Steroids in Cooperstown

Dec. 20, 2012, 10:22 p.m. | By Michael Gerbasi | 11 years, 5 months ago

Why Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens belong in the Hall of Fame

Who really owns Major League Baseball (MLB)? The owners? The players? No. The game of baseball belongs to the fans. What the fans say goes.

If the fans did not pay taxes, stadiums could not be built. If fans did not attend games, listen on the radio, watch on TV or purchase billions of dollars worth of merchandise the games simply would not exist as they do today. Baseball would still be played in the sandlot.

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa (from left to right) are all on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year. Photo courtesy of AP.

The Steroids Era happened because the fans let it happen. The fans took no action, despite the fact that they are the most powerful players in the game. The fans loved seeing players blast towering homeruns and those players were celebrated for doing so. Meanwhile the owners and teams did not deal with it either. Why? Stadiums sold out, merchandise sales skyrocketed: it was all about the money. This inaction created a culture of drug use inside the game that went untouched for many years. Steroids had become a part of the game. We cannot punish a few players who excelled for what the culture of baseball entailed.

The greatest honor for any MLB player is to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Debates in past years over who should be inducted have spurred much controversy, none more so than this year's as steroid era stars Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens appear on the ballot for the first time.

The Steroids Era is known as the time from the early 1990s to 2008. It has the connotation among fans as the sudden emergence of performance-enhancing drug use in baseball, but really drugs were not new. Players took amphetamines and other performance-enhancing drugs routinely before the steroid era came along. It was just much less publicized and harder to prove given that few drug tests, if any, were administered before the 1990s. Hall of famer Mike Schmidt, who made his MLB debut in 1972, said in his autobiography that drugs were available in nearly every clubhouse. Tony Gwynn, who is also in Cooperstown, estimated that 50 percent of players used amphetamines.

Not only were performance-enhancing drugs in baseball not new but where was the unfair advantage if there were juiced batters, juiced pitchers and juiced fielders? While steroids are often associated with hitting home runs, it was not just the hitters using them. Pitchers, most notably Clemens, were just as big a part of the steroid era as hitters. Bonds, Sosa and Clemens didn't have an unfair advantage over opponents. While a significant proportion of the players in the league were using performance-enhancing drugs, it was Bonds, Sosa and Clemens who set the records. They were simply the best of their era just as Babe Ruth was the best of his, Willie Mays the best of his and Bob Gibson the best of his.

Bonds, Sosa and Clemens are icons of the game of baseball. Bonds is the MLB's all time homerun leader and the only player ever to hit over 70 homeruns in a season. Sosa is one of only eight players ever to reach 600 homeruns (along with Bonds) and he also hit 60 homeruns in a single season three times during his career. Clemens had 4, 672 strikeouts over the course of his career, fourth all time, and won seven Cy Young awards, the most in MLB history. Along with their great career numbers, Bonds, Sosa and Clemens are some of the most famous stars to ever play the game. They have all reached the elusive iconic status where even people outside the world of baseball know their names. That is what the Hall of Fame is all about. Bonds, Sosa and Clemens belong in Cooperstown.

Tags: Barry Bonds Hall of Fame Roger Clemens Sammy Sosa

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