I’ve thought about this since the names Bonds, Clemens and Sosa first appeared on the ballot four years ago. Baseball is a sport long steeped in numbers – 56, 714, 755, 61, 4,256, 27 up and 27 down — and some of those statistics morphed into cartoons during the steroid era.
Roger Maris’s long-time former record of 61 homers in the 1961 season now ranks seventh on the career list behind mutant totals put up by Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who turned themselves into chemistry experiments, then took a sledgehammer to records at a time when baseball’s owners, union leaders and and commissioner were desperate for improved TV ratings and revenue streams. The message: Check your conscience at the door.
Bonds, McGwire and Sosa have yet to smudge the Hall walls. Bud Selig was just given a pass. So I think I know what’s coming around the bend.
And so, I’m done. This will be my final year of voting for the Hall of Fame.
Should all steroid users be voted in? Should none of them? What if they were going to be all-time greats regardless? What if there’s no physical proof of use, just testimony? What if they deny, deny, deny, yell at accusers, seek to ruin others’ lives, then suddenly one day break down in tears for Bob Costas and admit it all (McGwire)?
But voters are given nothing. So we have this debate every year. I’m tired of waiting. With Selig being voted in by a special committee, it has added another layer of frustration for me.
This vote has changed from something I embraced to something I dread. I voted this year because, frankly, I mailed my completed ballot last week before starting to type this column, then realized I was at the end. Originally I was just going to give you my yeas and nays and remind you of the recent words of Hall of Famer John Smoltz, who said he opposed Bonds and Clemens going into the Hall of Fame: “I feel bad for the guys trying to make judgment calls, as the writers do, and not having the full information or the right to know who did what. … It’s a character issue. If you can’t play the game at a level where you have put yourself at risk to say, ‘I’m either good enough or not,’ that to me has crossed the line, where I can’t have a lot of respect for you.”
I’ll continue to celebrate those who I believe deserve to be celebrated. I will go to Cooperstown should my bosses ask me to cover the induction of Braves past. I just won’t be part of the voting process.
Below is my final ballot.
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