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Apr
25
2012

Dear Baseball Writers: Get Off Your High Horse

Barry Bonds and other steroid “users” deserve to be recognized for their baseball talent.

Nobody is perfect. Not even Albert Pujols or Ken Griffey Jr.

Neither is Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Buster Posey, Ichiro Suzuki or Justin Verlander.

And certainly those under the steroid cloud are not perfect. Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds are certainly imperfect human beings.

But Rodriguez, Palmeiro, Clemens and Bonds all belong in baseball’s hall of fame.

That “character” clause when it comes to the hall of fame inductions is nothing but a joke. C’mon baseball writers, let’s get real for a second here.

“Integrity, sportsmanship and character” are what you are told to take under consideration when determining your hall of fame vote. Gee, talk about vague. Could this clause be left any more open ended?

First of all, let’s throw integrity out the door right off the bat. It is no secret that a large percentage of professional athletes have extramarital affairs.

Nobody is perfect. You can nitpick on integrity all you want, and you could find a number of reasons to keep somebody out of the hall of fame if you dig deep enough.

Sportsmanship? Well in what terms? Where is the line drawn? Bobby Cox is the all time leader in ejections as a manager but he is a no doubt hall of famer.

Character is more or less interchangeable with integrity. Athletes in general are not your “goody two shoes” type of people.

Nobody is perfect. We all know that. So why can’t we as sports writers and fans look on the bright side and reward the good in players rather than the perceived bad in them?

I grew up watching Barry Bonds play with the Giants and loved every minute of it. And yes I believe he was taking performance enhancing drugs.

But that doesn’t change the fact that what he did was still amazing. And when you look at the numbers, steroids only marginally increased Bonds’ final career numbers.

He was a no doubt, sure-fire Hall of Fame inductee before the steroid controversy started.

The only statistic needed to legitimize this argument is that Bonds is the ONLY player in history with 400 stolen bases and 400 home runs.

And he accomplished those milestones before he noticeably bulked up.

But just for kicks, why not discuss Bonds’ absurd OPS marks.

OPS is the statistic that best quantifies offensive production in baseball.

On-base percentage, plus slugging percentage combine to show us how often a player reaches safely and how many bases they get per at-bat. For those who don’t know, if a player hits a double in his first at-bat of the season he is “slugging” 2.0.

Now an OPS percentage of .700 is about average. An .800-.900 percentage is borderline All-Star. Anything over .900 and said player should definitely be representing his league in the All-Star game.

Before Bonds became noticeably bigger, his OPS numbers were the following.

1990- .970
1991- .924
1992- 1.080
1993- 1.136
1994- 1.073
1995- 1.009
1996- 1.076
1997- 1.031
1998- 1.047
1999- 1.006

We think Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez is a dominant hitter in today’s game, but his career high in OPS is .958 and his career OPS is .887.

Not trying to knock Gonzalez, but just trying to emphasize just how utterly ridiculous Bonds was even before “the cream and the clear.”

Barry Bonds is not perfect but the baseball talent that was Barry Bonds deserves to be recognized as a member of the hall of fame.

Maybe the steroids helped him hit 100 more home runs but you know what? They also decreased his speed and range in the outfield. Performance enhancers don’t magically enhance a player’s performance across the board.

And it’s not as if the Giants were the only team with steroid users. The ratio of steroid users to non steroid users on any give team were pretty similar across the board.

Bonds was “doping” but so was Dodgers closer Eric Gagne. So neither the Dodgers or Giants had any advantage when those two went head-to-head for some of the most entertaining at-bats in the history of baseball.

When Bonds played, he wasn’t even breaking any rules. Baseball had turned the other way in regards to steroids.

So you writers can call Bonds a cheater all you want and keep him and others out of the hall of fame. But all you are doing is making yourself part of the story when that is exactly what you were taught not to do in journalism.

Heck, if baseball wants to put an asterisk next to the names or put something in small font that acknowledges steroids, fine, do it.

But then why not put “unfaithful to his spouse” in small font next to the names of those who cheated their marriages?

Nobody is perfect.

So why do we have to focus on the imperfections?

Can’t we just celebrate the good in these players?

Andrew Bensch writes for TheFanManifesto. Follow him on twitter at @AndyBensch

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