It’s wonderful that the Hall of Fame documents the history of baseball, all of this history, even the worst parts of this history. This is the part of the mission of the Hall that we don’t talk much about. We talk about how Pete Rose should (or should not, depending on your lean) be in the Hall of Fame, but Rose IS represented in the museum. So is Manny Ramirez. So is Barry Bonds. Their memorabilia is prominently featured in exhibits in the museum, even if their plaques aren’t (and won’t) be hanging in the Gallery. I was able to point my boys to Rose’s jersey in an exhibit and explain to them who he was, what he did on the field and the things he did off the field which has kept him from the other side of this great building.
As I walked through the Hall, I thought about whether this is the best way to remember players who had Hall of Fame quality careers but whose involvement with performance-enhancing drugs will likely prevent them from being inducted into the Hall. I won’t argue here whether this ban is right or wrong; I simply assume that the ban will continue for quite some time. So long as the ban is in place, players like Bonds and Ramirez are represented by the bats they used, the balls they hit, and the helmets they wore. And yes, if you want to see Manny’s 2004 tarred-up helmet, it’s there on display but it doesn’t tell Manny’s whole story.
If we’re going to ban the better part of a generation of baseball players from Hall of Fame admission, then the Hall should dedicate permanent exhibit space to an explanation for the ban. If it’s cheating we mean to condemn, then let’s have the Hall devote exhibit space to condemn the cheaters – all the cheaters, not just the guys who took drugs, but the guys who bet on baseball and threw baseball games, even the guys who scuffed up the baseball when no one was looking. If we mean to condemn the misuse of prescription and recreational drugs, then let’s devote exhibit space to this, too.
It may be that we don’t agree on the reasons for the ban, or whether there should be a ban at all. We’ve said for years that it would take time to develop the perspective necessary to understand the so-called steroids era. Well, we’ve had time. Let’s present all views and let the museum-goers reach their own conclusions.
If we’re going to ban the better part of a baseball generation from the Hall, it’s going to leave a gaping hole in the Hall’s gallery of baseball greats. Perhaps the big names from the Steriod Era will never be elected to the Hall. That doesn’t mean their stories and stats and memories should be struck from the baseball consciousness. We NEED to tell their stories. You don’t leave a hole in an historic site without an explanation. An exhibit explaining the steroids era would at least give me a place to take my sons, to tell them the story of how baseball was played when I was a young adult. That’s a good story, an interesting one, full of ups and downs, with its share of villains and fallen heroes. A story worth telling.
Jason Rosenberg is the founder and editor of ESPN’s Sweetspot Network NY Yankees affiliate: It’s About The Money. You can follow him on Twitter and his team on Facebook. Larry Behrendt also contributed to this article and can also be followed on Twitter.