Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz were all eligible for the first time. They deserve the honor because they dominated the hitters during a period when offense ruled the game. Johnson and Martinez won multiple Cy Young Awards and led their teams to unlikely world championships. Spending 20 years of his 21-year career with the Atlanta Braves, Smoltz transitioned from being a dominating starter to a closer, and he joins longtime rotation mates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, who were enshrined last July.
Going into the Hall of Fame is the biggest honor anyone in the sport can receive. Since it's so special, the process is and should be difficult. The Baseball Hall of Fame should have the best who have participated in the sport over its long history. Mostly it does, with two exceptions.
Pete Rose, who has the most hits in baseball history, and Barry Bonds, who has the most home runs, should be enshrined. They probably won't be during their lifetimes, because they don't meet the character requirements.
Every baseball fan wants to think every player has good moral character, but that is not always the case. All of us love rooting for players such as Lou Gehrig and Sandy Koufax, but most players and people don't have their high moral character.
I can't imagine the Hall of Fame without Babe Ruth, who probably is the best baseball player of all time, but he lacked personal discipline. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis suspended Ruth for not following his rules. Ruth's undisciplined lifestyle often angered the teams that he played for, but seldom interfered with his performance on the field.
Ty Cobb was an excellent player, tallying the most hits in the game until September 1985, when Rose passed him. Cobb's highly competitive attitude was prized by the Tigers, but he was argumentative and mean to his opposition. He was also a racist, and he wasn't a good person. He was a member of the first class to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, getting the most votes.
I don't condone gambling. I think no one who is in baseball should gamble. I celebrated when then-Commissioner Bart Giamatti suspended Rose from baseball for life when it was discovered he made bets on his own team.
Rose was never my favorite player, and I disliked watching him play. He was a member of the Cincinnati Reds during the 1970s when they were the biggest rivals of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but that wasn't the reason that I disliked him. His enthusiastic play rubbed me the wrong way, since I thought he was showing off. No one needs to run to first on a walk unless a wild pitch is involved, but Rose always did to show people that he was giving his all on every play. I didn't think it was necessary or good sportsmanship.
For many years, I didn't think Rose should be in the Hall of Fame, no matter what he accomplished in baseball as a player. After all, he broke the rules and needed to be punished. Over the years, with added maturity, I came to understand that people sometimes make mistakes, and we need to forgive them for their mistakes. I still don't like Rose, but what he accomplished as a hitter shouldn't be forgotten. Putting him into the Hall of Fame with an asterisk on his plaque, explaining that he was banned from baseball for life for gambling, wouldn't lessen the importance of the Hall of Fame induction for people who followed the rules.
Bonds is a different situation from Rose. A lot of people suspected many baseball players were using illegal substances to enhance their performances during the 1990s and the early 2000s, but Bonds never failed a drug test.
Before joining the San Francisco Giants, Bonds was not known as a super power hitter. Oh yes, he had power with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he was an excellent, speedy outfielder who could hit for a high batting average and steal bases seemingly at will.
Before going to San Francisco in 1993, Bonds seemed to be on his way to a Hall of Fame career. Bonds should be evaluated on his accomplishments before 2001, when his home run total jumped from 49 in '00 to 73 in '01, and have an asterisk put on his plaque, explaining baseball didn't test for any performance-enhancing drugs before '06.
If the Baseball Hall of Fame is supposed to educate people about the game and honor the best people who have participated in it, there is no room to consider a person's character. Both gambling and using illegal PEDs are wrong, but they are a part of baseball history and need to be included in the Hall of Fame.