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Chris Graham: It’s not a Hall of Fame without Bonds, Clemens, Rose

The 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame class is set, and it’s hard to argue with the voters for adding Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas. It’s not hard to argue the notable omissions: Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. And then I throw Pete Rose in there though he’s not on the ballot and can’t be until baseball does whatever it needs to do to reinstate.

baseball-newSimply put, the Hall of Fame isn’t a Hall of Fame without the game’s best home-run hitter, Hit King and most dominant pitcher of the last 50 years.

Bonds and Clemens undeniably benefited from their use of PEDs, but just as undeniably were dominant, Hall-worthy players before any of us had ever heard of the term. If Bonds’ career had come to a halt in 1998, he would have hit 411 home runs and been a three-time MVP with six .300 batting-average seasons and eight .400 OBP seasons. Done. He’s in just based on that.

(I use 1998-1999 as the PED line for Bonds based on the book Game of Shadows).

For Clemens, we use 1997 as his PED line. Up to that point, he was already a three-time Cy Young winner with 192 wins. Not enough on their own merits to get him in, just that, but close. He’s definitely on his way if he can plug away to get to, say, 250 wins, which we have to assume he does.

This is where we have to start asking questions. The first being, were Bonds and Clemens that only guys on the juice? Expand that out a little bit. Were they along with Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Raphael Palmeiro the only guys on the juice? Of course not. It’s hard to figure that everybody was juicing, but it’s naïve to assume it was just the guys who were already really, really successful looking to become Hall of Famers with a little extra edge from steroids.

So if you assume that a lot of guys were juicing, and I don’t think it takes much to assume that, then there are players from that juiced-ball era who were taking PEDs who outperformed other players from that era who were also on PEDs. Right? So if you’re Roger Clemens, and you’re on PEDs, and you’re pitching to a lineup with five, six guys on PEDs, every fifth night, and you win four Cy Youngs, you’re not eligible for the Hall of Fame because you cheated?

The only thing that we should be considering with the PED era is the resumes of guys like McGwire and Sosa, which are based entirely around their home-run totals. McGwire is a career .263 hitter with zero MVP awards. Not much more than Dave Kingman without the ‘roids. Sosa was a .273 hitter with one MVP award who is thus basically Dale Murphy (with two less MVPs).

But Bonds won seven MVPs – three before PEDS and four after. Clemens won seven Cys – three before PEDs and four after. Both were dominant clean, and both were dominant when punch-and-judy second basemen were hitting 20 homers out of the eight hole.

If Bonds isn’t in the Hall, if Clemens isn’t in the Hall, it’s not a Hall. Same as it wouldn’t be a Hall of Fame if we had decided to punish guys who played in the ’60s and ‘70s when amphetamines were the PEDs of the day. Or if we’d decided that any white players from pre-1947 weren’t eligible because they didn’t have to play against the best black players of the pre-civil rights generation, or all players before 1958 when baseball expanded out west because those players didn’t have to compete in the era of cross-country travel.

The Pete Rose thing is simple. He has more hits than anybody who played the game. He did something stupid, very stupid. Put a note on his plaque talking about the stupid thing he did. Just make sure the plaque is hanging on the wall with the rest.

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