In April of 2011, baseball writer Jon Heyman wrote a column titled, "Why Barry Bonds Belongs In The Hall" for SI.com. The piece laid out a surprisingly well reasoned argument for why Bonds should not be excluded from the Hall of Fame, despite his being surrounded by allegations of steroid use.
While I do believe Bonds took steroids (whether it was knowingly or not doesn't much matter to me, though if I had to guess, I think he knows everything that goes in his body), I don't believe all steroid users should be excluded from the Hall of Fame. I'm not here to sit in moral judgment of another human being.
As for Bonds, I don't think anyone could reasonably make the case that he needed drugs to be a Hall of Famer. When Bonds signed with his hometown Giants for $43.75 million in December of 1992 to become the highest-paid player in baseball history he was already the best player in the game, and he earned that contract through only good genes (his dad, Bobby, was also an incredible combination of speed and power) and hard work. He had a small head at the time, and he maintained that, at least in the literal sense, for several years to come.
Good job, 2011 Jon Heyman! That's a very logical and pragmatic stance to take, and one that we wish more Hall of Fame voters would adopt. They could all learn a lot from a guy like you, who surely put Bonds at the top of his ballot this year. Wait, what's that you say?
I leaned for months toward disregarding their obvious steroid ties and voting for Bonds and Clemens, arguably the best position player and pitcher over the past 40 years (at least by what they did on the field). But ultimately, I just couldn't do it. At least not this time.
The more I thought about it, the more I didn't want to celebrate their careers. Not yet, anyway.
More to the point, I didn't want to reward the cheats.
Huh. In just two short years, Heyman went from refusing to, "sit in moral judgement of another human being" to not wanting to, "reward the cheats." So what gives? Apparently, Heyman was swayed by the wise words of Don Mattingly at this year's winter meetings:
Just to get a gauge what victims of the unleveled playing field think, I quizzed a few former players I respect about what they thought. Don Mattingly, responding to my query at the winter meetings last month about whether I should vote for the steroid guys, answered with two words: "What for?"
If Heyman can be convinced that easily, maybe he should ask himself that same simple question the next time he considers writing a column about the Hall of Fame.