No one is quite sure why Hank Aaron suddenly has turned from magnanimous, graying Ambassador of Tact to crusading, get-off-my lawn Gran Torino, but I for one welcome our new anti-PEDs overlord. Maybe this is just a function of old age, or perhaps there is just so much any man can take. Any man who used to be the all-time leader in career homers, that is.
Jeff Schultz of the ATLANTA-JOURNAL CONSTITUTION chatted with Aaron by phone on Sunday from Cooperstown, where the former Braves’ home run king was attending the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. And it was in that interview when the subject of home run records, Barry Bonds and steroids came to a boil, with Aaron getting very candid.
In short, Hammerin’ Hank would roll out the guillotine on all past steroid users.
“My feeling has always been the same – the game of baseball has no place for cheaters,” Aaron said Sunday morning. “There’s no place in the Hall of Fame for people who cheat.”
It started Saturday when he told a small group of reporters that he would be in favor of players from the steroid era going into the Hall with asterisks by their name, indicating their statistics might have been artificially enhanced. One excerpt: “Somewhere on the plaque or behind his name, say, ‘Hey, 73 home runs, da da da da, he was accused of …”
This is the same guy who in February of this year said that Bonds should keep the home run record, and left it at that. There was never any talk of asterisks, and certainly no indication that Aaron thought Bonds shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.
“That’s a different story,” he said Sunday. “If it’s proven that you took any kind of drug or substance, then you shouldn’t be there [in the Hall]. Like I said, the game has no place for cheaters.”
It’s said that when Lyndon Johnson watched Walter Cronkite decry the Vietnam War as unwinable during a 1968 TV report, he turned to an aide and said, “If we’ve lost Cronkite, we’ve lost middle America.” Could the same be said of Aaron’s pronouncement as it pertains to Bud Selig and his limp-wristed approach to punishing baseball’s drug abusers?
Aaron also said he’d like to see the players who tested positive in baseball’s confidential drug tests in 2003 have their names exposed.
“If there’s another 102 players on the list, that would be my position – bring it all to light now and get it over with,” he said. “The game has come through things before. It needs to come through this. If there are a hundred and some names on the list, let’s just get them out and get this over with so we can get on with the game.”
“That’s it,” he said. “We need to bring closure to this.”
As always, I’ll reserve judgment until I hear what Joe Morgan has to say.