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Talking to Tony About Barry
by Asher B. Chancey, Baseball Evolution
March 11, 2006

Tony - Whats up Asher,

I was wondering when ever you update your top 100 are you going to leave bonds in the same spot? Also I know Maris' 61 has been broken over and over again don't you think that its a little under appreciated knowing that the three players that have hit 60 since then have done it illegally? I think that would be a great topic to debate on or even write an article on it?

Asher - Hey Tony,

Bonds may very well drop, but not significantly - he was an incredible player even before 1999, the alleged first year of his juicing. I might end up putting him somewhere between 10 and 15. I probably won't have him ahead of Mays.

Do you know what Maris' 1961 season and McGwire and Sosa's 1998 seasons have in common? They were both expansion years, and they were both very big offensive seasons league-wide. (Check out Jim Gentile's 1961 stats). To play devil's advocate, we don't "know" that McGwire and Sosa did it illegally. Personally, I think McGwire is guilty as homemade sin, but Sosa is a tougher case. He was still pretty small in 1998, not really bulking up until after that season. Fact is, I think ultimately both those guys did steroids, but I also think that the 1998 season was overall an offensive peak season, like 1961, and that their homerun outburst was at least somewhat explainable.

As far as Roger Maris' 61 being broken "over and over" again, I think the most legitimate assault on his record that he may have seen, giving what we know now, may have been Matt Williams 1994 season, when he was on pace to tie Maris when the season ended after 112 games. To the extent that Maris ever had an asterisk next to his record, I think McGwire Sosa Bonds all have much larger asterisks next to their's.

Tony - I understand that Bonds was great before 1999. Would you put him in the hall? I wouldn't, because I never knew we can vote on portion of a career for the hall of fame. Unless you wanna put that bonds played from 1986-1998 on his plaque and he only hit 411 Home runs with 1223 RBI. That would never happen though. if we voted on portions of career why not put in Jackson and say that his hall of fame career ended in 1918. Im sure bonds WILL get in, but i dont think he should but then again, what i say really doesn't count.

Asher - Well, if you are going to keep Bonds out of the Hall because of the last 6 seasons of his career, then what about . . .

Jimmie Foxx?

Rogers Hornsby?

Paul Waner?

Robin Roberts?

Steve Carlton?

the list goes on. what I am saying is that Barry Bonds makes the Hall of Fame because of the totality of his career, even if you discount the steroid inflated part of his career. Of course we elect people to the Hall based on portions of their career, because players are rarely Hall of Fame caliber through their entire careers!

Tony - Sure guys like foxx and carlton had bad years towards the end of their careers but, they didn't cheat in the last six years. If your gonna pretty much cancel out what Bonds did the last six years (which was illegal) why not put Joe Jackson in? I'm not saying that bonds wasn't going to make it, but he did cheat and he should get punished along with Jackson and Rose. Also i think we'll get an idea if Bonds goes in or not depending on if McGwire goes in or not, or how easily he gets in or if he just made the cut.

Asher - Well, the one thing you must consider is "in on the first ballot." These guys are no doubt Hall of Famers, but the real question is whether they will get in on the first ballot. And yes, McGwire will be a good litmus test for whether Bonds is going to make it in on the first ballot.

Tony - I wouldn't be able to put Bonds in the hall of fame if I had a vote. He used performance enhancing drugs for 5 years according to this book. We're not going to vote for him for at least 5 or 6 more years and until then I'll be open to any new information but with the evidence we have now I wouldn't put him in.

For the people who say Bonds was a hall of famer before his drug use, I don't think in baseball than you can build up a career to certain point and then pretty much do anything you want and still get in the hall. Whether you used it every year of your career or the last year, like Raffy did you shouldn't get in. If you think anyone can have a career up to a certain point and then do what ever they please then Rose and Jackson should also be in.

Asher - I absolutely think Rose and Shoeless Joe should be in.

Always have. Or they should at least be on the ballot, and the voters should decide whether they should be in.

Tony - but they're not, so I dont see a reason why Bonds should go in

Keith - Sorry to butt in guys, but there are pretty relavant points here that have been missed.

Gaylord Perry has admitted to illegaly doctoring baseballs, and is currently in the Hall of Fame.

Hall of Famer Yogi Berra used a razor blade in his catcher's mitt to illegally scuff teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Whitey Ford's basealls.

Buckets full of Nolan Ryan's game-used balls were all found to have tiny slices in them, while opposing pitchers did not. He's in the Hall.

