The elephant is about to step into the room.
This "elephant" is a Hall of Fame ballot that will include first-timers Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, and... Barry Bonds, all of whom have been linked -- fairly or unfairly, and I make no accusations here -- to steroid or PED usage.
Bonds spoke out recently in an interview with MLB.com's Barry Bloom on the Hall of Fame issue:
MLB.com: The Hall of Fame vote is coming up with you on the ballot for the first time. How do you feel about that?
Bonds: I respect the Hall of Fame, don't get me wrong. I really, really, really respect the Hall of Fame. And I think we all do. I love the city of San Francisco and to me that's my Hall of Fame. I don't worry about it because I don't want to be negative about the way other people think it should be run. That's their opinion, and I'm not going to be negative. I know I'm going to be gone one day. If you want to keep me out, that's your business. My things are here in San Francisco. These are the people who love me. This is where I feel I belong. This is where I want to belong. If [the voters] want to put me in there, so be it, fine. If they don't, so be it, fine.
MLB.com: Do you feel you belong in the Hall?
Bonds: Oh, without a doubt. There's not a doubt in my mind.
According to the book "Game of Shadows", which detailed accusations against Bonds, he began doing PEDs after the 1998 season, supposedly because he was jealous of the attention Sosa and Mark McGwire got that year. Through 1998 -- 13 seasons -- Bonds hit .290/.411/.556 with 411 home runs and 445 stolen bases. He was an eight-time All-Star, had won three MVP awards (and finished in the top five of balloting four other times), and helped lead his teams to four postseasons, although he had a reputation as not performing in October (to that point, he had hit .200 in 80 postseason at-bats, with one home run).
Those are Hall of Fame numbers and achievements. Had Bonds never played a single game after 1998, he'd have been a Hall of Famer, maybe even a first-ballot choice (his best comparable players for around the age he was in 1998 were Frank Robinson, Mickey Mantle and Ken Griffey Jr., two HoFers and one who will be).
Bonds was pretty blunt in the interview regarding the voting process:
MLB.com: How do you think the writers are going to handle you and the players of your era who are [linked] to performance-enhancing drugs?
Bonds: You have to vote on baseball the way baseball needs to be voted on. If you vote on your assumptions or what you believe or what you think might have been going on there, that's your problem. You're at fault. It has nothing to do with what your opinion is. Period. If that's the case, you better go way, way back and start thinking about your opinions. If that's how you feel life should be run, I would say then you run your Hall of Fame the way you want to run your Hall of Fame. That's what I think. That's my personal opinion. If you want to do the Hall of Fame the way the Hall of Fame is supposed to be done, then you make the right decision on that. If you don't, that's on you. To stamp something on your assumptions, it doesn't work for me.
It seems as if he now wants to be validated for everything he achieved on the baseball field. It's quite possible that Bonds is the best all-around player in the history of baseball. That could be true whether or not you think his final nine seasons were tainted.
Five years ago, Bonds was pretty emphatic about his record-breaking home run ball:
Barry Bonds would boycott Cooperstown if the Hall of Fame displays his record-breaking home run ball with an asterisk.
That includes skipping his potential induction ceremony.
"I won't go. I won't be part of it," Bonds said in an interview with MSNBC that aired Thursday night. "You can call me, but I won't be there."
That's a difficult thing to decide. The numbers are what they are. You can't say that Bonds didn't break the home-run record, because he did. You can believe it was done with artificial help, or not; that might have to be decided by future generations. If the Hall displays that baseball without mentioning the controversy, it will be ignoring history.
At some point, those who vote for Hall induction are going to have to come to terms with what happened between about the early-1990s and mid-2000s, the approximate dates we might label the "Steroid Era", and decide what to do about the stars of that era in terms of Hall induction. In the MLB.com interview, Bonds has essentially thrown down the gauntlet and dared the writers to, in effect, "do the right thing" and induct the great players of that era. At the same time, the Hall, or more correctly, the Museum attached to the Hall of Fame, cannot ignore what happened then. It is part of baseball history, for better or worse, and needs to be acknowledged.
Will they do it, on the ballots due in December and to be announced next January? Will they make these players wait, but eventually vote them in? Or will they reject them forever? What would you do? Vote in the poll.