The Absolute Worst Of The Terrible Arguments For Putting Barry Bonds In The Hall Of Fame

815-Baseball-Hall-of-Fame-CEvery year at this time, I issue commentary on the “steroid-users in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame” controversy. I’m not going to disappoint you this year.

Today the Hall will announce who the baseball writers deemed worthy, and, as usual, the acknowledged steroid cheats with Hall of Fame statistics will be resoundingly rejected. I don’t feel like revisiting this subject in depth again right now: I have done so before, many times. However, yesterday I nearly drove off the road listing to MLB radio commentators Casey Stern and Jim Bowden, supposedly baseball experts, give their reasons for voting for the entire range of steroid cheats, from Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire to Roger Clemens and the despicable Alex Rodriquez.

Baseball’s Hall of Fame, alone among the sports Halls,  includes ethics in its criteria for entry: a player must exhibit sportsmanship, integrity and have been a credit to the game. The average sportswriter who votes for candidates is about as conversant in ethics as he is in Aramaic, leading to an endless debate involving every rationalization on the list and  analogies so terrible that they melt the brain.For example, I constantly hear and read that the evidence that Barry Bonds used steroids is “circumstantial” so it is unfair to tar him as a steroid user. Such commentators don’t know what circumstantial evidence is. Criminals can be justly convicted beyond a reasonable doubt by circumstantial evidence, which is also known as indirect evidence. Direct evidence, if believed, proves the existence of a particular fact.  Circumstantial evidence proves facts other than the particular fact  to be proved, but reason and experience indicates that the indirect evidence is so closely associated with the fact to be proved that the fact to be proved may be fairly inferred by existence of the circumstantial evidence. There is direct evidence that Bonds was a steroid-user, but the circumstantial evidence, as the well-researched book “Game of Shadows” showed, is so voluminous that it alone is decisive. Literally no one thinks Bonds is innocent of using steroids. [You can read my analysis of the case against Bonds here, here, and here.]

Stern and Bowden, however, claim that it is unfair to refuse the honor of Hall of Fame membership to suspected steroid users because it is inevitable that some players who used steroids and were never caught or suspected will make it into the Hall, if there aren’t such undetected cheat in the Hall already.

Bowden spouted this yesterday, and Stern eagerly agreed. I have read columnists making the same astounding argument. [The rationalization that embodies this threadbare logic is 39. The Pioneer’s Lament, or “Why should I be the first?”]

Thus it would be unfair to refuse to graduate a student caught cheating on his final exams, because it is certain that some students have cheated on exams and not been caught, and graduated without impediment. We should also bury traitors in Arlington National Cemetery, because we know that at least some of the honored fallen there must have been in cahoots with the enemy, and never were detected. And it is so unfair to fire an employee who was hired based on fake credentials, when other hires pulled off the same scam without penalty. In fact, we shouldn’t punish anyone for breaking the law, because so many get away with their crimes.

The MLB network promotes these guys as “experts,” which means their unethical arguments will be aped by gullible listeners, who will also absorb their unethical reasoning to apply in other contexts. Thus does sports corrupt as well as inspire.

This is one more reason not to honor Barry Bonds and the other cheats who created this ethical morass.

33 thoughts on “The Absolute Worst Of The Terrible Arguments For Putting Barry Bonds In The Hall Of Fame

  1. I think the best argument for electing Bonds and Clemens to the hall is the fact that they are arguably two of the best players to ever play. Yes, they cheated, as did hundreds if not thousands of other players throughout history. A hall of fame without them is an irrelevant hall of fame.

    It’s better to include them with the understanding that they played in the steroid era and probably used steroids than it is to leave them out. Ethics should not be the primary concern of the hall.

    • Yechh. “Everybody does it/did it/might have done it is a) untrue and b) a terrible rationalization. On what basis do you accuse “thousands” of players? A player who cheated by definition is not a “great player,” just as a cheating student is not a great student, Richard Nixon was not a “great President’and a cheating investment broker is Bernie Madoff.