Norm Cash admitted to using a corked bat in 1961. No one has tried to put an asterisk next to his batting title for that year.

I don't see why Bonds should be treated any differently than the other players who have flouted the rules to gain a competative edge.

Everyone wants to compare Bonds' situation to Rose's and Jackson's, but they really aren't similar situations. Rose and Jackson each violated established baseball rules and were handed with appropriate punishments as per league policy, a lifetime ban. Every year that Bonds may have juiced before 2003, it was not illegal. Every year that Bonds may have juiced since then was technically illegal, but he still cannot be suspended without testing positive for controlled substances. He would, in fact, need three positive tests to incur a lifetime ban, beginning in 2006 (there was not a three strikes policy in '05).

Come on, Asher, you're about to graduate from Law School. It's a disappointing loophole, but it's there, and we can't ignore it.

Asher - (Well Keith, unfortunately, I goofed by posting this conversation before it was complete. But I kind of acknowledge what you said as the conversation continues . . . )

Well, the comparision to Shoeless Joe and Pete Rose is imperfect, because gambling is sort of the holy grail of baseball no-nos - at one time it threatened the very existence of baseball, and for that reason there has developed a zero tolerance attitude by baseball officials. Steroids have not crossed that threshold. In fact, steroids have made the game more popular than ever, they have packed the ballparks, and they have made major league baseball more profitable than ever. Okay, maybe I should say the offensive explosion of the 1990s, and not use steroids as a proxy for everything that happened in the last 15 years (has it been that long?).

Fact is, you actually have a very good point, which is we are being hypocritical by keeping Shoeless Joe and Pete Rose out of the Hall for cheating, but letting Barry and the Gang in despite their own cheating. Shoeless Joe was kicked out of baseball for ASSOCIATING with gamblers for pete's sake - no proof necessary.

So, really we are asking two different questions:

1) whether Barry Bonds would have been a Hall of Fame caliber player if not for the effect steroids had on his statistics. I think the answer is yes, he would have been a Hall of Fame caliber player anyway.

2) whether using steroids is the type of infraction whose punishment should be a permanent ban from the Hall of Fame. A far more interesting question.

I said once, a long time ago, that I think everyone in the world, including my Aunt Molly, should be eligible for the Hall, and if you get 75% of the vote, you're in. I don't think anyone should ever be made ineligible - let the voters vote, and if more han 25% of them think that Barry's steroid usage should keep him out, then Barry is out.

Should steroid usage be a factor to consider when voting for the Hall of Fame? Of course. And while I think Barry will probably still get in, I think Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro may be in trouble, and Jose Canseco has no hope of getting in.

Tony - You're right. Gambling is the "holy grail" of baseball no-no's, but breaking the rules is breaking the rules no matter which rule is being broken. I understand that gambling is more severe. It may even deserve a more severe punishment, but I feel, it shouldn't mean that if you take steroids you shouldn't get punished at all. Even though steroids have made the game more appealing to the eye of your average fan, it's still wrong. There should be consequences for those who use them. Personally, I think we have the wrong commissioner handling this problem and I wouldn't be surprised to see him sweep it under the rug. If only Bart Giamatti were still alive...

Asher - Well, you've certainly hit upon the correct point there, that of who the commissioner is.

The Black Sox thing went down under Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a former Federal Judge.

The Pete Rose thing went down under Bart Giamatti, a former Yale President.

The steroids thing is going down under Bud Selig . . . a former Major League Owner!

Lets play a game shall we?

Steroids help players get stronger, more healthy, etc.

Stronger players hit more homers, break more records, score more runs

More runs scored homers hit records broken leads to more fans support, more tickets sold, bigger tv contracts

More tickets sold, tv contracts leads to more money

More money makes the owners (and the players of course) rich.

Bud Selig was an owner, and was put in place by the other owners. OF COURSE he is going to sweep steroids under the rug. He doesn't want to hurt his, or the other owners, bottom lines.

Landis and Giamatti had the advantage of not having to worry about bottom lines. And, baseball was saved after the black sox scandal by Babe Ruth and the high scoring 1920s, and baseball was saved after the Pete Rose scandal by the fact that it was viewed as an isolated incident by a rogue idiot. But a scandal that topples the biggest stars in the game, that has to scare anyone who has a monetary interest in Major League Baseball. Which includes the guy at the top.

(Okay, Keith, I think we are done now . . . )




Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Asher B. Chancey resides in Alexandria, Virginia, and can be reached at asher@baseballevolution.com.