Columns, Opinion

Burke’s Bully Pulpit: Forget the steroid use, Bonds deserves to be in the Hall of Fame

Barry Bonds was my favorite baseball player growing up. When he got accused of taking steroids toward the end of his career, I was bummed out.

It was an unfortunate decision that he didn’t have to make. Yet he felt pressure from those around him — during the “steroids era” — to take the drugs in an effort to ensure his ticket to the Hall of Fame. But his ticket was already punched.

Barry Bonds absolutely did not need to take steroids to get into the Hall of Fame. If his career ended before his 2000 season, he would have been a first-ballot guy. He missed 60 games in 1999. Maybe this is what inspired him to turn to steroids.

Whatever the case may be, steroid-era players belong in the Hall of Fame because they made baseball something it hasn’t been since the early 2000s: genuinely fun.

Watching games were unreal. Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001! The top six seasons with the most home runs in MLB history came between 1998 and 2001. That’s not a coincidence. Steroids made baseball into a video game, and like it or not, molded millions of kids into baseball fans.

I’m not advocating for the legalization of steroids, although I would love to see a beefed-up Aaron Judge. I’m trying to make the point that this era of baseball happened. It’s stupid to not acknowledge the guys who made the game so great.

Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez are all in Cooperstown. All of those guys had steroid rumors follow them throughout their careers. Piazza is arguably the greatest hitting catcher of all time, but he very likely took steroids. Why is this fair? I don’t think it’s right.

The only silver lining in this scenario is how Bonds has handled getting snubbed year after year. He seems to take every decision with grace, doing almost the exact opposite thing that Pete Rose has.

This might be a conversation for another time, but Pete Rose betting on his own team is fine with me, and he should absolutely be in the Hall of Fame like other legends.

I would like to think that Bonds understands that he should have 100 percent, unequivocally been voted into Cooperstown his first year. He knows that his steroid use was stupid now, but the impact that he had on the game was something that would be criminal to forget.

If we’re electing owners and people like Candy Cummings, who played for two years in the 1800s, then I think one of my favorite players — Barry Bonds, clearly — should have more than the 75 percent vote needed to be inaugurated into Cooperstown.

Candy Cummings only played in two seasons, going 21-22 with a 2.78 ERA. Why is he in the Hall, you ask? Apparently, he invented the curveball, which is such an outrageous claim I don’t even want to hear it.

The 2019 MLB Hall of Fame class included Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez. The class wasn’t a particularly strong one, but it was a fun one.

Rivera became the first person to be unanimously selected, which speaks to the stubbornness and irrationality of the voting process. Rivera was an amazing player, but Babe Ruth was better, and he didn’t get chosen unanimously!

One final name I would like to bring up is Bill Conlin. Conlin was the recipient of the 2011 J.G. Taylor Spink Award, meaning that he has a place in the Hall of Fame thanks to his long, illustrious career as a sportswriter.

However, Conlin is an accused child molester. He wasn’t able to be charged because the statute of limitations had expired. It’s absolutely backward that the Hall of Fame looks the other way whenever his name is brought up.

How does he, a now rightfully forgotten journalist, have a place in history and Barry Bonds doesn’t? Steroids are far less severe than child molestation. We can surely all agree with that.

The bottom line of my rant is this: don’t exclude people from being rewarded for their rightful achievement. Put Shoeless Joe in, put Bonds in, put Rose in! All of those guys are more well-known than half of the current Hall of Fame players.

Once again, the Baseball Writers of America who vote on who deserves the prestigious recognition could not step down from their ridiculously high pedestal to take a look around and realize what Bonds did for the game. Save the “baseball purity” stuff, and do what’s right. How many times do I have to say this?

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