Fans divided on Bonds and the Hall of Fame

The fans have spoken, and, well, for now, let’s leave the Hall of Fame voting to the Hall of Fame voters.

According to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll, 49 percent of fans surveyed think Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame while 52 percent think Bonds’ records should be taken away.

While these numbers are within the poll’s five-percent margin of error, I have to wonder: If Bonds’ records are taken away, what are his Hall of Fame qualifications? All around nice guy? Mr. Baseball? Not exactly. I guess the 49 percent who think he should be in the Hall aren’t among the 52 percent who want his records erased.

Meanwhile, these numbers are down from last summer when 57 percent believed Bonds should be in the Hall. Again, I’m left wondering: What changed? In my opinion, nothing.

As The Onion aptly pointed out last week, everyone who has ever watched a baseball game knows that Barry Bonds’ body has changed drastically over the last eight years. At an age when he should have been on the decline of his career, Bonds somehow topped every single season home run record known to baseball fans and is well on his way toward 756.

A year ago, everyone knew Bonds’ production wasn’t natural; they focused on the lack of concrete evidence. Now that two authors have synergized the evidence that was largely available last year and put in an easy-to-digest Sports Illustrated form, the majority of fans will no longer accept Bonds. While I am no defender of Bonds, public opinion sure can be fickle.

This Bonds controversy ties in nicely with another issue floating around the Internet. It’s the age-old debate on who should vote for the Hall of Fame. A few weeks ago, the unfortunately named Peter Schmuck, president of the Baseball Writers Association of America, penned a column in defense of the BBWAA’s Hall of Fame voting. While many newspapers do not allow their writers to vote for awards, Schmuck concluded that the writers should keep on voting:

The Baltimore Sun and several other major newspapers have decided that they would prefer to have their employees simply cover the news and let someone else make the newsworthy decisions on who should win certain awards or gain induction in the Hall of Fame.

I accede to that authority, but I believe that the baseball writers charged with voting on the postseason awards are uniquely qualified to render those decisions while still meeting the ethical standards of the journalistic profession.

I feel even more strongly that the BBWAA is the proper body to choose the inductees for the most revered of the various professional sports halls of fame.

In short, it’s a difficult job, but there is no one better qualified to do it.

Needless to say, those of us who didn’t like seeing Bartolo “Wins” Colon walk away with a Cy Young last season were nonplused, to say the least. Over at Armchair GM, a new Wiki-baseball site, Dan Lewis issued a rebuttal in the form of an open letter to Schmuck. Lewis advocated a system similar to that found in the presidential nominating convention system:

The BBWAA should, in its effort to democratize the election process, choose regular fans as delegates. Allow people like myself to apply for the job of Hall of Fame voter. Give us the opportunity to demonstrate to you our resume of fandom, our knowledge of the game, etc. We watch game after game, crunch stat after stat, and root for (and against) players and teams year-round. We know the game backward and forward. We are perfectly capable of making informed decisions. And you are perfectly capable of identifying us.

Just don’t ask us who we’d vote for. Let us approach that in our own way. Your job, again, is to frame the debate, and to convince us to vote one way or the other.

You already have the power of the media. You don’t need the power of the vote. The fans need a voice. Don’t keep all the power to yourselves.

While Lewis’ proposed system is intriguing, I am doubtful that fans can vote in players with any more rhyme or reason than the BBWAA. Would fans vote in Bonds? Since a player needs 75 percent of the vote, Bonds wouldn’t make it today. Would fans who are chosen as Hall of Fame voters opt for Bonds? It depends. In five years, we may know that Bonds cheated his way through a successful career, but we may also know that everyone else playing in the late 1990s did too.

So in the end, we’re left with our imperfect system. The Baseball Writers can take their holier-than-thou attitude one day while I still believe that any number of baseball beat writers could have blown the lid of off the steroid story any day from 1996 through 2002. The Baseball Writers who are supposedly looking out for the best interests of the game and are paid to know about baseball could vote.

Or the fans, the true arbiters of the game, could vote. The fans see the game through the lens of the media whether that media be Bill Plaschke’s inanities, Baseball Prospectus’ insight or the lyrical prose of some of the more prolific baseball writers.

