The Baseball Hall of Fame is a joke without Barry Bonds
OPINION: Racists and cheaters who are celebrated in that so-called hallowed shrine are pegged as "complicated." Hall of Fame voters could’ve talked about Bonds and all his complexities while granting his justified spot in the Hall.
Barry Bonds is a Hall of Famer.
The fact that he didn’t get elected into the Hall on Tuesday makes the so-called hallowed institution an absolute joke. It also highlights the fragility of human nature, the cracks and flaws of Bonds and those voters who kept him out on his 10th and final year on the ballot.
Hypocrisy runs rampant through the fabric of America, and the national pastime is no exception.
All men are created equal, yet Black players weren’t allowed in the major leagues until Jackie Robinson broke the color line in 1947. Cheaters aren’t supposed to win, but notorious spitballer Gaylord Perry was inducted into the hall in 1991. Voters make their selections based on players’ performance, in addition to “integrity, sportsmanship, and character”; yet avowed racists such as Kennesaw Mountain Landis—baseball’s first commissioner who upheld the gentlemen’s agreement to keep Black players out of the league—and Cap Anson—who refused to play against Black ballplayers—have plaques in the baseball shrine.
“Complicated” is a word that pops up if you research Landis, Anson and others of their ilk. Defenders explain they were men of the era whose actions appear worse in hindsight (an old, tired excuse—as if there haven’t been righteous folks calling out racism throughout history). OK, fine. Hall of Fame voters could’ve talked about Bonds and all his complexities while granting his justified spot.
Sixty-six percent of voters in the Baseball Writers Association of America—an organization I once belonged to—got it right.
They understand that Bonds ranks among baseball’s GOATs and reached that level prior to his admitted use of performance-enhancing drugs. They understand that Bonds never failed a steroids test once testing was instituted in 2003. They understand that prior to 2003, Commissioner Bud Selig and MLB leadership essentially condoned PEDs after the 1994 strike, turning a blind eye as homers soared through the air and fans poured through the gates.
The 66 percent understand that the hall is well-stocked with players who gobbled amphetamines (like steroids, their use without a prescription is a federal crime) until baseball banned “greenies” in 2006. They understand that the “Steroids Era” is just another part of the game’s long history, like the antecedent “Deadball Era” and “Segregation Era.” They understand the folly of omitting great players from the sport’s museum, instead of letting the public apply mental asterisks if notations on the plaques are absent.
Bonds needed 75 percent of the vote to get in. Voters who left him off their ballot claim it’s about keeping out “cheaters,” and some of them are likely true believers (bless their misguided hearts). But it says here that many also blocked Bonds for a less-than-noble reason:
They’re butthurt from the way he treated them.
To be fair, Bonds was an a**hole for much of his career, beginning in Pittsburgh and concluding in San Francisco. He could be an equal-opportunity jerk, treating all kinds of people impolitely, not just members of the press. I witnessed it at times and was amazed at the depths of his rudeness, for no apparent reason. (Predictably, the nearly lily-white BWAA yeasted up his image, too.)
In 2016, nine years after his retirement, he reflected on his behavior. “I’m to blame for the way I was (portrayed) because I was a dumbass,” he said during his one season as an MLB batting coach. “I was straight stupid, and I’ll be the first to admit it. I mean, I was just flat-out dumb.”
Of course, being kind and charming isn’t a prerequisite for tremendous accomplishments. High-achievers in any field can be cocky, arrogant and condescending. Sometimes it seems like their greatness consumes them, leaving no room for refinement and people skills. And if they think it’s impossible to be great and nice simultaneously, I get why they choose the one that pays better.
I also get why some voters don’t see Bonds as a sympathetic figure.
He was too mean and nasty then, so they can’t generate empathy and compassion now. Forgiveness is among the hardest attitudes to adopt, especially toward individuals outside of your loved ones. For all the talk of cheating and steroids, many voters are simply holding a grudge. Whatever.
Bonds is a Hall of Famer and everyone knows that—whether or not dissenters admit it.
An award-winning columnist and a principal of BlackDoor Ventures, Inc., Deron Snyder is a veteran journalist, stratcomm professional, author, and adjunct professor. A native of Brooklyn and an Alpha from H.U.-You Know, he resides in metropolitan DC with his wife, Vanessa, mother of their daughters, Sierra and Sequoia. To learn more, please visit blackdoorventures.com/deron.
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