Across sports, a familiar topic of discussion arises every time a valuable player calls it quits: Is he a Hall-of-Famer?
Unfortunately, the answer is getting tougher to answer over time, as each sport seems to have different qualifications as to what grants access into this prestigious club. Especially in baseball, where the latest era of greats calling it quits comes with an asterisk the size of Barry Bonds’ head.
Many of the great ’90s players hanging up their gloves still have the lingering cloud of steroid allegations over their heads. The latest edition of this saga is the sudden retirement of one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all-time, Manny Ramirez.
Although Ramirez twice violated MLB’s banned substance policy, there’s no denying his career is Hall of Fame-worthy. Even if the voters choose to keep Ramirez out, you could still paint an adequate picture of baseball at the turn of the millennium.
What can’t happen, though it slowly appears to have already started, is shunning all these players from the Hall of Fame.
I believe the Hall of Fame should be a museum of sorts, featuring anything and everything memorable from the sport. How could you take your kid to Cooperstown 20 years from now and try to explain to him or her why no one of relevance is in the Hall from 2005 to 2015?
There’s going to be a gaping hole left void by the likes of Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Ramirez. There’s no chance you could accurately decipher what happened in this era if you didn’t allow them to be there.
For example, the Hall of Fame includes Pete Rose’s bat from his record-breaking 4,192 hit, yet Rose himself was kept out of the Hall of Fame for betting on baseball.
Disallowing him and other incidents like the Steroid Era and the Black Sox Scandal from the Hall is like leaving out the Holocaust from history books. Although these things shouldn’t have happened, people need to know about them so we all can move forward. Not including them is being shortsighted to the strides each professional sports organization has made since their inception.
The Hall of Fame should be a place to go for a weekend and learn the entire history of the game. If I go to Springfield, Mass., I better learn a little about the time Dennis Rodman was on the Bad Boys, or when he was a bad boy for the Chicago Bulls. I want to see one of Tim Donaghy’s reffing shirts and Ron Artest’s beer-soaked Pacers jersey.
I want to learn what happened, why it happened, how the league recovered from it and what regulations were put in place because of it.
The way it sits now, future generations won’t know the impact players like Bonds or Clemens had on the game. Put them in, enshrine them in copper and let it be known what was going on while they were in the league. Give them an asterisk. Tell us who was tied to steroids and who wasn’t.
Hell, give us a replica of Bonds in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform and a San Francisco Giants uniform, and we’ll make our own decisions.
If you don’t inform future generations about our mistakes, then those who don’t learn from history are sure to repeat it.