Last weekend, Andre Dawson--the great five tool player known as the "Hawk"--received his long overdue induction into Baseball's Hall of Fame and he delivered a heartfelt, passionate and eloquent speech that not only detailed his path to baseball immortality but also offered a succinct yet powerful indictment of the performance-enhancing drug (PED) users whose disgraceful conduct has made a mockery of baseball's record book: "Individuals have chosen the wrong road," Dawson declared. "They've chosen (cheating) as their legacy. For those who still have a chance to choose theirs, don't be lured to the dark side. It's a stain on the game, a stain that is gradually being removed."
I wish that Dawson were right that the "stain is gradually being removed" but I fear that the "stain" is in many ways permanent and that the "stain" may someday become even bigger if some of the PED cheaters are inducted in the Hall of Fame.
The recurring theme in Dawson's speech was "Love this game and it will love you back." Much like his former teammate Ryne Sandburg, who was inducted in the Hall of Fame five years ago, Dawson was not very talkative as a player but they both proved that they had a lot to say once they ascended to the Hall of Fame podium.
Dawson is a man of character who never took the easy way and it is criminal that his path to the Hall of Fame was blocked for many years because the numbers that he shed blood, sweat and tears to post were blasted to smithereens by the totals stacked up by PED cheaters. During his speech, Dawson thanked his mother--who passed away four years ago but never lost faith that Dawson would be recognized as a Hall of Famer--and other family members who molded his character and work ethic. Listening to Dawson speak should be more than enough to convince anyone beyond the shadow of any doubt that the Hall's doors simply cannot be opened up to any of the players who tainted themselves and the sport by using PEDs. Who would Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire or Alex Rodriguez or Roger Clemens--and the list goes on, as you can see for yourself--thank if the dark day ever comes that they are selected as Hall of Famers? Their drug dealers?
I don't want to hear any analysis about how good some of those guys were before they started cheating and I don't want to see any projections about how many home runs they might have hit or strikeouts they might have thrown without using PEDs. They cheated, point blank. They turned baseball's record book into something that belongs in the fiction section. They cost other players money, awards and championships. They forced good men like Andre Dawson and Jim Rice to wait years to be inducted in the Hall of Fame (and other good men, like Dale Murphy, are still waiting).
Real baseball lovers know that Henry Aaron is still the all-time career home run king and that Roger Maris--a two-time MVP, seven-time All-Star, three-time World Series champion and one-time Gold Glove winner--is the all-time single season home run king.
I sincerely hope that all of the PED cheaters never come close to being inducted in the Hall of Fame and that in the next few years the Hall of Fame reexamines the careers of some of the stars from the past few decades whose accomplishments were temporarily forgotten as cartoon-sized sluggers pounded baseballs for Herculean distances.