I’ve always felt that major leaguers who used steroids were like NBA stars playing on a nine-foot basket — the game isn’t supposed to be that easy. Or, imagine their cheating through another prism:
Two race cars line up, one uses regular fuel, the other loads up with an illegal, supercharged potion. Guess which one wins? Not only does the law breaker finish first, it sets a world record. Who would call that a legitimate feat?
That’s the easiest way to frame the steroids debate. Now comes the more complicated task of punishing those who (we think) juiced — specifically, keeping them out of the Hall of Fame. Any discerning fan would put Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens on that list. They’re the tip of the spear of a generation of players who tried to pull a fast one on what Americans used to call The Beautiful Game.
But while it’s easy to assume Bonds and Clemens were part of the brotherhood of the syringe, proving it is another matter. That’s what makes this ballot problematic, deciding the guilt or innocence of two men who were exonerated by the legal system.
The government spent millions trying to convict Bonds, who testified his use of steroids was unintentional. According to the Wall Street Journal, 11 of the 12 jurors didn’t believe Bonds but, ultimately, the feds were unable to prove Bonds was lying. They settled for one count of obstruction of justice, which meant he won. The same is true of Clemens, who, despite the $2.3 million the government spent in court, was acquitted on the six charges against him.
Do I suspect Bonds and Clemens were all in? Of course. But both men are entitled to due process of the law. Without physical proof of their crimes — and with a jury of their peers backing them up — I have no idea when Bonds and Clemens started injecting, or to what degree the chemicals impacted their career totals. Since MLB wasn’t screening for steroids at the time, Clemens and Bonds never tested positive. Those are those handcuffs I wear in filling out the ballot.