It has all come to a head.
Once the hottest topic in sports, the impact of performance enhancing drugs in baseball has reached its reckoning with the latest ballot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Now we see if time has healed the wound cast by alleged frauds that filled ballparks and created the biggest boom the sport has ever seen. These ‘cheaters’ re-wrote the history books and help build 23 shiny new ballparks since 1990, which is likely the biggest boost in popularity the sport will ever see, and one that has to be documented in the sport’s cathedral.
Otherwise, that cathedral’s lack of credibility turns it into a mausoleum.
But many believe these accomplishments should be ignored when it comes to recognizing them in the Hall of Fame. Why? Because moral fiber tells us cheating is bad.
Cheating is bad - there is no argument against that. But as journalists, it is our job to recognize both the positive and negative aspects of every story, even baseball’s. Objectivity is the reason why journalists of the Baseball Writers Association of America are assigned to vote for the Hall of Fame and not the Hall’s board of directors.
Under the context of the Hall of Fame’s mission statement, “dedicated to fostering an appreciation of the historical development of baseball and its impact on our culture by collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting our collections for a global audience,” ignoring these former behemoths by not inducting them goes against both the rules of the Hall and the fourth estate.
The impact of performance enhancing drugs cannot be overstated when illustrating baseball’s historical development and it’s impact sports culture as a whole. Attendance and revenue figures prove all of the above.
And to be sure, there is an absolute right way to do it. To induct them without broaching their alleged violations to the game would be just as egregious as not inducting them at all.
The purpose of a museum is to provide comprehensive history, and to ignore a group that had such a monumental impact on the game would be a shameful way to guise the integrity of the sport that benefitted so greatly.
Let their induction tell the whole story by including the consequences they suffered.
Next to the joyful image of Mark McGwire missing first base while celebrating his 62nd home run in 1998, show his glum expression in his TV appearance where he admitted to using steroids that same season. His immortality would take two rightful faces and that punishment for cheating would be just. One of the most important storylines in baseball history would appropriately documented in the sport’s museum of fame.
Next to a photo of Barry Bonds watching his 756th career home run sail into the right-center field bleachers in AT&T Park include his testimony where he admitted to taking performance enhancing drugs – unknowingly, he said – right alongside.
As for Roger Clemens, include Brian McNamee’s testimony against him for his alleged use. The fact McNamee gave that testimony is indeed an undisputed fact. Clemens having a career worthy of the Hall is also an undisputed fact.
It is time to stable the high horse and realize that the Hall of Fame has more than one use. There is untapped power in creating an example of cheaters that has the potential to accomplish more in the fight against PEDs than anything that can happen in a testing lab.
Immortalizing these failings to comply with the integrity of the game – especially in the context of aiding such profound accomplishments – would serve justice in an entirely new way and could help usher in the next era of clean baseball.