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Scandal keep players from Baseball Hall of Fame

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museuem on Main Street in Cooperstown, NY (Credit: Adam Fagen via Flickr)

Barry Bonds is baseball’s all-time leader in home runs, with 762.  Mark McGuire was the first player to hit 70 homers in a single season; Sammy Sosa came in second that year with 66.  Roger Clemens won the Cy Young award seven times as baseball’s best pitcher.  But when the Hall of Fame election was announced yesterday, none was admitted.

Why?  Because each has been linked to “performance enhancing drugs” (PEDs).  Steroids were banned from major league baseball in 1991, but testing was not implemented until 2003.  Fans became suspicious in the 1990s when players began posting unprecedented home run totals.  Testing for PEDs has since led to drug-related suspensions for 31 players.

Largely as a result of this scandal, when baseball writers cast their Hall of Fame ballots, no one was elected.  Craig Biggio was closest—the longtime Houston Astros second baseman, who has never been tainted by steroids or any other scandal, fell 39 votes short.  Apart from their connection with steroids, Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and McGuire would be certain first-ballot inductees.

To me, this is positive news.  I understand that players with character issues have been inducted to the Hall; Ty Cobb assaulted a handicapped heckler in the stands, while Tris Speaker and Rogers Hornsby were members of the Ku Klux Klan.  But the steroids issue is different in that it relates directly to a player’s performance on the field.  PEDs were popular precisely because they did what their name suggested, giving those who used them an unfair and illegal advantage over other players.  To grant such players baseball’s highest honor would send a message to athletes everywhere that cheating is not only acceptable but rewarded.

This issue illustrates three biblical principles.  First, integrity is our most valuable possession: “Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a rich man whose ways are perverse” (Proverbs 28:6).  Second, hidden sin never stays secret: “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9).  Third, our character is its own reward: those who choose integrity “will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:4).

Do you think players implicated in the “steroids era” should be admitted to the Hall of Fame? And remember that “nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight” (Hebrews 4:13).  How is that fact relevant to your life today?