrated.

Heath Ledger is dead. Sad but true. As far as I know the drugs that he had were all legal prescription drugs ... legally obtained ... and OTC drugs. It was the ignorant manner in which Ledger used the drugs that caused his untimely death, (not that death is ever timely).

If Bonds, Clemens, et al, were doing illegally obtained drugs; if they procured drugs illegally; if they lied to a grand jury then these men have performed activities and offenses against society and against the sport of baseball. They could be, and may be, punished for these crimes by receiving jail time. Should they be put in jail? That is not my decision to make. It is for a court of law to decide. In Clemens' case it doesn't look very good that he is not guilty of certain crimes. He should have and still can just come clean and, we, the fans, and, eventually, the sports writers and MLB would probably find a way to forgive him and welcome him back into the fold after a time of gnashing of the teeth, some holier than thou proclamations and various other processes that we the public will make both him and ourselves be put through.  This exposition however really doesn't care or deal with any legal punishments or moral issues except as they pertain to MLB and the Hall of Fame. Therefore in consideration of this topic I will turn to Roger Clemens first. And, the fact is I don't know if he should be allowed in the HOF just purely based on his pre-PED numbers and career. My gut reaction is that he compiled the numbers that would have put him over the top for election to the Hall AFTER doing PEDs.  It is my gut feeling. I have no proof... yet.

The question is when did Clemens start doing PEDs? (I am going to make the assumption that he indeed did do PEDs.) Was it when he went to Toronto?  A good argument for that happening could definitely be made. Suddenly his record, his post Boston career, experiences a tremendous spike. So then I need to look at his career numbers with Boston and his career numbers post Boston.

Clemens' Boston numbers (assuming my math is correct and if anyone wishes to crunch the numbers you most certainly are welcome to do so) look as follows: Wins = 192, losses = 111 for a .606 won-loss percentage. He had 2590 strikeouts and kept his strike out to walk ratio to at least two strikeouts for every walk, which is better than good. He averaged about 250 innings per year while with Boston, which even then was very good, and, today that is much better than most pitchers can or do accomplish. He compiled these numbers in thirteen years with the Boston Red Sox. Are they Hall of Fame numbers? He certainly has better numbers than some players currently in the Hall, that is certain, BUT, in my estimation, these are not numbers that would or should entitle him to be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  But, also, consider that in his pre-PED career he won the Cy Young award twice, led the league in ERA four times, in wins twice, WHIP twice, Strikeouts three times, complete games twice (1987 he had 18 CG and 1988 he had 14 CG!!!!!), in shutouts five times and was the strikeout to walk ratio leader four times. Again, very impressive but do these awards put him over the top for entry into the Hall? I still have to say I do not think this entitles him to be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

His post Boston career, if legitimate, is more than enough to make him a first ballot electee, and in my book, a unanimous electee to the Hall. But, when most players are in the decline of their careers, he is decidedly in the prime of his career. Consider these numbers: Wins = 162; losses = 73 for a .680(!) won-loss percentage. He had 2082 more strikeouts and kept his strike out to walk ratio to that same basic two strikeouts for every walk. And he continued to average almost 200 innings pitched a year, (196 in actuality).  If we throw out the two years in Toronto that accounts for 40 plus wins but how then can we explain his New York Yankees exceptional years in 2001 (20-3 won loss record with 200 plus strikeouts) and in 2003, (17-9 won - loss record wit h190 plus strikeouts) and then with Houston in 2004, (18-4 won - loss record with 200 plus strikeouts)???? All after the previous two years, 1999 and 2000, when he won only 13 and 14 games respectively. Only one pitcher, that I am aware of, was able to duplicate this consistency and quality of winning that long into his career and into his forties and that was Warren Spahn. Spahn won twenty or more games from 1953 through 1963 except for two years and then he won 17 and 18 games in those two non-twenty victory years. Spahn had a 23-7 won-loss record in his twenty first year of playing baseball, (but then completely collapsed after that remarkable stretch and ultimately retired). So, yes, someone pitching that well that late in their career is possible, an exception but it is possible. If you look at Warren Spahn's career there were almost none of the peaks and valleys that appear in Roger Clemens' career. Spahn consistently won either 20 games during this late period in his career or was very, very close to winning twenty, with Clemens' career it was either very good or very mediocre at best. So, Spahn appears to have been a very big exception in the world of baseball and quite possibly a freak of nature. Clemens, however, in my estimation had to have had another reason for his "success" that late in his career, because there were just too many swings and no consistency at all. My conclusion: Roger Clemens does not belong in the Hall of Fame. And if I had a vote then every year that he came up for consideration he would not get that vote.

