By not electing Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens sets a significant precedent in the Baseball Hall of Fame

It is the most controversial, polarizing and outrageous Hall of Fame vote in history.

The seven tallest and most decorated players on the 30-man ballot, including two of the greatest players in baseball history, are associated with performance-enhancing drug use.

They have combined 3,672 home runs, 77 All-Star Games, 12 MVP awards, seven Cy Youngs and 354 wins.

You know the names, the numbers, the World Series championships and the Hall of Fame credentials.

You are also painfully aware of their transgressions:

♦ Barry Bonds: Involvement with BALCO, the infamous Bay Area lab that produced designer PEDs.

♦ Roger Clemens: Involved in trainer Brian McNamee’s testimony and the Mitchell Report.

♦ Alex Rodriguez: Caught, banned for a year and admitted to using PED.

♦ Manny Ramirez: Suspended three times for PEDs.

♦ David Ortiz: Tested Positive in 2003 Anonymous Drug Test.

♦ Sammy Sosa: Tested positive in 2003 anonymous drug test, according to the New York Times.

♦ Gary Sheffield: Teamed up with Bonds and his infamous trainer Greg Anderson from BALCO; mentioned in the Mitchell report.

It will likely keep all but one from getting elected to Cooperstown, not just now — election results will be announced Tuesday (6:00 p.m. ET, MLB Network) — but forever.

Take a bow, David Ortiz, who is trending with 84.1% of the needed 75% votes by Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame tracker.

The standard, however flawed it may be, has been set.

If Ortiz is not chosen on Tuesday, he will certainly be there next year.

Bonds, Clemens and Sosa will be forever removed from the Baseball Writers Association of America’s ballot now that their 10 years of eligibility has expired.

The candidacies for Rodriguez, Ramirez, Sheffield and Andy Pettitte are also almost over.

It basically also ends any Hall of Fame opportunity for Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Yasmani Grandal or anyone else in the future caught using PEDs.

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I voted every year for Bonds and Clemens, who together won 15 MVP and Cy Young Awards and are two of the best players to have worn a baseball uniform.

They never failed a drug trust. Never suspended. And are the only ones who have spent millions of dollars clearing their names in federal court.

Instead, they are guilty in the court of public opinion.

Do I believe they were clean?


Do I believe drug use was rampant and rampant in the sport, with maybe 50% of players and pitchers using PEDs?


That’s why I think we’re making a terrible mistake by not separating from everyone else those who were caught and suspended when MLB implemented its drug-testing policy in 2005.

My mood included Bonds, Clemens, Ortiz, Sosa, Sheffield, Jeff Kent, Billy Wagner and Curt Schilling, but not A-Rod or Ramirez, who violated drug testing policies and severely damaged their teams with their suspensions.

Let’s face it, before the drug tests, Major League Baseball was the wild, wild west of doping.

It was driving without speed limits, seat belts, and with little regard for traffic lights, knowing that there was no one around to force erratic highway behavior into absurdity.

Do you remember those anonymous tests that MLB ran so they could determine if steroid testing was necessary?

There were 104 players who tested positive, including Ortiz, and this is after each player had already been informed during spring training that they would be tested.

Can you imagine how many more players would have tested positive if they didn’t know the test was coming?

It was the worst kept secret in baseball. Anyone who walked into a clubhouse knew what was going on, and no one cared. The use of steroids was even encouraged. You want to help our team win, you want the big contract, you want to stay in the game, you better take steroids and human growth hormone.

No damage. No mistake. It’s your body.

There are Hall of Famers, especially those elected in recent years, who have benefited immensely from steroid use.

There are Hall of Fame executives and executives who have benefited from their players’ use of steroids.

And don’t be naive, there are players today who benefit from using PED.

Oh, sure, there’s a lot of testing going on, but it’s only run in stadiums during the season – and with current doping advances, it’s easy to get around the system.

When the infamous Biogenesis scandal went down, 13 players, including Rodriguez, were banned for at least 50 games. It was the most simultaneous suspensions in baseball history.

Well, none of the “Dirty 13” ever tested positive. They only became entangled when a disgruntled ex-employee leaked clinical data to the Miami New Times.

If everyone wasn’t still looking for an edge, we would never have heard of Spider Tack and all the strange substances pitchers have been using over the past season to improve their grip and spin rates. It was a wake-up call for MLB to inform its pitchers in June to retire immediately without receiving automatic 10-game suspensions.

Now that the BBWAA has spoken out loud and clear about steroid users for the past 10 years, wouldn’t it be outrageous if the position is for nothing in 11 months?

Bonds and Clemens — as well as Sosa — are eligible to be elected to the Hall of Fame by the Today’s Game Committee in December. This 16-member group includes four former players and takes into account all players, managers, umpires and executives whose greatest contributors were from 1988 to 2016.

They will be in the mood with favorites Fred McGriff and manager Bruce Bochy.

The committee is supposed to meet twice every five years and could forever renew the debate on steroids.

When the committee meets, the words of Joe Morgan, who sat on the Hall of Fame’s board of directors, are sure to reverberate across the room. He sent letters to all BBWAA voters in November 2017 urging them not to vote for an alleged steroid user.

“We hope the day never comes when well-known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame,” Morgan wrote. “They cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here.”

For now, the writers have spoken, and hypocritical as it may be, Ortiz will be the only member of this class of steroids to be forgiven.

The two greatest players of the steroid era will be left outside Cooperstown to look inside.


You can judge it.

Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightengal.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Baseball Hall of Fame: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens at Tipping Point

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