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No Clemens, no Bonds right call for baseball Hall of Fame

Former Major League Baseball player Barry Bonds. (March 21, 2011 file photo.)
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Former Major League Baseball player Barry Bonds. (March 21, 2011 file photo.)

Last week was a good week to be a baseball fan. For one thing, the players union and owners got back to the bargaining table to try to settle their labor differences before spring training and the 2022 season starts.

But more importantly, if only in a psychic sense, baseball reaffirmed itself as the one game among our major sports with a conscience, the one organized athletic pursuit that recognizes that the ends don’t justify the means.

We’re speaking, of course, of the announcement of the latest class of players to be enshrined this summer in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

That class, as unveiled Wednesday, will have only one member, David Ortiz, the designated hitter who began his career in Minnesota, but came to fame in leading Boston to three World Series titles.

The good news in the Hall of Fame announcement was in who wasn’t in the class, as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were excluded from inclusion through voting conducted by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Clemens and Bonds, having failed to receive the required 75 percent of the vote for a 10th time, will now have to wait for consideration from a panel of former players. Hopefully, that group will say no as well. By the numbers, and to mix a metaphor, Bonds and Clemens should be slam dunk choices for enshrinement.

Clemens had the lowest earned run average in his league eight times and received a record seven Cy Young Awards. Meanwhile, Bonds won the Most Valuable Player Award seven times and finished his career with more home runs than anyone else in baseball history.

No sport revels in its statistics more than baseball and so it would seem that, having climbed such numerical mountains, these two should be feted.

But one of the qualities that baseball writers are asked to consider in voting to enshrine is character and it’s in that category where Bonds and Clemens fell short.

During a good portion of the 1990s and into the following decade, baseball was plagued by pervasive use of performance-enhancing drugs.

No corner of the game was immune as players bulked up considerably and so did their numbers. This all happened as leadership, apparently all the way to Commissioner Bud Selig’s office, watched, giving their tacit approval.

Along with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, Clemens and Bonds became the symbols of what came to be known as the Steroid Era. Neither Bonds nor Clemens ever officially copped to PED usage, but overwhelming circumstantial evidence appears to tell the real story.

To be fair, neither Barry Bonds nor Roger Clemens were the most egregious violators of baseball’s PED policies, lax as they were. And there are, to be sure, offenders who have made their way into the Hall, which is a certain blight on the process. But to not hold Clemens and Bonds responsible in some way seems akin to a speeder who has been nabbed by a patrol officer and complains that others who got away were going faster.

That never works then and it didn’t work last week.

And that’s how I see it for this week. You can reach us via email with your questions and comments at Sports at Large at gmail.com. And follow me on Twitter at Sports at Large.

Until next week, for all of us here, I’m Milton Kent. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games.

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.