With Bonds we ask the same question that we did regarding Clemens and PED usage. When did he start using PEDs? According to Game of Shadows, by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, "....in 1999 Bonds played in only 102 games, hitting 34 home runs -- one for every 10.4 at bats, the highest frequency of his career. Bonds had an outstanding year, batting .306, with 49 home runs ... a career high and second in the league to Sosa's 50 ... and 106 RBIs. ... it had been a breakthrough year, one in which Bonds had completed the transformation of his body and his game and, it seemed, had discovered the Fountain of Youth.  If the pitch was three inches outside the strike zone, Bonds would ignore it and work another base on balls. But if the pitch was located where he could drive it -- and in 2001 that seemed to be anywhere in the strike zone -- he would take a rip. ...at 39 he put up better numbers than he had when in his prime with the Pirates; better numbers, in fact, than at any time before he hooked up with (Greg)Anderson."

Again, it is my assumption that Bonds did indeed do PEDs. But now we have arrived at a quandry and a very big problem. This time my gut reaction is that he actually did put up the numbers before 1999 that would have eventually allowed him entry into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers of America.  I will allow as evidence the following numbers and achievements, (again, if anyone wishes to check my number crunching feel free.) 

Prior to 1999 Barry Bonds' totals read as follows: He had hit 411 home runs, a batting average of about .280, 1364 runs scored, 1216 runs batted in and had won three MVPs. He was also a leadoff batter for a portion of his career, so that needs to be taken into consideration regarding his career numbers up to the cut off point when we consider his Hall worthiness. He had won eight gold gloves between 1990 and 1998, missing winning the award only in 1995. During that same time span he was elected to the All Star team eight times, missing only in 1991. He won seven Sliver Slugger awards in that time span; led the league in On Base Percentage four times, in Slugging Percentage three times; In OPS five times and again as I have previously stated had won three MVP awards. He compares very closely to Hall of Famers such as Kirby Puckett (12 year career); Ryne Sandberg (16 year career), Harmon Killibrew (22 year career) and Carlton Fisk (24 year career).  Therefore, at this point in his career I would have to assume that he had already attained numbers and achievements that would entitle him to Hall consideration and eventual election to the Hall and that he probably would compile even more to his career totals if he stayed healthy and, we adjust for age, reduced numbers, which would then easily enable him entry into the Hall.

But suddenly after this first thirteen years he begins to compile numbers that would make him a sure first ballot and probably a unanimous electee to the Hall, (but there always seems to be someone who chooses not to allow players that privilege and honor up to this point in MLB history). 

So, considering the facts of Barry Bonds' career up until 1999 the assumption can be made that he probably did have the numbers, statistics and awards to be elected to the Hall. We are now back at the dilemma I alluded to earlier, that if he did indeed use drugs illegally from1999, (whether they were banned or not by MLB the fact remains that if he used PEDs and did not have a prescription for those drugs then it was an illegal act and that he has further perjured himself by saying he did not use those drugs adding to and compounding his illegal commissions.) then should he be allowed into the Hall?  Understand also, it appears no one openly questioned how a 34 year old player could add 15 pounds of muscle weight in the short span of about three months. And it appears that the Giants' owner and the Giants' management team had no desire to question Bonds' possible PED usage. Why would they when Bonds was the biggest draw they had and they were soon to open a new ball park? Why kill the Golden Goose?  Besides MLB had not as yet banned steroids although it was illegal to use the drugs without a prescription.  So everyone by omission enabled and put the stamp of approval on Bonds' usage (as they did with Clemens usage and the general PED usage throughout MLB) of steroids. But, people are still responsible for their own actions, and, as in Clemens' case, it is also true for Bonds: If he would just say I did it, I was wrong and I am sorry, then, eventually, after a period of "woe is us" he would be forgiven. BUT, again if I have a vote to elect him to the Hall, I say NO!  He cheated and as a cheater I need to include him in the same class as Pete Rose and the eight men out in the Black Sox Scandal. He rewrote the bible of baseball and cheated such great players as Aaron and Ruth of their honorably attained records.