      I don’t understand, really don’t understand, how such a completely unethical argument permeates a healthy brain. I really don’t.

      • I’m not saying, “let them in because everyone probably did it,” I’m saying let them in because they belong, despite the fact that they cheated. Willie Mays cheated. So did Gaylord Perry. And if we’re really concerned about sportsmanship and integrity, we need to look beyond just cheating and examine the behavior of guys like Ty Cobb.

        The hall is a museum. Let them in while understanding the context of the time they played.

        • Wrong.

          1. That is exactly what “Everybody Does it” means.
          2. I don’t think they should have let Perry into the Hall. I’d throw him out. But it was a special category of cheating.
          3. Mays? This is the forced: “greenies=steroids” rationalization, and I reject it. Nobody in baseball regarded taking uppers as cheating–nobody. Everyone including the cheaters knew taking steroids were cheating.
          4. They did look at Cobb, who is not the demon people make him out to be, and holding him to present day standards is classic “presentism.”
          5. “The hall is a museum” is deceit—it’s also an honor, hence “enshrinement.” A sport that honors cheaters endorses bad character.

          I’ve heard all of these before, and a lot more. Lame. Every one.

          • 3) It certainly isn’t forced. Plenty of current hall of famers took illegal amphetamines for the purpose of improved on field performance. How you rationalize that while demonizing steroid users is pathetic.

            • “improved field performance” is deceitful, They took them to stay awake—nobody has ever shown a measurable statistical benefit of taking greenies. They didn’t make anyone stronger or faster, or helped recovery from injuries quicker. But the main point is that it wasn’t cheating, which is defined by the culture, and it wasn’t comparable to steroids in any way or form. After every rationalization for ignoring steroids was tried and failed, people like you lighted on the amphetamine use, which the game sanctioned by practice. Nobody ever faked an upper test, for example, the way Bonds gamed urine tests. What’s pathetic is you working so hard to excuse a liar (nobody lied about greenies either) and a cheat who did permanent harm to the game..unlike any of the early users of amphetamines.

              • By that logic (the culture of the game knew about and accepted performance enhancing drug* use), McGwire should be in the hall. He never failed a test and used steroids at a time when everyone knew he and many others were using. No one called him a cheater, they just celebrated the home runs.

                *Amphetamines are absolutely a PED. They help you focus and give you energy. What do you think that does over the course of a long season?That’s right folks, it enhances performance.

                • The game didn’t know. Fans didn’t know. That’s just an after the fact fiction to let cheaters off the hook. When McGiwre was chasing Maris, nobody accused him of cheating that got any attention, and nobody follows baseball more closely than I do.

                  Sorry, the greenie argument is a false analogy, and I reject it as comparing standard practice with cheating…and again, no data shows that amphetamines improve performance on the field, just as they don’t improve academic performance. Colleges never treated amphetamine use as cheating either.

                  • Are you joking? I grew up a Padres fan. I remember, in 1996, being told by my mom, “son, I know he’s one of your favorites, but you’re 15 years old, you should be able to handle the fact that it’s obvious he’s on steroids.”

                    If my mom strongly suspected that MLB players were taking steroids in 1996, and Thomas Boswell (among others in the media) saw players openly taking steroids in 1988, how likely is it that “the game” didn’t know in 1998?

                    In my opinion, the game knew about steroids just like it knew about amphetamines. In the same way it silently condoned usage in 1968, it silently condoned usage in 1998. Despite the fact that both drugs were illegal without a prescription.

                    And no study shows HGH as improving on field performance, either. Lot of gray areas in this blog about right and wrong.

                • The blog is about ethics, and “sanctimonious” just means “I’m uncomfortable taking ethics seriously.” Tough. Go someplace else, then.

                  Of course Bonds damaged the game, and the HOF problem is just part of it. He destroyed legitimate and important records by cheating and embarrassed the game. That isn’t harm to you? Go back to pro wrestling, then: you don’t know what you’re talking about.

                  • Because everyone loves the guy that tells everyone else what they are doing wrong.

