On Saturday, the Hall of Fame slapped Barry Bonds with a dead fish. Players used to get 15 years before they fell off the Hall of Fame ballot. Now they get 10, and the players currently on the ballot don't get grandfathered in. From the Associated Press:
The Hall of Fame's board cut a player's eligibility from 15 years to 10, which gives McGwire a maximum of two more appearances on the writers' ballot. Bonds, Clemens and Sosa, shunned so far along with other Steroids Era stars, can be considered up to eight more times each by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
This is an excellent time to point out that Bonds's vote totals dropped by a point last year, so it's not like this is going to crush his momentum. He was probably going to fall off the ballot, regardless. The only hope was to wait for public opinion to turn and/or the voters of the BBWAA to turn over. That'll be harder to do in eight years than it will be in 13, so Bonds just became the longest of longshots. In eight years, Barry Bonds will officially be out of the Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame is essentially building a British Birds Hall of Fame and keeping the gannet out because they wet their nests. There's a museum that honors great baseball players, and Barry Bonds won't be honored.
"Welcome to the Museum of Presidents!"
"Thanks. Say, can you direct me to the John Quincy Adams plaque?"
"Oh, we don't have a John Quincy Adams plaque. He was kind of a dick."
They will still have exhibits of Bonds's feats, of course. But he will not be rewarded with a plaque in the Players Who Were Fortunate Enough Not To Play Between 1987 and 2004 wing. The Hall voted on Saturday to make doubly sure of that.
If you're looking for longer arguments about Bonds and the Hall, I have those here. Short version: it makes me sad that baseball writers are incapable of putting the Steroid Era in context. Here's how Harvey Araton wrote about performance-enhancing drugs in the New York Times in 1998:
McGwire had the open-ended controversy of his use of the nutritional supplement androstenedione to deal with, but by then he was at 50 home runs and counting. The overwhelming response from those jamming the ball parks enlightened him, freed him from his own apprehension. He had moved on from the imagine-how-tough-it-must-be commentary filling the airwaves. McGwire, with Sammy Sosa trailing behind, was having a blast.
The most beautiful part of his 62d home run was that, at the moment of impact, he was no contemporary churl, taking it all for granted, standing at the plate, admiring his art. He bolted from the batter's box like a wild-eyed kid, and almost forgot to touch first base. It reminded me, yes, of Jordan in Salt Lake City, celebrating his sixth title, 35 going on 15.
Here he is again in 2004:
If all of these guys were clean, why did they hide behind Donald Fehr when the cash registers began ringing after the 1994 strike? Where were Bonds and Sheffield and the others when it took management and labor about 20 minutes to agree on a weak testing plan that was designed to disappear, and would have if enough players -- 5 to 7 percent of the tests were positive -- weren't so arrogant or ignorant that they couldn't pass a test they knew was coming?
In those five or six years, everything changed. PEDs went from something to ignore to something to rage over, and the rage wasn't even well thought out. I wouldn't have such a huge problem with Bonds not getting votes if the discourse on PEDs had been intelligent since 1998. Instead, it's usually reduced to a tone-deaf dichotomy of cheating and not-cheating, which ignores the temptation and pressure that existed for players when using could a) be widely ignored and b) inspire flowery passages like that first passage.
HERE I AM, GETTING ALL WORKED UP AGAIN. The Hall of Fame was probably never going to honor one of the greatest hitters ever to live. Now it's even more likely that it won't happen. They changed the rules on Saturday while you were sleeping, and now everything stinks just a little bit more. Haven't even touched on the fact that this screws Tim Raines, who should have been in six years ago.
Mostly, though, I care about Barry Bonds. I care about the Hall of Fame, too. Just less and less and less than I used to.
Edit: In an earlier version, I wrote the changes came from the BBWAA. This is because I'm stupid and bad at my job.