Friday, November 24, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Fennelly: Rules are rules, so no Bonds and Co. on Hall of Fame ballot

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Not by my hand.

The newest inductees for the Baseball Hall of Fame will be announced Wednesday.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have a fighting chance.

They made real headway in voting last year.

This could be the moment when the steroids stigma is put to rest.

Not by my hand.

I'm a holdout.

I didn't vote for Bonds or Clemens.

Nor did I vote for Manny Ramirez, who is in his first year of eligibility.

Nor do I plan on voting for Alex Rodriguez when he becomes eligible.

Not by my hand.

I tried and I tried.

Had my pen right over the boxes next to their names, ready to check off Bonds, Clemens and Ramirez.

But I just couldn't do it.

I know. I've just tested positive for being holier than thou.

Tell me I'm living in a world that never was.

I couldn't bring myself to vote them in.

Yes, there are all kinds of reasons to look the other way.

Former commissioner Bud Selig recently was elected to the Hall by the Today's Game Era Committee — Selig, who essentially did nothing to stop the steroids epidemic.

He's in and the users are out?

I began to check the boxes …

Then there's the fact that the Hall recognizes all the records set and held by Bonds, Clemens and others.

Their records are in the Hall, but they aren't?

I began to check the boxes …

A friend and fellow voter asked: "Can you write the history of the game without these men?"

Bonds, Clemens and Rodriguez are among the greatest players in baseball history. Can't write the story without them.

Can't write the story without Pete Rose, either.

Time to check the boxes …

I still couldn't do it.

Still can't get around the "character clause" in the rules for election.

"Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."

Until they get rid of that clause, I have no choice.

And I don't feel high and mighty or holier than thou.

Those are the guidelines.

It isn't my fault that baseball left it in the baseball writers' laps to clean up this steroids mess.

And there are some arguments that just won't fly with me.

For instance, the notion that everyone was doing it.

I don't believe that. What's worse, to keep a few cheaters out or label an entire generation of players dirty?

There's the argument that players such as Bonds and Clemens were Hall of Fame players with Hall of Fame numbers before they cheated. To me, that just makes what they did more onerous. They were already great. They didn't have to do this.

I'm not saying there aren't pitfalls to my stand. I voted for Mike Piazza last year and for Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez this year, and there have been suspicions about all three.

And someone made a great point about Tim Raines, who was on my ballot: Raines' admitted cocaine use during his career didn't exactly lend itself to "character" and "integrity."

Others point out the Hall is filled with scoundrels. Why are there racists such as Ty Cobb and Cap Anson in the Hall, or boozers such as Babe Ruth? What about the ballplayers who used "uppers" to supplement their games?

Okay, let's make a new rule: Every year, for each player we vote in, we get to vote one out.

In about 12 years, we will be left with Stan Musial playing harmonica to Phil Rizzuto.

No system is perfect.

This one sure isn't.

All I'm saying is I don't think Bonds and Clemens deserve the highest honor their game can bestow. They forfeited that.

Look, it will happen anyway.

Bonds and Clemens will make the Hall.

Not by my hand.

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