Point Counterpoint

The 2013 National Baseball Hall of Fame election took place on Jan. 9. For the first time since 1996, no players were voted in, despite players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens being up for induction. Many baseball analysts believe that this trend may continue as more players, who played during the steroid era become eligible for induction. Two contributors weigh in on the controversial decision … 

For Decision

The 2013 National Baseball Hall of Fame election came to a quiet conclusion last week. Labelled as perhaps the most contentious and controversial election in baseball history, the event finished without an inductee for only the second time in four decades and for the eighth time since 1945.

While controversy always surrounds an election that produces no winner, this year’s event was especially dramatic given the players involved. Steroid-tainted superstars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were both eligible for the first time, yet each received fewer than 40 per cent of the vote—a rather low percentage, despite the allegations pressed against them.

Clemens, one of the top pitchers in MLB history by any statistical measure, finished the election with only 37.6 per cent of the vote, despite receiving the seven Cy Young award seven times. Clemens finished his career third all-time in strikeouts, including an astounding 292 strikeouts in 1997, to go along with an ERA of 2.05.

Bonds, the all-time leader in home runs and one of the greatest hitters in MLB history, finished with an astounding low 36.2 per cent of the vote.

Though their performances certainly speak for themselves, and though it is quite possible that their calibre of play will never again be matched, it would be wrong to vote for these players—and other players who have been associated with performance enhancing drugs—into the Hall of Fame.

In an era of baseball where players are becoming increasingly aware of the availability of ergogenic aids, allowing these players to enter the Hall would send a welcoming message to those who knowingly seek to bend the rules of the game.

Players and fans alike both recognize that the use of these substances violate MLB policy. Why should players who openly violate the regulations be welcomed into the most prestigious and respected realm of baseball? If a player knowingly defiles the integrity of the sport, the sanctions for these actions must be severe.

When the best players of an era are not allowed into the Hall of Fame, it will undoubtedly erase the players’ relevancies in baseball history. However, it is necessary to use this opportunity to set the tone for the future and to establish that, those who unabashedly undermine policy will be punished accordingly.

Athletes like Ben Johnson, and more recently, Lance Armstrong, have had to come to terms with the harsh realities that present themselves when rules are broken. If the MLB does not take this opportunity to defend the anti-doping regulations of the sport, I fear that the legitimacy of the league will remain in question in the future.

— Justin Simon

Against Decision

I’ve visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown several times, and revere it for its unvarnished history of the sport. However, the Baseball Hall of Fame voting this year has made a mockery of all that Cooperstown stands for, namely that the game’s best players—blemishes and all—were not voted into the Hall.

This year’s ballot had it all—the gritty converted catcher Craig Biggio, who collected 3000 hits in a long and distinguished career; fierce sluggers Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, with their offensive numbers that every team coveted; the speedy Tim Raines, a man that enthralled a generation of Montreal Expos fans; and last but not least, the otherworldly Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, who have solidified themselves among the all-time greats after dominating the MLB for the entirety of their careers.

Instead of recognizing these achievements, the Baseball Hall of Fame voters astonishingly elected nobody to the Hall this year, depriving these players of the proper honour they deserved, and shortchanging fans that make their pilgrimage to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony every summer. What was the reason for this shortsighted decision? Laziness, idle speculation, and dumb superstition.

Biggio will get into the hall eventually, but did not this year because he is not considered  ‘first ballot’ Hall-of-Famer material, which is incredibly silly.

Piazza and Bagwell never tested positive for taking performance-enhancing drugs, but since they were muscular sluggers in the steroid era, their reputations have been tarnished in the eyes of some voters. On the basis of this unempirical thinking, all baseball fans are voided from commemorating these two great careers, which is a shame.

Clemens didn’t get in mainly because of Brian McNamee’s discredited testimony, which accused Clemens of taking HGH and steroids—an allegation that was never proven in court. And even if McNamee’s allegations were true, Clemens won over 300 games and won more Cy Young awards than any other pitcher in the history of the game. To leave him out of the Hall would be analogous to erasing history.

Similarly, Bonds did not get into the Hall despite never testing positive for performance enhancers. Like Clemens, Bonds was also the pre-eminent star of his era, setting the MLB record for home runs in a career and in one season, while stealing bases and takeing a pitch like nobody else. But because of the allegations against him, and the fact that he came across as surly and unlikable, he’s being punished. On the other side of a similar coin, Raines has been penalized for using cocaine in the ‘80’s—why that should be held against his stellar career, is again, a question left unanswered.

It’s pretty clear to see that the Baseball Hall of Fame voters are corrupt and unaccountable. Put all of these men into the Hall, and let knowledgeable baseball fans explain the circumstances of these players’ careers to their parents and kids. By not doing so, the Hall of Fame voters have infantilized and shown contempt for legions of baseball fans all across the world.

— Joshua Freedman

Winner: For Decision

The National Baseball Hall of Fame exists to celebrate the game’s best players. If it were to induct players who violated the rules, then the league’s legitimacy and integrity are put into question. Therefore, those surrounded in the steroid scandal have no place in Cooperstown this time around.

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