So in answer to the initial thought that led me to speak on the above issues, i.e., "Should you punish the robbers for acts committed when it was legal to rob a bank? In today's society (that is full of itself by the way) the answer is yes. Bonds and Clemens should never go to jail for using steroids or HGH..." then, actually, the answer has to be "Yes" because the usage of PEDs by either of these players was an illegal act, in and of itself. You cannot obtain PEDS, specifically steroids, without a prescription. So unless either of these men can produce that specified prescription then they committed a crime. And in committing that crime they cheated the game of baseball and should be held accountable for those actions. Whether they should go to jail for such a crime is another matter altogether. But then the poster of the initial statement does go on to ascertain that it is a whole other issue if either of these two men lied to and committed perjury before a grand jury or in giving testimony or evidence to any investigatory legal body or representative of the law and what legal punishments these two should be given. And that, too, is questionable whether these men should do "time". But my issue is purely with just the punishments these two deserve from baseball and whether they should be allowed entry into the Hall of Fame. In conclusion the poster specifies, first, "...too bad the same society cannot or rather will not forgive Clemens and Bonds in the same way..."   Actually we the fans will eventaully forgive these besmirchers of the game of baseball, if only they would admit to their wrong doing and sincerely apologize. There is present evidence of just that happening with certain players who have admitted their PED usage. Finally, the poster says, "....truth be told they did nothing wrong...at the time." Truth be told they did everything wrong. They broke the law, they cheated the game and they continue to beak the law and cheat the game by their continued lies.  

Both Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds cheated all of baseball, and, this means we the fan, the players and the record books.  They cheated us all, because it was a lie what they were laying claim to on the field of play. The play and the numbers and the records that are put before us should be as honestly attained as possible. They cheated their contemporaries because they in all likelihood took at least one job away from one worthy player that might have been on a MLB roster. And if some one has grievously disrespected and grievously abused all of baseball then they should be punished accordingly. Thus, in my estimation denial to the Hall is what each of these men deserve. In Barry Bonds' case it is even a greater tragedy because he was, again in my estimation, going to gain entry into the Hall of Fame eventually. He did it to himself, so for that he does not gain my sympathy, but I do pity him for being such a foolish, vain and spiteful man that thought he could cheat his way to bigger fame and glory than he really deserved. His ego, as did Clemens' ego, is the ultimate tool of his demise, downfall and disgrace.

So what about all the other players who remain undiscovered? Sportswriters, MLB management and we the fans never pressed the question until lately. So what can be done regarding the reality and the veracity of the players who may eventually gain entry into the Hall? What can be done regarding these men who cheat the players who did not use PEDs out of possible yearly awards and league leadership in very important numbers, especially when it comes time to negotiate their contracts? Sadly, there is no way to honestly and justifiably ever know who else actually used PEDs and therefore cheated the game. This period for a time will wear the scarlet letter of cheat. Sadly in the future, I fear, this time period and it records and statistics will be accepted by our grandchildren's children as factual. And that is a great travesty and tragedy that all players who used PEDs will have perpetrated upon the great game of baseball.

So, these two men, so far, have become the epitome of what MLB had allowed itself to become which was a falsehood and farce to the very game itself. And thus the greatest tragedy of all has been promoted: The innocence lost. Whether imagined or real there was a time when baseball was perceived to be an honest, innocent and true testament to competition and sportsmanship on the field of play. But now that innocence is indeed lost and we will never know what is real, imagined or an outright lie. There is a song called American Pie that contains the line "The day the music died". We may never pinpoint the exact day the innocence of baseball died but we can point to the era that the innocence was taken from us because of ego and greed.

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