My view: no matter what happens with the perjury trial — and the jury is still deliberating, by the way — Barry Bonds should still be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Sure, we can disagree about Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmiero’s worthiness or unworthiness, but Bonds is so far over the line that no one who even pretends to understand how physics and chemistry work can say that he’s some sort of bogus steroid creation. To quote Bill James’ comment about Rickey Henderson: if you cut him in half, you’d have two Hall of Famers. In Bonds case way may even be able to go thirds.
But there’s the morals clause, of course. I hate the morals clause and don’t believe that it was actually designed to exclude immoral actors from the Hall — rather, it was inserted to give a boost to good guys who may have fallen just short on the merits — but it’s there. And it will be the basis for the Hall of Fame electorate to exclude Bonds, much to their own embarrassment once these hysterical days have passed and some perspective on the matter is gained.
One guy who has thought a great deal about steroids in baseball and other sports is Steve Kettmann. The former A’s beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle was the ghost writer for Jose Canseco’s “Juiced” and was sounding the steroids alarm a couple of years before anyone was. Over at the Huffington Post today, he makes a prediction about Bonds and the Hall of Fame that sounds about right:
There will always be cheating in the game, as there always has been, and there will always be fall guys for that cheating, who are punished when rich men behind the scenes dance away from blame. Bonds used steroids, but he’s really on trial for being stupid — and he may be found guilty of a charge or two. I still say that when the wash comes out, when we look back on all this years later, it will all look much different than it does now — and that one way or another, maybe after he’s dead and gone, or at least enfeebled and incapable of taking any pleasure in the news, Barry Bonds will be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
How much nicer if we could just cut out the silly interim period, cast out the morality of it all and do right by history?