Everyone, it seems, is fickle. Fans sway with the media. Bonds is persecuted one year, evil forever after. Awarding Hall of Fame voting to the fans, as these poll numbers show, won’t solve anything.

Meanwhile, as Barry Bonds took all of four Spring Training at bats to launch his first home run, baseball has a bigger problem on its hands than fan opinion and a dialogue over Hall of Fame voting. As Bonds nears Ruth and Aaron, baseball is left with a commissioner discussing an investigation or whatever Bud Selig feels like conducting.

While those of us who watch baseball may have our opinions on Hall of Fame voting and the highly questionable legacy of the Steroid Era as it relates to Cooperstown, it is time for Selig and players union head Donald Fehr to step up and solve this steroid problem. Targeting anyone as a scapegoat isn’t fair, but those in positions of power in Major League Baseball need to make a strong statement whatever that may be.

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3 Responses to “Fans divided on Bonds and the Hall of Fame”


  1. 1 MANITHAN March 16, 2006 at 9:01 am

    great story

  2. 2 ripi$money March 16, 2006 at 4:29 pm

    Reading the Bonds steroid excerpt in Sports Illustrated simply confirmed what I already believed to be true: Barry Bonds is juiced. However, I did have doubts when the authors of the book claimed Bonds sometimes took 20 assorted supplement and steroid pills at a time. Anyone taking that many pills of anything would not be in very good shape – probably dead. Selig looks like he will launch an investigation, and that would be good for the game, its fans, and the players. As Major League Baseball begins to show that it means business, we should begin to see a game we are much more certain is clean and fair, just the way we like it.

  3. 3 Wendell X May 23, 2006 at 11:22 am

    Now that Barry Bonds has tied Ruth for second place with 714 homers, the media—particularly in New York—has slammed the San Francisco Giants’ outfielder as a substance cheat who couldn’t carry the Babe’s jock in a ‘fair’ contest.

    First of all, Barry Bonds blown up on steroids? Prove it. Nobody has seen a positive test. The media has convicted Bonds in the court of public opinion without material evidence. This is not prosecution; this is persecution.

    And suppose Bonds has been juicing. Big deal. What institution in American society is more artificially bloated than professional sports? If Bonds is indeed a chemical hulk, he is simply emblematic of the paradigm.

    Pro sports in America has become a misshapen and corpulent caricature. The spirit of athletic competition has long ago been supplanted by the zeitgeist of winning at any cost. It’s all about the Benjamins, and we all know that no matter what, greedy baseball execs dig the long ball—‘cause that’s what puts asses in the stands. So who’s zoomin’ who?

    The Bonds brouhaha is made even more grotesque by the hoopla revolving around second place. Not first, but second. Ruth stopped being the barometer against which baseball greatness was measured that day in April 1974 when Hank Aaron blasted number 715 into the stratosphere.

    I played organized sports in my youth and I remember this much: the runner-up didn’t get the big ass trophy, didn’t get the parade, didn’t get to celebrate after the dust had cleared and didn’t any pussy, either.

    All second place ever garnered was a pat on the back for the gallant effort and a conciliatory ‘Better luck next second, fellas.’

    But let’s go back to cheating. The biggest cheat of all, the bamboozle that earns all of Major League Baseball a giant asterisk forever—or at least until 1947—was Kenesaw Mountain Landis’ so-called ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’ with baseball owners.

    If you’ll recall, that was the decision that resulted in the exclusion of Blacks from pro baseball.

    While a sanctimonious media that sees sports through a monochromatic lens drags DiMaggio, that racist Ty Cobb and the Babe out of it’s ass every time it thinks it needs a hero, it neglects to ask how many hits and homers would any of these beneficiaries of white affirmative action have gotten if Satchel Page or Rube Foster were allowed to fling 100 mile per hour heat past the plate? Who would be talking about Ruth if Josh Gibson’s more than 950 homers had counted?

    The new gentlemen’s agreement between pro sports and its media shills is content to merely ameliorate myths and synthesize icons. The shameless sacro-sanctioning of second place and the vilification of a man on circumstantial evidence speaks volumes about the character—or rather the lack thereof— of the media and professional sports and its still extant racism. .

    Cheating? Doping? Asterisks? Let he who is without sin cast the first artificially-enhanced stone.


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