Commentary

Baseball can't hide from its history

Hall of Fame needs to acknowledge the steroid era with a wing of its own

Updated: January 15, 2014, 6:46 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

The truth -- even when it's painful -- is better than a lie. Always. Even in Cooperstown.

It's time for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum to own the game's steroid era with the same vigor baseball revels in its accomplishments.

[+] EnlargeAlex Rodriguez
Joy R. Absalon/USA TODAY SportsAlex Rodriguez should be the face of steroids -- in a wing in the Hall of Fame.

See, once the truth is embraced, it loses power. No longer must it be discussed in hushed tones and quiet corners. We can talk about it openly, and mechanisms can be put in place so the malfeasance never happens again.

Baseball's caretakers should make sure fans know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the game's tawdry performance-enhancing drug scandal in a Hall of Fame exhibit that would be the talk of the sports world. Let fans know exactly why baseball ignored the steady increase of performance-enhancing drugs -- and when it finally decided enough was enough.

We have the Lest We Forget Black Holocaust Museum of Slavery in Philadelphia and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City. None of these museums represents happy times in American history. But history is what it is. It's not our job to soften history or make it seem better than it was.

We learn from history. It educates us and helps us understand how much we've grown and progressed, whether were talking human rights, terrorism or baseball.

Obviously, baseball's PED scandal doesn't compare to slavery, the Holocaust or the 9/11 attacks, but baseball's PED scandal or the game's all-time hits leader not being in the Hall of Fame is a huge part of the game's history. It can't be ignored. And it shouldn't be ignored. There's no need to hide from the truth or pretend it never happened.

That's why players such as Josh Gibson, who starred in the Negro Leagues but couldn't play in the major leagues because of segregation, are honored in the Hall of Fame. So we can recognize segregation, but not PEDs?

You can't possibly tell the story of Major League Baseball without mentioning Alex Rodriguez, the most fraudulent player in baseball history. You shouldn't even try.

You can't tell it without talking about the summer of 1998, when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire made fans fall in love with America's pastime again with a home run chase for the ages.

You can't tell it without discussing Barry Bonds' exploits or those of Roger Clemens and Pete Rose.

The Hall of Fame should create a wing devoted exclusively to great players who aren't immortalized in Cooperstown because they disgraced the game. This wouldn't absolve those players of their sins against the game. Nor would it excuse them for mistakes in judgment or poor decisions they made regarding their careers. It's simply about telling the truth about the game so many folks love.

Based on what we know today, Rodriguez will never be in the Hall of Fame -- despite signing the two largest contracts in baseball history, winning three AL Most Valuable Player awards, and hitting 654 homers (just six behind Willie Mays for fourth in baseball history).

Neither will Clemens, who will surely be the only 300-game winner not in Cooperstown. Or Bonds, who owns the single-season (73) and career (762) marks for home runs.

Rafael Palmeiro is one of only four players with 3,000 hits and 500 homers -- the others are Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray -- and the former first baseman already has been dropped off the Hall's ballot.

Rose, baseball's all-time hits leader, is never going to get into the Hall of Fame because he gambled on baseball.

Unless a new voting system is put in place, or society softens its stance on PEDs, or baseball gets some leadership with a different vision on how to deal with the issue, a group of players who dominated the game's annals will be unaccounted for in the Hall of Fame.

We all know why these guys are being kept out of baseball's hallowed halls. They either used drugs to boost their performance to superhuman levels or, like Rose, gambled on the game.

We watched them and cheered for them, amazed at their athletic feats. Some of us had children old enough to do the same. Much of it was a lie. Google the Baseball Hall of Fame and check out its home page. On the top right corner, written in red, it reads: "Preserving history. Honoring excellence. Connecting generations."

If the Hall of Fame truly wants to live up to those words, it will establish a wing for those players who would've been worthy of baseball immortality if they hadn't disgraced the game.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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