The pearly gates to baseballs heaven are beginning to rust, and they can’t keep just being painted over. No more WD-40 will solve the squeaking — it’s high time that baseball addressed the issue.
For decades, who got in the Hall of Fame and who didn’t was simple. If you were deserving, you were in. If you weren’t, well, that’s just too bad. But with the generation of steroid users currently trying to get in or soon on the brink of it, baseball has to take a long hard look at those pearly gates and figure out what it means to get through them.
If the powers that be don’t think you should make it into baseball immortality, then those players should step aside, but the steroid users, for better or for worse, are still a major part of the history of the game.
Children walk through Cooperstown staring in awe at the past greats. Outside of their fathers or coaches telling them about the great players of the past, this is where they learn about the greatest players to ever play baseball. If you don’t let the steroid users in, you’re taking away one of the most exciting generations of baseball.
Fifteen, 20, 30 years from now children will walk through Cooperstown, seeing the greatest names in baseball: Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey Jr., Babe Ruth, Willie Mays. They’ll see the past, they’ll learn where the game began, and where it went. But because baseball holds itself to such a high standard, Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire won’t be in the Hall.
It’s as if baseball won’t take the most beautiful girl in school to prom because she wears makeup. They only want to see the girls who are all natural, no blush, no eye shadow, nothing. But if they dare put a little mascara on, you better believe they are pushing them to curb.
Rodriguez, Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, and every other steroid user made baseball what it is today. Yes, they made you question every single home run, every big season. They made you a little paranoid about every impressive season that a mammoth put up, but they also gave baseball its most exciting summer. They gave baseball popularity. Baseball was the premier sport in America when steroids were running rampant.
I’m not saying that baseball should allow steroids. I’m saying that the best in the game, tainted or not, should find themselves in the Hall of Fame.
In football, players are often suspended for four games, a month’s worth of football, the equivalent of 26 to 27 baseball games, for steroid use.
Brian Cushing, Julius Peppers, Dwayne Bowe, all were suspended at one point in their careers for steroid use, but does football immediately turn them into villains? No, they forgive and forget.
You would think that between a game based on smashing into one another and a game based on smashing a little white ball, the former would treat steroid use as a bigger offense.
Wouldn’t steroids matter a little more if you’re going to be a massive, stacked up athlete, with a helmet and shoulder pads on? Shouldn’t that sport criminalize steroids? Shouldn’t they be the ones that hate the substances?
Baseball is dealing with plenty of issues. Pace of play problems, pitchers using substances to help their pitching, the list goes on, but baseball needs to accept the past for what it was.
Baseball can’t turn a blind eye on some of the greatest players in baseball history. How do you turn away the man with the most home runs in baseball history, and a man who is currently trying to chase him down? How do you turn away two men who hit 136 home runs between them in a single season and revitalized the game after an ugly strike?
Baseball wants to act like none of it ever happened. They want to act like the most exciting time in baseball was just a figment of our imagination.
When and if baseball ever lets the steroid generation in, they can’t just toss them in a corner and call that “The Steroid Era Wing.” They can’t segregate the Hall of Fame. Is that really what baseball and the nation as a whole wants? To say, “Here are the good guys, and that section over there, we don’t really like that part, but those guys are here too. We did it just to make them happy”?
No, you put every single steroid user in the Hall of Fame and put a giant asterisk on their plaque. You say exactly what they did. You show the young baseball fans who Barry Bonds was. You show him as one of the best hitters in baseball history. But that asterisk goes right next to his name, letting everyone know that it all might not have been clean.
The pearly gates to baseball immortality are rusting. Stop painting over it. Get some new gates, and accept it. It’s time for a new era in baseball immortality, and the gates need to show it.