                    Bonds didn’t hurt the game. Clemens didn’t hurt the game. The game is just a game. It’s entertainment. Its sole function is to entertain people in order to make a profit. Which it does now, better than ever.

                    Baseball, minus the steroid era, is probably a lot less profitable today.

                    • Ethically blind…

                      “Because everyone loves the guy that tells everyone else what they are doing wrong.”

                      Is that an argument relevant to the discussion or merely moaning that Jack has made a profession out of trying to guide people in the right ethical direction? I mean really? You think society would be better WITHOUT people making ethical corrections? Really? Maybe parents should stop making ethical corrections because hey, nobody likes the guy telling them they are doing wrong.

                      What a farce.

                      The game IS entertainment…congratulations. But you are distinctly wrong saying it’s sole function is to “entertain people in order to make a profit”. BZZZZZZT.

                      It’s function is to “entertain people with the spectacle of baseball, played by good sportsmen fairly competing to display athletic skill to those who appreciate that skill”.

                      The “to make a profit” part is merely a happy byproduct of doing sole function well.

                      Therefore less profit doesn’t mean they aren’t providing the value…just fewer people appreciate the value of a good sportsmanlike competition, especially one with a unique culture like baseball. That’s not an indictment on the game. But I don’t suspect you’ll see that.

                    • 1. The first sentence is really sad, but does help your revulsion at ethical thinking.
                      2. The game is just a game to you, perhaps. To many, it is a source of inspiration, wisdom, life lessons, perspective and heroes. A brief survey of baseball literature would confirm that: it isn’t a matter of debate. I do not root or admire cheats, and it is not healthy for a society to count them among their role models, which they inevitably are. The statement is either denial ignorance, or proof that you have no credibility on this issue. I really don’t care if Lance Armstrong’s almost identical perfidy to Bonds’ destroy cycling, because I don’t have any investment in it. But I would never be so dense as to say that he didn’t hurt the sport.

                      3. So if it makes money, it’s fine with you. That’s it: the smoking gun. You’re amoral and unethical…you have nothing to contribute here except trolling and cynicism.

          • “let them in because they belong, despite the fact that they cheated”

            I think that is more like #26, with a flavor of #33 & #34 & #44… Of course he then turns right around and explains it again as #1….

  2. I find no controversy among the ethics requirements in the Hall of Fame. The League had no moral duty to have such a requirement, but neither do they have a moral prohibition against it.

    Circumstantial evidence proves facts other than the particular fact to be proved, but reason and experience indicates that the indirect evidence is so closely associated with the fact to be proved that the fact to be proved may be fairly inferred by existence of the circumstantial evidence

    So, if a woman goes to a man’s hotel room alone, is that circumstantial evidence that she consented to sex?

    • No! Why would it be, absent more? If she spends the night, that’s strong circumstantial evidence. There are a million reasons why a woman might go to a man’s hotel room alone. My experience tells me that, because I’ve had women visit my hotel room for meetings to eat dinner, or to watch a movie. If a bunch of people come to my room, is that circumstantial evidence of an orgy?

  3. I believe “circumstantial” is a contraction of “circumference” and “substantial,” a reference to the fact that Bonds’s head was roughly the size of a basketball during those years when he circumstantially cheated.

      • I’d place Clemens in a “predominanace of the evidence” rather than Bonds’ “beyond a reasonable doubt” category. No, you can’t let him in. Nor McGwire, Palmiero, Tejada, Sosa, Pettite. I don’t think there is evidence to keep out Bagwell or Piazza. The toughest call is David Ortiz.

  4. I would prefer if more sports would try to hold to a higher standard like this. You can’t let them in ‘because they belong,’ If they belonged, they would not have needed steroids. Not getting in is a consequence of cheating. The prestige of the Hall of Fame was not enough to prevent their cheating at the time. They don’t get a redo after they got caught.

  5. Should we refuse to convict murderers because some murderers aren’t convicted? Should we refuse to allow people to go to medical school because some worthy candidates are denied?

    We do the best we can in an imperfect world.

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