9 Apr 2014
Hank Aaron is a baseball God. He hit .305, hit 755 homers and drove in almost 2300 runs and won three gold gloves. He is clearly one of the greatest players to ever play baseball. But, he is not the all-time leader in home runs.
I know this because I saw that record broken back in August of 2007. I called it a “joyless spectacle” and speculated that one day A-Rod might break the record. (In 2007 we thought he was clean kids) I wish Bonds had never hit that 756th home run, but I can’t ignore the fact that he did. Whether he did it naturally or unnaturally, Barry Bonds is the home run king. MLB can put on ceremonies to honor Hank Aaron, and they should, but they can’t change that fact.
But what they can do is stop pretending that Bonds and the whole PED era didn’t happen. We need to confront it with some honesty. Pick a date, anytime after 1986 works for me, and admit that players started putting stuff into their bodies to cheat the game. Stop trying to figure out who cheated and who didn’t, we will never know. Put the players who put up the biggest and best numbers into the Hall of Fame and go from there. Do I think Bonds and Clemens cheated? Absolutely, but how do we know that they weren’t the rule rather than the exception? And if almost everyone was doing it, they were clearly better at it than most. I don’t like what they did, but a Hall of Fame that has Ty Cobb and Cap Anson in it can’t start to preach about character and morals. Don’t put an expiration date on that era because as we have learned recently, the cheating is getting more and more sophisticated. MLB has done great work trying to clean up the game, but the truth is that the cheaters have an advantage over them. No matter what anyone says, when you can take a cough drop full of steroids right before a game and then pass a test after it, you can’t say the sport is totally clean.
Why does it matter? Because more than any other sport, baseball is enriched by its history. We look out at Mike Trout and wonder if he is the next Willie Mays. We debate things like Munson or Fisk and Ripken or Smith. It is what brings us back to the park year after year and it belongs to each of us. It’s time for the BBWAA and MLB to stop trying to whitewash it.