Declaring the “world has become so negative,” this week former Major League Baseball star Barry Bonds said he will be “very sad” if he does not make it into baseball’s Hall of Fame when the new inductees are announced in January. It’s interesting that he would claim that the world is “negative,” considering how many people think he would have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) during the final few years of his career.
The ballot for the 2013 class for baseball’s ultimate fraternity, the Hall of Fame, was issued this week. On that ballot are men with Cooperstown-like numbers but Hall of Shame-like reputations. The induction ballot issued this week includes Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens, men whose numbers late in their careers were arguably enhanced by the use of PEDs. The trio joins Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, who are returning HOF-eligible doping suspects.
The most notable name on this year’s HOF ballot is Barry Bonds, whose offensive numbers late in his career increased almost as amazingly fast as his hat and shoe size. Use of human growth hormone can cause bone plates in the head and feet to grow out of proportion to the rest of a user’s body. According to one book, during his career, Bonds’ hat size grew an inch and his shoe size went from 10.5 to 13.
December is the month more than 600 baseball writers decide whether or not this all matters. Whether 762 home runs will outweigh a big noggin and clown-like feet, remains to be seen.
There are certain baseball writers who wouldn’t mind if PED-popping players were granted baseball immortality. Cooperstown certainly already has its share of “bad boys.” To those who intend to vote as if the Steroid Era were simply a part of baseball’s darker-but-acceptable side, I offer two words — Taylor Hooton.
Taylor Hooton was a wonderful young man from Dallas, Texas with a love of baseball. Taylor had a good arm and dreamed of a professional career as a pitcher. Unfortunately, he felt he needed some assistance getting to the next level. Without the knowledge of his parents or coaches, Taylor started taking anabolic steroids. His promising young life ended in a roid-induced suicide at the age of seventeen.
I spoke this week with Taylor’s father, Don Hooton, about Barry Bonds’ inane comments and the work the Hooton family is doing via The Taylor Hooton Foundation warning young athletes of the dangers of PED use.
Don Hooton told me that a study was published last week in The Journal of Pediatrics putting the use of steroids at almost 6% of all middle school and high school boys and nearly 5% of girls.
“Combined, that’s well over a million children,” Don Hooton said. “About half of young users report that their decision to use was influenced by professional athletes in a number of sports.”
Hooton had this to say about Bonds’ prediction that he’d be sad if the Hall of Fame passed him over: “What is sad is a failure of many professional athletes — role models — to recognize that their irresponsible behavior has led a generation of young people to believe that their ticket to athletic success can be found in a vial or in a bottle of illegal drugs that can do long-term damage to their bodies and their minds.”
Bonds, Clemens and Sosa better be glad that Don Hooton, and other parents who have lost children to PED use, don’t have a vote on the Hall of Fame.
And what of Peter Edward Rose?
If baseball is willing to ignore the Steroid Era, it is certainly time to reconsider the Cooperstown fate of Pete Rose (and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson for that matter). Banned from baseball for violating its rules on gambling, Rose sits on the sidelines because his crime against the Boys of Summer reportedly affected the “integrity of the game.”
“Charlie Hustle” is the undisputed hit king of baseball, garnering 4,256 hits in his illustrious career. Pete Rose accomplished all he did on the field without the use of any performance-enhancing additives except hustle. Sorry, Derek Jeter fans, but no one will break Pete’s hit total in my lifetime.
Fans of the game do not understand why the standard applied to Pete Rose is not being applied to those who led the game during the Steroid Era. If Rose is out of Cooperstown because his gambling affected the integrity of the game, then the steroid users should ride the pine too.
Rick Robinson is the author of political thrillers which can be purchased on Amazon and at book stores everywhere. His latest novel, Manifest Destiny has won seven writing awards, including Best Fiction at the Paris Book Festival.