s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe

I am looking at three names on baseball's Hall of Fame ballot, recently mailed to me. The three names are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. Those three names fill me with varying degrees of disgust. I will not vote for any of them.

I dismiss all three on ethical grounds. I believe they used performance enhancing drugs to bloat their statistics and prolong their careers.

Sosa is the easiest to reject. Before he took performance enhancing drugs, he was a good ballplayer but he was not destined for the Hall of Fame. Then suddenly — I would say magically — he was hitting home runs all over the place. He never had hit more than 40 home runs, and in 1998 he blasted 66.

Come on.

Sosa is the perfect example of baseball player as chemical creation. In a 2009 article, the New York Times listed Sosa as a player included on a list of drug cheaters.

Clemens is more troubling than Sosa — troubling to me as a voter trying to do the right thing, trying to be fair. I did not cover Clemens, so I have no first-hand knowledge of him as I do of Bonds, the emperor of all cheaters, in my opinion.

Clemens was mentioned 82 times in the Mitchell Report. Excuse me, but that's a lot of times. His career was beginning to dwindle, as all careers do, when — Presto! — he won 17 games in 2003 at age 40 and 18 games in 2004 at age 41.

Come on. Bodies don't work that way. Sports don't work that way. Life, unaltered by a secret potion, doesn't work that way.

I also know Andy Pettitte, a Clemens teammate and friend, fingered him as a PED user.

I make this one concession to Clemens. Because I didn't cover him, I keep my options open. He will be on the ballot another 14 times. If I learn more or learn different things, I may change my mind. There is nothing wrong in waiting to make an informed choice. I guess this could go for all three guys, although I doubt I will change my mind on the other two.

I really, really doubt I'll change my mind in the Case of Barry Lamar Bonds.

I saw Bonds on a daily basis, saw his body grow to cartoon-size proportions, saw the difficulty he had lugging that overweight, over-muscled monstrosity of a body around left field. I once wrote a column in which I referred to him only as "It." People knew what I meant. He was a drug-created thing. I still believe that. I have seen him lately and, now that he's not pursuing a home-run record through phony means, he has slimmed down and looks trim and handsome.

Bonds admitted he took PEDs. He didn't know they were PEDs, he said. He thought he was rubbing on flaxseed oil.

Do you believe that? Even if you desperately want to believe that, do you really believe that?

Bonds' personal trainer — some say drug dealer — Greg Anderson went to jail rather than testify in court about Bonds.

Does that seem at all fishy to you?

Some guys wrote a book detailing Bonds' evolution as a drug taker. Bonds never sued the authors for libel.

Why?

I want to move on to a bigger point, a more important point. Some people say, "Who is Lowell to judge these players? Their names are on the ballot and he should vote merely on their statistics. Plus, the whole steroid era was tainted, so why single out these three?"

I think that about covers the argument.

OK, here goes. I am a voter for the Hall of Fame. I am a longstanding member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. The BBWAA asks me to vote and I take my duty seriously. I try never to shirk a moral choice.

And believe me, this is a moral choice.

There are moral criteria for players to enter the Hall. Don't tell me Ty Cobb wasn't a nice man. You know what I'm talking about.

Cooperstown is not a statistics Hall of Fame. It is a Hall of Fame with certain standards of behavior. The Hall of Fame also is not a Hall of Infamy — which it would become with these three men.

"But we don't care if these men cheated," you might say. "They were great players and we want them in."

To which I say this — Why should baseball be less ethically accountable than other sports? Get caught taking stuff in track and field and they strip you of medals and records. Marion Jones went to jail for lying about PEDs. Lance Armstrong just became a non-person in cycling because of what he's alleged to have taken.

And you're telling me it's OK if baseball — the national pastime — is morally mediocre compared to those other sports. I do not accept that.

"But other PED users got away with it in baseball," you may argue. "It's unfair to single out these three."

That is a spurious argument — "Others got away with it." Please.

The point is, it doesn't matter that others got away with it. End of story.

Here is an analogy and it's only an analogy. It's like saying some people who commit burglary get away with it, so we can't arrest and convict this burglar right here we caught red-handed.

And remember this was an analogy. I am not saying Sosa, Clemens and Bonds are burglars, although if they took PEDs without proper prescriptions, they most certainly broke the law.

My Hall of Fame ballot arrived with a return envelope that includes proper postage. I will be mailing it out within the next few days. On the ballot there is a box next to each player's name — you check it if you vote yes. The boxes for Sosa, Clemens and Bonds I will leave blank.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.