Major League Baseball is embarrassed that, in a rare turn of events, no player was elected by baseball writers to the Hall of Fame. The snub of two of the biggest stars in the game's history -- Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens -- is a full-blown marketing nightmare highlighting the very worst aspects of the game.
It's a price that Commissioner Bud Selig and team owners need to pay for looking the other way at the start of the steroid era and destroying the integrity of the game in exchange for a few years of higher profits.
Some argue that the character clause has no business being part of the entry criteria for baseball's most exclusive club. Bonds may be a scoundrel, the argument goes, but the Hall of Fame is full of scoundrels. Bonds was clearly the best player of his era, maybe the best hitter ever, so he deserved to be voted in at the first opportunity.
But Bonds' "character" issue is using steroids to affect his performance -- illegal drugs known to cause serious health problems later in life. If use of performance-enhancing drugs were a ticket to the Hall of Fame, what message would that send to young players? Conversely, what better opportunity than this will Major League Baseball have to show how seriously it now takes doping?
We say "now" because it's obvious baseball did not take steroids seriously for years. Selig and owners had a major image problem on their hands following the 1994 strike that lasted
Players' use of illegal steroids at that time was cheating at a level never seen before in the game. Court documents released in 2009 revealed that Bonds tested positive for three types of steroids from 2000 to 2003. Would the Giants slugger have broken those home run records without chemical help? We'll never know.
It would be the height of hypocrisy for baseball to honor its biggest cheats at the same time Selig and baseball owners are claiming to be doing everything they can to clean up the game. Think of the damage it could do to America's youth, who are under increasing pressure to perform in high school and club sports. Putting Bonds in the Hall would erase all the anti-drug lessons aimed at kids.
The Baseball Writers Association of America understands what the commissioners and owners should have realized long ago. Keeping Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and McGwire out of the Hall of Fame is the best way for professional baseball to discourage the use of steroids and begin to reverse its image as a contest of pharmaceuticals rather than skill.