Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News pondered this question. “There was a time, not so long ago, when I received the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot with great joy and anticipation.” There was also a time when we as fans waited with “great joy and anticipation” for this outcome.
Bondy continued. “It was tremendous fun to mark down each year the maximum 10 candidates for election — for I fully believed the writers had fallen far behind when it came to several deserving players. Some serious catching up was required. Now, though, it’s all a joyless chore.” For fans, this week was pretty joyless as well.
Bondy gives his readers intimate insight on what it was like to face this controversial ballot. “The ballot arrives. I take a deep breath and vote for cheaters I don’t like. I vote for them nonetheless, all the proven and alleged steroid guys. This year I voted for Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and, yes, even Rafael Palmeiro — which means that at least half my ballot was consumed by almost certain law breakers.” Regardless of Bondy’s decision, the first pages of writing the Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED) era of baseball have been written.
So why did Bondy vote the way he did? He opens up in his article for the News, “I believe a voter needs some sort of system, some consistency, and I don’t believe in selective prosecution. Some of these guys are 100% likely PED-users, some are 99% likely, even if they haven’t been caught or convicted. But what of the 50-50 guys, or the 60-40 players? I have no idea. Should I exclude Mike Piazza because some reporters noticed acne on his back? Should I snub Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, because of all the rumors down in Houston?”
Bondy ultimately couldn’t do that. He felt he was in no position to know for certain. To Bondy’s point, I agree that steroids were endemic in this era. It is time for the Hall of Fame to recognize this and find away to put that into perspective. This isn’t about a plaque. If the Hall of Fame recognizes itself as a true museum, it is the responsibility of that institution to educate everyone on the subject.
Bondy admits to voting for all of them. He considered their stats and dominance at their position, their endurance and most importantly their value to teams. For Bondy, “I didn’t enjoy mailing in the ballot and I’m not particularly upset that none of these players attracted enough votes from fellow writers. I feel sorry for everyone trying to deal with this issue, including the voters, and grow angrier at the cheaters for dividing us into warring cliques.”
Although right now, we struggle with an imperfect system to recognize the greats of the game. Bondy show us how it still works. “I was proud to vote for Lee Smith, who has been ignored for no particular reason. When he was with the Cubs, I was on the field before a game at Wrigley as he tossed a warm up pitch that bounced past a teammate and hit me on the ankle. I suffered a Hall of Fame bruise, I can attest.”
For Bondy, this is not about Bonds. I agree to the point that these players shouldn’t be judged in one stroke. If you do, then people like Lee Smith are lost to history and that’s not fair. As Bondy concludes, “No PEDs there. At least I don’t think so. We never, ever can be sure again.” For more on Bondy’s insight, check him out on line an in print with the New York Daily News.