We are going to explore two sides of an argument. The issue is whether professional baseball players who have been alleged or proven to have cheated in any form should be voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame®. On one hand, we have the purists who want to keep to the game’s traditions and to allow for only those who played the game the right way. On the other hand, we have those who believe in a process that is open and tells the history and context of a player cheating, the asterisk crowd, but still allows them into the Hall.
In this article, we are going to present the arguments for you to decide, the American voter. We are going to present the best three arguments from each side and this author will stand in their shoes to present the best facts to back up those arguments. It should be an educational experience nonetheless.
To Not Be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame®
1. No Excuses: Clean is Clean
Much like Clayton Kershaw’s “All Me” League that promotes eating right and playing fair, the message is clear; a player is either clean or dirty. If the player is dirty or suspected of such, he has no place in the Hall of Fame with the likes of Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Hank Aaron, whom did not have access to performance-enhancing drugs to prolong or help their playing careers. Hot dogs and beer or kale with a spinach drink, no more, no less.
2. Character Matters
“Shoeless” Joe Jackson received a lifetime ban for his involvement with the 1919 Black Sox Scandal that rocked baseball. He should have never been tied to the payouts and much like the steroid-users that followed in a later generation, the decision to cheat is fatal and unforgivable. The Hall of Fame is about the whole package: the player must play exceptionally well on and off the field.
3. The Hall of Fame Should Set an Example for Generations to Come
Baseball players are heroes to many and they should lead by example. A slippery slope occurs once Pandora ’s Box is opened and the line in the sand is crossed. Those baseball players who did not cheat set the right example, and they should be rewarded for their efforts by being elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame®.
To Be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame®
1. It Happened: History is History
A history professor at a junior college once assigned a paper topic: what would have happened if President Abraham Lincoln served his second term? An interesting thought, but also an attempt at revisionist history because President Lincoln was assassinated at the beginning of his second term. We cannot forget history simply because it is inconvenient, we must recognize it, learn from it, and give thought to our failures, and our accomplishments.
2. Context Matters
First, despite being alleged to have received a bribe to throw the 1919 World Series with seven other teammates against the Cincinnati Reds, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson collected twelve base hits (a World Series record that was not broken until 1964), led both teams with a .375 batting average, committed no errors, and threw out a runner at the plate. Second, Barry Bonds, “in the 14 seasons between 1986 and 1999 Bonds established himself, without question, as a Hall of Fame player – an eight-time All-Star who led the National League in walks five times, OBP four times, and slugging three times[;] He was a three-time MVP before he hooked up with Balco.” Third, Roger Clemens, before his alleged steroid use (he never admitted steroid use or failed a drug test), “Clemens was one of only five three-time Cy Young winners — along with Steve Carlton, Greg Maddux, Sandy Koufax, Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver. Of those, only Koufax [and now Clayton Kershaw] could match Clemens with one MVP Award to go along with his three Cy Youngs.”
3. The Hall of Fame Should Set an Example: People and Times Change
Forgiveness and second chances are at the foundation of the American legal system, culture, and social well-being. We have fought many wars and many have sacrificed their lives to establish and reestablish a country that was founded on the concepts of innocent until proven guilty, rehabilitation, and belief in the ability to do well. He who is without sin should throw the first stone and vote to keep history out of the National Baseball Hall of Fame®.
Those on each side of the issue have compelling arguments. Then again, much like our national presidential elections, it is those in the middle of the country, both politically and geographically, that decide these issues. As of 2017, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens jumped from the mid-to-low thirties in percentage votes to the low-to-mid fifties in percentage votes. As Bob Dylan once sang, “The Times They Are a-Changin’.”