2005-02-19

Rose, Bonds and the Hall


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As players begin trickling in for Spring Training, we look ahead and realize that this year could see Barry Bonds take Hank Aaron's place as the sport's slugging king, and Pete Rose's place as its prime villian. Such is the road MLB has mapped out for itself. A shining moment which should bring renewed interest and fan support will instead serve to intensify the debate over steroids and the legitimacy of every offensive milestone posted over the past decade.

In a recent poll commissioned by ESPN, only about 1 in 4 fans gave Bonds' claim that he was unaware he was being given steroids the benefit of the doubt. They were much more evenly divided on whether or not Bonds belongs in the Hall of Fame. Not surprisingly, comparisons to MLB's chief fallen angel, Pete Rose are becoming part of the discussion.

Personally, I'd give the nod to Rose before Bonds. Rose's sins, however, did not contribute to the on-field accomplishments that make him Hall material. Take away the gambling and Rose is still the all-time hits leader, and one of the best players in history. Take away the juice and Bonds is a declining slugger, a member of the 500-Home Run Club, and someone who has to annually choose between DH for an AL also-ran and retirement.

Enough of the comparison. Personally, I wouldn't put either man in the Hall. The actions of both men threaten the sport's integrity - integrity being what makes a game worth following. MLB is justified in doing anything and everything necessary to defend the foundation of its product. Problem is, in recent years those who are vested in the success of the game haven't taken this responsibility seriously.

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