Legends declined rightful place in Cooperstown

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Ernie Bertothy

Baseball Hall of Fame voters had their say last week and collectively said “no” to a new era of players that are filling the ballot. And they were wrong to do so.

Much has been said about the players that excelled during a time when performance-enhancing drugs were prevalent. Names that should be considered legends of the game have been reduced to a shameful existence.

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, to name a few, were declined their rightful place in Cooperstown. Put them in the Hall! As a longtime baseball fan, I know my stance seems to be in minority. Allow me to explain.

A separate wing should be created in Cooperstown to acknowledge this era of the game. This wing should provide facts to future generations of fans. Let the fans be the ultimate judges, not a pretentious group of voters who can’t acknowledge Bonds or Clemens, but yet vote for marginal players like Aaron Sele, Shawn Green and Steve Finley. Sele, Green and Finley never made all-star teams more than twice in their careers, yet all received at least one vote last week.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am not a fan of Bonds, Clemens, McGwire or Sosa. But it’s not about whether I like them. They are all historic figures who are intertwined with some of the most memorable moments and feats of all time. These facts can’t be ignored.

The games happened. The box scores exist. Fans attended the ballparks. People watched on TV. If we’re not going to recognize their work, we might as well toss out the numbers from every game ever played in their careers. Obviously, that’s not going to happen. There’s plenty to recognize — the good, the bad and the ugly.

I find it very ironic that the very writers who get to vote and put players in the Hall chose to ignore the very issues that are now causing such a stir in Major League Baseball. The writers could have used their sources and power of the pen to address this controversial topic of PEDs throughout the 1990s — and they didn’t.

Instead we watched and cheered as McGwire and Sosa homered every other night in 1998. Thanks to them, the work stoppage from a few years earlier was forgotten. We saw Bonds hit balls into McCovey Cove with regularity and watched in awe as he eclipsed the all-time home run record. How is it right to now act like it never happened?

Remember, too, we don’t know for sure who cheated and when they did. There was no systematic testing in place until recently. And you can’t penalize certain players and assume that others did nothing wrong. Someone recently said it’s a shame that Mike Piazza is being suspected of cheating and is being kept out. We don’t know if he cheated or not. The fact is, we simply don’t know all the players who were on the juice. Did you think Andy Pettitte took an illegal substance before the news broke?

Since we don’t know who cheated and who didn’t, you can’t discard history from America’s Pastime. The game is filled with imperfect people. We have to acknowledge history — good and bad. What they did for the game and the joy they brought to hometown fans should be embraced, however difficult it might be.

Ernie Bertothy is a contributing writer for the Citizen’s News.