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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

OPINION:

The Cheated Generation finally got handed the check Tuesday.

Their heroes, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, were passed over by baseball writers for the National Baseball Hall of Fame for the 10th and final time — and it was like that moment when the mark realizes he’s just been scammed: Pain. Anger. Lingering disbelief and delusion.


“Keeping … those guys out,” wrote Chris Vannini of The Athletic, on Twitter, “tells my generation that our childhood stars and memories don’t actually count. Just my opinion, but that does more long-term damage than letting them in would do.”

He’s right about the vote sending a message, but the point isn’t about destroying a generation’s dreams. It’s about standing for the truth, painful though that might be. It’s about telling a generation of fans — and writers — that they were fooled and they were cheated. That what they were served growing up was a fraud.

But in an age of fake news, the Bonds and Clemens apologists ask, why not just continue the illusion?

Fortunately, enough of the baseball writers voting for the Hall of Fame 2022 ballot opted for truth instead of a childhood fiction.

There were others on the Hall of Fame ballot whose candidacies were marred by evidence of using steroids — not just suspicions — but the two symbols of this struggle have been Bonds and Clemens, one of the greatest hitters and greatest pitchers of the era. Both were frauds.

Bonds admitted to using steroids — the “cream” and the “clear” in grand jury testimony in the BALCO investigation. He was convicted of obstruction of justice, but that conviction was overturned by a federal appeals court — which led to the Cheated Generation claiming Bonds was found “innocent.”

Hardly. The judges didn’t “clear” Bonds. They just determined that Bonds’ attempt to avoid telling the truth was not material to the BALCO prosecution. Bonds was not on trial — Victor Conte and his crew were — and they would all plead guilty on steroid conspiracy charges. Bonds was not on trial. He had been granted immunity in the case.

Bonds had been charged with perjury as well, but was not convicted of those charges in his 2011 trial. The jury deadlocked on three perjury charges. They didn’t find him innocent. The judge declared a mistrial on those three charges.

Speaking to reporters after the trials, jurors said they unanimously believed Bonds had been deliberately evasive in response to questions about whether he had ever been injected with banned drugs.

“He was evasive throughout his testimony,” one juror told reporters.

Some players used steroids to save their jobs. Bonds did it because he was jealous of the attention that Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire received during their 1998 run on the single-season home-run record.

But by all means, make this guy your generation’s martyr.

Clemens? He was prominently named in the Mitchell Report (you know, Sen. George Mitchell, the man who brokered peace in Northern Ireland) as a performance-enhancing drug user, with his former trainer, Brian McNamee, the accuser. Clemens denied using PEDs. He would be charged with perjury for lying to Congress, but was acquitted in court when his former teammate, Andy Pettitte, “misremembered” what he had told congressional investigators about Clemens and steroids.

The pitcher had a chance to get back at his accuser when McNamee filed a defamation suit against Clemens. But instead of demanding his day in court to finally confront his accuser, Clemens settled the suit out of court through his insurer.

Bonds and Clemens have been represented in Cooperstown. It is the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and both have had displays and a presence in the museum. What we are talking about here is a plaque in the hall.

In fact, the ball that Bonds hit to break Hank Aaron’s 755 mark — No. 756, off Nationals pitcher Mike Bacsik — has been displayed in the museum, with the asterisk placed on it by the man who purchased the ball, Mark Ecko.

Bonds said if Cooperstown accepted the ball with the asterisk, he would boycott the Hall of Fame, including refusing to attend the induction ceremony if he were elected.

“I won’t go. I won’t be part of it,” Bonds said in an MSNBC interview in 2007. “You can call me, but I won’t be there.”

Now he doesn’t have to turn down the invite.

Bonds and Clemens now go to the Golden Days Era Committee for consideration. Fidel Castro has a better chance of getting in.

I voted for Jeff Kent, Scott Rolen and Billy Wagner on my ballot. I didn’t vote for Bonds or Clemens, nor Alex Rodriguez (a two-time loser and admitted cheater) Sammy Sosa (2003 failed drug test list) Manny Ramirez (several suspensions) or David Ortiz (2003 failed drug test list). Ortiz managed to just get in with 77.9% of the vote.

This is my case why.

There are six criteria for election to the Hall of Fame, and three of them are integrity, sportsmanship and character. I take those seriously. Others don’t. Yes, there are those who have been elected who don’t measure up to those. I didn’t vote for them, and I am not bound by every vote that took place before me.

Steroids have been banned in baseball since 1991, when Commissioner Fay Vincent sent a memo to all teams shortly after the federal government made them illegal without a prescription. Strict testing didn’t happen until 2003 because of the opposition to such testing by the Player’s Association. It wasn’t until players were dragged in front of Congress and embarrassed in hearing that the players changed their tune.

The claim that others used PEDs and weren’t exposed are in Cooperstown — meaning who didn’t get caught or were documented users? You mean I can’t judge anyone unless I can judge everyone? Try that as a defense someday.

Steroids didn’t save baseball — a myth. Attendance in 1998 was 70 million, six million more than the previous year. But baseball added two expansion franchises in 1998 — the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. You take away those additional teams, and the attendance in 1998 is virtually the same as it was in 1997. It was 20 new ballparks in 22 years that saved baseball.

But the Cheated Generation has made it clear that the last thing they want is the truth.

Hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.


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