Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
For those of you who like to worry before there is much to worry about, may I suggest weighing in on the eligibility of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens for the baseball Hall of Fame?
Neither Bonds nor Clemens have been retired from baseball long enough to be considered this year, but already early worry warts are debating the problem. Do we honor the phenomenal ability of Bonds at bat or Clemens on the pitcher’s mound, or do we look at the way they used “performance enhancing” drugs to tilt the playing field as a reason to give them a pass?
Already at least one of the sportscasters who is eligible to cast a vote has offered a way out of this dilemma. He argues that both Bonds and Clemens have posted record achievements and are already eligible for consideration for Cooperstown with or without drugs. So, he has suggested giving both a pass on selection — but just for a few years. Then, just go ahead and vote them in.
He does not cut Sammy Sosa or Mark McGwire the same slack on the grounds that without drugs they would not have posted the records with which they are credited.
We just don’t know! Steroids speed a healing process, among other miracles they perform, so maybe Bonds and Clemens just healed faster and had more quality playing time. Even so, doing a wink and a nudge for a few years before deciding that maybe a violation of rules isn’t all that serious implies that we should just be good sports about it and go ahead and, “enshrine” them in the Hall of Fame.
Sorry, I can’t go along with that. Rules are rules. You can wink and nudge all you like, but it won’t change the fact that rules were violated and the playing field tilted. If you do it once, it gets easier the next time and the next thing you know you have a cheater’s bronze bust right next to that of a guy who did it the hard way. No drugs for Henry Aaron, or for Babe Ruth — unless you count booze.
I object to winking and nudging and presuming that the records would have been set with or without drugs. Pete Rose is still on the outside even though his record numbers still stand and he did it without drugs. He broke the no-gambling rule, but there has been no offer to wink and nudge and recognize his singular achievements.
Maybe when Pete Rose is inducted I’ll be willing to go along with a wink and a nudge for Bonds and Clemens. Time either heals all wounds, or none at all.
Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.