Between now and then, of course, we'll know how the government's perjury and obstruction of justice case against Bonds turns out. We'll know whether he cops a plea to avoid prison time. If he doesn't, we'll know whether he gets convicted, or walks out of court a free man. And we'll know whether Clemens and his team of lawyers are successful in convincing a serious majority of voters that he is more believable than his former trainer, who told the Mitchell Report that he injected the Rocket with steroids and human growth hormone on several occasions between 1998 and 2001.
Even if Bonds winds up a felon, and even if Clemens can't escape a tarnished image, they still might make the Hall of Fame, because many otherwise rational voters will subscribe to the theory that both had Hall of Fame careers before their alleged use of steroids began. My friend, and respected columnist for the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, Lowell Cohn, is one of those voters, as he wrote in his December 27 column.
But on every HOF ballot, Rule 5 states that "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." Integrity, sportsmanship and character. One could make a very compelling argument that Bonds has failed miserably, on all three counts, that his alleged decade-long use of illegal drugs, and constant lying about it, have disgraced himself, the once-proud name of the Giants franchise and the game itself. And depending on how much more we learn about Clemens in the months and years to come, he may fall into the very same category.
Last weekend, before my wife, two daughters and I walked into the big tent outside A-T-and-T Park to see Cirque de Soleil, we enjoyed observing the beautiful statues of Hall-of-Famers Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Willie Mays. And we wondered whether a similar statue of Bonds will them in the future. That may depend on those Hall of Fame voters.