There’s a month and a week to go until the Baseball Hall of Fame vote is revealed.

That means there’s a month and a week to go until we find out if the Baseball Writers Association of America has grown up.

Drew Bonifant column photo

If it has, then Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Manny Ramirez will be inducted with votes to spare. They’ll have their plaques set up on their own place on the wall of the gallery in Cooperstown. A note saying “Sorry for the wait” isn’t required, but it would be nice.

It would mean the BBWAA has grown up, because so far, the only thing that’s been keeping those three out of the Hall has been petty vindictiveness and a childlike grudge. It’s like something out of a teen movie. We didn’t like what you did, so we’re making sure we keep you out of the club.

This time, enough is enough. The Hall of Fame is meant to celebrate the history of baseball. You celebrate that history by commemorating the sport’s most special players, the ones whose contributions to it were unforgettable. And the truth is that the injustice isn’t giving Bonds, Clemens and Ramirez a place alongside those who made the cut. It’s pretending you have a comprehensive collection of those names without including theirs.

Bonds might be the greatest player of all time. He’s the greatest of the last 50 or 60 years without question. He was first the prototypical five-tool player, the game’s best blend of power and speed while annually playing Gold Glove defense in left field, and he then became the game’s best hitter since Babe Ruth. Maybe even including Ruth. Ruth didn’t have to hit 100 mile-per-hour fastballs, like the one Bonds hit off Eric Gagne for his 662nd home run in 2004.

Go beyond the stats, the 762 home runs or the 1.051 OPS for his career or the seven MVPs, all of which are absurd. Look at the intimidation factor. We’ve never in our lifetimes seen anyone fear a hitter the way teams came to fear Bonds. Even with the help of the ‘S’ word — I’ll get to that later — Bonds never seemed to miss pitches. Your best stuff couldn’t get him out. Teams with their best pitchers on the mound just stopped trying. He had a .609 on-base percentage at 39 years old. The ‘S’ word alone doesn’t do that for you.

The counterpart to Bonds, Clemens might be the best pitcher of all time. The record for most Cy Young Awards when Clemens began his career in 1984 was four, by Steve Carlton. Clemens won seven. Four were won at 34 and older. And a real argument can be made for Ramirez as the best right-handed hitter the game has seen. A .312 average, 555 home runs and nine-year stretch in which he averaged .318, 40 home runs and 127 RBIs support that case, as does the 2004 World Series MVP’s proven reputation as a nightmare at the plate in the highest-pressure spots.

The point of the resume recitation is to explain why these are not just great players, but why they’re players without whom the Hall of Fame is incomplete.

And we know the reason the Hall of Fame doesn’t include them. That ‘S’ word. Steroids. They cheated, at least allegedly. Ramirez officially, with Bonds’ and Clemens’ convictions coming via their associations with steroid-dealing associations and trainers, not to mention their inflated physiques and barrel chests.

To which, the answer once again is this. Grow up.

The notion of drug-taking baseball players being a few obvious bad apples is long outdated. Steroids were rampant. They were everywhere. It was just a stretch of time where the sport and everyone associated with it completely dropped the ball, and it needs to be evaluated as such. The idea of trying to separate those who definitely took steroids from those who likely didn’t is a losing battle and a pointless endeavor.

It’s why I’m of the thinking that steroids should be taken out of consideration when weighing Hall of Fame classes. Hold players of the 1990s and 2000s to higher standards as far as their stats are concerned, sure. Evaluate someone from that era with 500 home runs the way you’d evaluate someone from another era with 400-425. That’s fair. To use steroids as a disqualifier, though, is to invalidate the bulk of an entire generation of players and, invariably, let some users in who weren’t clean, they just never got caught.

And besides, the reason Bonds, Clemens and Ramirez aren’t in isn’t merely because they cheated. It’s because they’re deemed to have made a mockery of the sport in the process. Bonds shattered hallowed home run records and seemed to sully pure, untainted milestones. Clemens did the same thing, breezing to Cy Young Awards and posting numbers that so obviously didn’t add up. Ramirez was caught multiple times, turning in a positive test, then apologizing and getting busted again, turning him from someone who simply made a mistake into the dreaded “repeat offender.”

And, for the last time: Grow up.

Cheating is wrong. That’s why there are suspensions. But in an era of cheaters, these were still the players who were head and shoulders above everyone else. Whose talent and ability were beyond debate. That’s what the Hall of Fame should reward, and what it is missing.

It’s not going to get easier. Wait until David Ortiz is eligible. And Alex Rodriguez. Voters will have a choice. They can continue to stonewall the game’s legends, keeping up that principle of payback and adding to the pile of Cooperstown’s conspicuous absences.

Or, they can accept the truth: That this was an era of mistakes, but nevertheless, an era in baseball history. And one that saw some of the greatest players we’ve ever seen.

Now would be a good time to start.

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