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Ben Smith

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Put Bonds, Clemens in the Hall

– I don’t know who gets the Hall call today. The Baseball Writers Association of America runs that show, and the only sure thing about the BBWA is that dopey comes in as many flavors as Baskin-Robbins, and the BBWA features ’em all.

So maybe they don’t send any living player to Cooperstown this time, as some people are saying. Or maybe they come to their senses and give Tim Raines the nod, and Lee Smith, too, considering he’s only baseball’s all-time saves leader.

Those guys go to the Hall without passing Go, if I’m voting. A couple of others do, too.

One is named Barry Bonds. The other goes by Roger Clemens.

From everything we know, both have zero shot in their first appearance on the ballot, because too many of the voters can’t get past the PED thing.

Not a problem here.

I don’t care if they were shooting themselves full of rocket fuel on the back end of their careers.

To have a Hall of Fame without one of the five or six best players of all time and the best pitcher of his generation is flat-out absurd.

Here’s why they’re on my ballot, if I’m voting: Because the starting point of alleged PED use is pretty clearly defined in both their cases. And by that starting point, they were already Hall worthy.

By most accounts, Bonds didn’t start juicing until 1999 or 2000, when he realized that chicks do indeed love the long ball.

He was giving us sheer five-tool excellence; Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were giving us bombs. Guess who got all the ink?

Exactly. Mac and Sammy, come on down.

So if the accounts are right and that’s when Bonds took up his romance with chemistry, he did so having already put up seven .300 seasons, knocked in 1,299 runs, hit 445 home runs and won three National League MVP awards. In 14 clean seasons.

That sounds like excellence over the long haul to me. So give the man his plaque.

And Clemens?

If his accusers are telling the truth, he didn’t go hi-test until the Red Sox traded him to Toronto, an even clearer line of demarcation. By that time, he’d won three Cy Youngs and one American League MVP, recorded three 20-win seasons and 252 career victories, led the AL in ERA four times and notched eight 200-plus strikeout seasons and 2,590 Ks.

In 13 clean seasons.

The 252 “W’s” is 48 shy of the usual Hall benchmark of 300, true. But the 2,590 strikeouts would still rank him ahead of, among other Hall of Famers, Warren Spahn, Christy Mathewson, Bob Feller, Don Drysdale, Lefty Grove and Sandy Koufax.

So, yeah, give him his plaque, too. And acknowledge, finally, that the so-called Steroids Era was not the aberration it’s been portrayed as being.

You can, after all, go back 40 or 50 years, and find a generation of players getting through those day-games-after-night-games with fistfuls of amphetamines, which sounds performance enhancing to me. So why a different standard now?

Put ’em in. Stick a line on their plaques that some of their numbers were accrued during the Steroids Era, and be done with it.

Once and for all. Be done with it.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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