Hall vote about greatness, not perfection

It is easy to dislike

Barry Bonds for his churlish behavior. It is impossible to keep him out

of the Hall of Fame.

I voted for 10 players — the

maximum allowed — on my 2013 Hall of Fame ballot, and Bonds was one of

them. He was not the only one whose name has been linked to

performance-enhancing substances. I also voted for Jeff Bagwell, Craig

Biggio, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Sammy

Sosa, Alan Trammell and Larry Walker.

I have voted

five times since accruing the BBWAA’s required 10 years of covering

major league baseball, and I believe I have been consistent throughout.

Among the current class, I have voted for Bagwell, Raines and Walker

every year since they have been eligible. Their numbers are that good,

especially considering the power/speed combination.

I

have never voted for Mark McGwire nor Lee Smith for the same reason. To

me, the numbers are not quite there. Lately, I have come to believe

that Trammell deserves enshrinement for his body of work. He was a

consummate two-way shortstop, one of the best of his generation, and he

should not be penalized just because defense is harder to quantify than

offense.

Without question, this was the most

difficult vote because it was the first involving a number of stars who

played in the steroid era. This time, the voters were asked to sift

through a second line of criteria.

Who cheated? When?

How often?

And, left unasked, how many of their

peers also indulged?

I am not one for omissions of

conscience or protest abstentions. We voters had five years to think

about this group, and that was enough time for me. Bagwell, Biggio,

Bonds, Clemens — on down the list — were the best players of their

generation, in my view.

They did not perform in a

vacuum. None has been found guilty of abuse, as damning as “Game of

Shadows” was to Bonds.

Bonds is one of the three

best left fielders in baseball history, along with Ted Williams and

Rickey Henderson. He deserves his place. Some cheats already have

plaques in Cooperstown. Players who doctored the ball are in. Players

who used amphetamines are in.

The Hall is not a

gentleman’s club, at least in the old sense of the term, and I don’t

need it to be. There is no class valedictorian. It is for the game’s

best players, and if they come with warts, so be it. It is not a beauty

contest, either.