Three worthy baseball veterans were admitted to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday. The voters were right to honor their achievements. Pitcher Roger Clemens and outfielder Barry Bonds did not receive enough votes. Clearly, their alleged use of steroids caused writers not to vote for them. This is as it should be.
Clearly both Clemens and Bonds have Hall of Fame statistics and performance.
Clemens was the dominant pitcher in baseball for most of his 24-year career, with 354 victories and a 3.21 ERA in the American League. Bonds played 25 years and set the single-season home run record in 2001 with 73 and the career home run record with 762. His batting average in his years with the Giants was .312.
Sending them into the Hall of Fame is simply not fair. Many players trained their bodies the natural way and refused to use steroids. They were not competing on a level playing field. If steroid use provided extra strength that put 20 more feet into a fly ball, it could have been the difference between a long out and a home run. If steroid use allowed a pitcher more velocity on the ball, it made it easier to retire batters.
Comparing the statistics of steroid-enhanced players to non-steroid users is apples and oranges. Experts may argue about whether steroids demonstrably enhanced performance -- but clearly players believed they did, or they would not have used them.
There are also long term health implications to prolonged steroid use. Baseball players seemed to have used more sophisticated drugs at lower levels than football players did in the 80's and early 90's. Football players exhibited many symptoms of unintended consequences even while they were playing. As the generation of steroid-using baseball players age, they will be lucky to avoid health issues. Artificially elevating growth and cell reproduction in the body risks the development of cancer.
Teenagers idolize their baseball heroes and want to emulate them. Steroid and supplement use in athletic and weight lifting adolescents is a temptation. Condoning the use of steroids by honoring the achievements of their users sends a dangerous message to young people and the public at large. It is wrong to unfairly accuse athletes of steroid use and damage innocent players with innuendo and doubt. When baseball finds with a certainty that star players used steroids, those players have no place in baseball's Hall of Fame.
-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @leighsteinberg.
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