Small Minds Prevail for Now, but Barry Bonds Was the Greatest Hitter of All Time
In three years the baseball Hall of Fame will transition from being a museum celebrating the history of the greatest players and feats in baseball to being a museum celebrating the favorite players of an egotistical media.
The failure to induct the greatest and most exciting players of all time into the Hall of Fame is a travesty, and it has rendered both the Hall of Fame and the media that selects its members less credible and less respectable.
Whitewashing history has never worked well for any civilization which has tried it. The baseball media today are imposing a self-defined and ultimately undefinable moral test on players, as though baseball players play and succeed in baseball because they are good people rather than great baseball players. Many a nice man has played the game and not been good enough for the Hall of Fame, and many naughty deeds have been perpetrated by individuals already in the Hall of Fame. Sacrificing one's body for the sake of entertainment is rewarded in many facets of life; not, apparently in baseball.
Not only did the excitement of home run chases, likely but unverifiably fueled by steroids, save the sport following the strike of 1994, but for most of us the feats we watched in that era will forever be the most memorable and impressive things we ever watch on a field of play. That the achievements of these players will not be commemorated in a museum supposedly dedicated to baseball history because sportswriters did not like them is not only wrong, it's evil. Eternal egoists, sportswriters are systematically stealing memories from fans, and the game will suffer for it.
It is odd that sportswriters have chosen the steroid hill on which to fall on their swords given that many players currently in the Hall of Fame played under far more inequitably favorable conditions: Babe Ruth faced easy pitching, no black and nearly no international players. The players he faced made ordinary salaries, likely meaning he never faced many talented players who in the modern era would be drawn to play baseball rather than do something else. The opposition in the 1920s was certainly not as strong as the opposition in the "steroid era". Not only was the opposition of the past easier, but the litany of unfair advantages players have sought through unprecedented diets, drugs, chewables, equipment, scouting, and preparation regimens is an endless list not at all confined to steroids. Some of the most iconic players of the game are rumored to have participated in a wide variety of questionable actions in order to gain an edge.
In 2004 Barry Bonds got on base 61% of the time he came to the plate, still what I would contend to be the most remarkable feat of the modern era. He holds the single-season AND career home run records, stole over 500 bases, and played for 22 years. His home runs were not just hits, but towering blasts that captivated the imagination. No player has ever imposed so much fear into opposing pitchers. Along with Roger Clemens and Aroldis Chapman, he is he most exciting player I have ever seen play. I am glad to have gotten to see him play. That some sportswriters feel the collective memory of the game would be better without him is unthinkable, not to mention an unforgivable attempt to conceal reality that aches of 20th century authoritarianism.
A list of the sportswriters who have chosen to deny history is available at this link:
To these reporters who have forgotten that baseball is part of the entertainment industry, and who would rather baseball not be entertaining, shame on you.
To the reporters who have chosen to make their Hall of Fame selections based on personal biases, cherrypicking who they "think" may or may not have used steroids as a criterion for induction, shame on you. Your callous disregard for verifiability is that of a pitchfork mob, consistent with the broader media's affection for instigating contemporary "shaming" and "outrage" cycles at the expense of usually innocent people, but it is still wrong.
And to the reporters who are responsible for the Hall of Fame inductions of grossly unqualified individuals (at least they did not vote for the induction of Harold Baines) rather than qualified ones, and who will work tirelessly to ensure mediocrity is eternally rewarded over achievement (see: Derek Jeter's forthcoming 2020 unanimous induction), below is a list of the greatest hitters of all time, ranked by OPS+.
Babe Ruth: 206
Ted Williams: 191
Barry Bonds: 182
Lou Gehrig: 179
Rogers Hornsby: 175
Mike Trout: 175
Mickey Mantle: 172
Shoeless Joe Jackson: 170
Ty Cobb: 168
Jimmie Foxx: 163
Mark McGwire: 163
Stan Musial: 159
Hank Greenberg: 158
Roger Maris did not live long enough to see the asterisk removed from his record. It, too, was the product of egotistical sportswriters who denied the "legitimacy" of history. Luckily, in time, the tantrums of small minds fade and history usually prevails. Hopefully Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens live long enough to weather the tantrums of today's writers. The sanctity of the Hall of Fame may, however, be beyond saving.