Should Steroid Users Be included in the Baseball Hall of Fame?It is a kind of national shrine. If that seems overblown, or quaint, then consider the morality play doubling as the current debate over the suitability, or not, of electing two prodigiously talented alleged cheaters to the hall: Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. Until now, it has been steroid era players should hall fame, and rightly, assumed that Mr. Clemens, the dominant pitcher of his generation, had disqualified themselves from induction into the Hall of Fame through their suspected PED use.
Baseball Hall of Fame might no longer be off limits for MLB steroid-era players
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two of the most successful players in baseball history, are among the former stars who were essentially blacklisted from the Hall of Fame because of their reputations as doping cheats. But now it appears that such players might end up enshrined in Cooperstown after all. In a sudden and surprising shift of sentiment, the baseball writers who vote to decide who should be inducted into the Hall, and who should not, appear to be backing away from their punitive approach to Bonds and Clemens, and perhaps others as well.
Were Bonds and Clemens to actually end up in the Hall, it would be a striking moment for the sport and its millions of fans. No team sport in the United States has as much tradition as baseball does, nor does any other sport have a Hall of Fame that carries nearly as much prestige as the one in Cooperstown. And no team sport in this country has been as vexed by the issue of doping as baseball has.
All of this created considerable anguish in baseball and a seeming consensus that even players as good as Bonds, the career leader in home runs, and Clemens, an intimidating strikeout artist who won a colossal games, should be kept out of the Hall if they were directly linked to performance-enhancing drugs. But that consensus is cracking. Part of the reason is that the hundreds of writers who vote are, as a whole, becoming younger and seemingly less inclined to take an unyielding stance on steroid cheats.
And part of the reason appears to be the decision last month to induct Bud Selig into the Hall. Selig had long been criticized for failing to combat the doping scourge sooner. Now he was headed to Cooperstown, joining, among others, the former manager Tony La Russa, who was inducted in and who oversaw a number of highly successful teams that benefited from the presence of steroid users.
As a longtime beat writer for The Chronicle, Slusser is well respected by her fellow writers. Her statement got their attention and seemed to contribute to the shift now taking place.
Of the more than voters who have taken the public route — representing a little over a third of the electorate — 21 voted for Bonds for the first time after previously declining to do so, and 22 did the same for Clemens. That growing support has left Bonds and Clemens closing in on the 75 percent threshold needed for induction.
Based on previous voting patterns, the percentages for Bonds and Clemens are expected to come down some — to somewhere above 60 percent — when all the votes are tabulated. Still, a pathway to induction has come into focus for the two men midway through their 10 years of ballot eligibility. Last year, Clemens received It was the best they had done to date, but still far short of where they needed to get.
But if they can get over 60 percent this time, with five more years left on the ballot, they may pick up enough momentum to eventually get the necessary three-quarters of the vote. Other players have followed a similar trajectory into the Hall. Get the big sports news, highlights and analysis from Times journalists, with distinctive takes on games and some behind-the-scenes surprises, delivered to your inbox every week.
View all New York Times newsletters. Then again, other players do not carry the baggage that Bonds and Clemens do. Not only were they linked to illicit drugs, but both ended up facing criminal charges that they lied about their drug use in legal settings. Bonds was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for statements he made before a federal grand jury and was initially convicted of the latter charge before the verdict was overturned.
Clemens, whose denial of drug use led to a nationally televised hearing before a congressional panel, was ultimately acquitted of perjury and other charges in a federal trial. But even with all those unsettling facts to consider, some writers are changing their minds. Steve Buckley of The Boston Herald said he pictured himself sitting in the audience at Cooperstown for future induction ceremonies and looking out at Selig and La Russa and others who he said benefited from the steroid era and wondering why the two best players of the time were barred.
But then there is Gordon Wittenmyer of The Chicago Sun-Times, who did not vote for Bonds or Clemens this time, either, and who said that comparing Selig to the two former stars did not make sense. He recalled that before his first vote a few years ago, when another tainted slugger, Mark McGwire, was still on the ballot, he described the voting process to his son, who was 12 at the time. Then he explained the steroid issue. Tell us what you think. Please upgrade your browser.
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