Steroids in baseball have fast become a way to exile players that writers don’t much like. Roger Clemens, for example, is an objectionable ass hat who deserves nothing but our scorn and ridicule for naming all 40 of his children something that begins with ‘K’. Get it, because he racked up lots of strikeouts? What a monster. Still, he is an undeniable part of baseball history that belongs in the Hall of Fame.

The Hall is quickly turning into an exhibit that would best be termed, “Did you really come here to see Trevor Hoffman’s bust?” Trevor Hoffman was spectacular, but he is no more deserving than Clemens. Clemens is out because he took PED’s, and writers who don’t like him use that as a convenient excuse to exclude him. Which brings us to the man most hated by access sports journalists and crotchety old farts; Barry Bonds.

Barry Bonds, by virtually any statistical measure, is among the greatest baseball players to ever live. In career WAR (wins above replacement) Bonds ranks second, behind just Babe Goddamn Ruth. Let’s not forget that Babe Ruth played before black people were allowed in the MLB and before pitchers were throwing 90 MPH sliders. Bonds ranks first all-time in home runs and ranks in the top ten in damn near every other counting or ratio statistic you can come up with. In 2004, Bonds ran a .609 on-base percentage, making him the only player in history to get on base more than 60 percent of the time over a full season. He also has the second-best single-season OBP mark, a meager .582. He also set a major league record for OPS – on-base plus slugging – at 1.422. Barry Bonds was a force.

That fails to mention the early career iteration of Barry Bonds, which was basically just as crazy. Young Bonds was one of the best outfielders in the game, and could steal bases at will. In 1990, he added 52 stolen bases to his 33 dingers, while playing some of the best defense in the sport for the Pirates. Bonds would continue to dominate baseball throughout the mid-90s, only to see guys like Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire dominate the MVP balloting. So sure, Bonds used steroids. So did the rest of the league, and the version of Bonds that likely was not using PED’s was one of the best in the league. Bonds alleged use is simply a response to what the rest of the league was doing. League-wide testing didn’t begin until 2003 after the benefit of steroid use had already helped Major League Baseball reclaim in part its status as National Pastime.

It`s called the steroid era for a reason. Players all over the league were doing it. The commissioner from the era, Bud Selig, is in the Hall and is credited with saving baseball in the 1990s. If Selig is to be credited for presiding over this era of baseball, why are the best players being punished for it? Put the home run king in the stupid Hall of Fame and admit he was only excluded because he flaunted his greatness in front of more mediocre men.

Aside from that, those who hide behind the moralistic argument have a problem – Ty Cobb, a well-known racist and rumoured Klan member is in the Hall of Fame. Tris Speaker, another member of the Hall was implicated in a game-fixing scandal. This excellent 2013 New York Times article details many other transgressions the writers have been perfectly willing to ignore. Bonds’ alleged steroid use should not be exclusionary criteria in light of the heinous activity the Hall has accepted in the past.


Thomas Penney

Photo by Kevin Rushforth