Here is the opening to my Friday column explaining why I refuse to vote for Barry Bonds for the Hall of Fame:

I am writing about Barry Bonds and why, at this time, I don’t plan to vote for him for the Baseball Hall of Fame. It is not the first time I’ve written about this and it won’t be the last.

The subject is current because Roger Clemens just beat the rap of lying to Congress, and fans and writers are consumed, yet again, with the issue of the Hall of Fame and steroids. Both Clemens and Bonds will be on the next ballot.

I limit my discussion to Bonds because I better understand his case, and if I write about both of them, I may need 1,000 pages. I write about this subject humbly, tremblingly, with an ocean of self-doubt and with the understanding I may change my mind a dozen times. We already have discussed some of this on my blog. I apologize if I repeat some points.

To read the full column, click here.

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  1. Mark M


    June 21st, 2012 9:53 pm

  2. Johan K.

    The owners of baseball tacidly approved steriod use resulting in the popular homerun binge after the lockout. Tom Boswell writes about the A’s on steriods in the 1980′s. Retroactively punishing players is like now punishing folks for drug use in the 1960′s. Bonds was the best hitter in the steroid era (Caminitti estimated 75% of players taking PED’s) –I do agree that sportwriters should vote for the HOF–the Vet Committee Choices are a joke.

    June 21st, 2012 10:18 pm

  3. Albert Park

    Lowell, at least you’re honest about your opinion. Bonds was dishonest about his game, which gives credibility to your opinion.

    June 21st, 2012 10:50 pm

  4. Tommy CostaRica

    Lowell, I really like what you said in your column, “I don’t like Bonds.” That’s why I am often entertained by your read. Besides being sports educated and in the know, you have great insight and usually take a stance on one side of the fence or the other. You had me agreeing with you on all of your arguments. They are correct on their particular layer of thought.

    There is a different reality as seen in the popular drawing of, “Is it an old lady or is it a young lady?” Starting with the use the word cheat; by doing so you’ve made the assumption it is a forgone conclusion Bonds is guilty and convicted. I don’t know the letter of the law at that time, but what is a steroid? Don’t forget that it was not against the law to use steroids; it’s kind of like what the government went through when trying to outlaw LSD, it was always changing and you couldn’t exactly describe it chemically. Therefore Balco, “The legal steroid!”

    Baseball is a famous for cheating, all sports are. By the definition of cheating it is to deceive or trick your opponent. To “steal” a base. We love the way Galord Perry cheated. Galord said to himself, “Who has the right to tell me I can’t drool on the baseball?” That is also justification for lying about it, it’s personal! You and I would lie to congress if they asked us, “When was the last time you mastrabated?” I would flat out lie and feel no guilt, I’m sure you would do the same. On that layer of thought congress had no right to ask the question.

    Maybe it’s time to change how the Baseball Hall of Fame is voted on? Do they give you writers guidelines on how your vote is calculated? If not, maybe they could define who’s in there and by what criteria? Personally I’d like to see it as just all the great stories of baseball including Shoeless Joe, Pete Rose, any one that statistically qualified and their story with em.

    June 22nd, 2012 6:41 am

  5. Brady

    I still think you’re missing a point. Cooperstown is not just a generic baseball hall of fame….it’s about major league baseball players (well, the modern aspect of it is). If Barry Bonds had clearly cheated in the manner in which MLB describes it, he would not be recognized by MLB as being the home run leader, either for a season or a career.

    MLB is asking you, “here is a players credentials, are they some of the best?” The answer – based on the credentials MLB is playing by – is undeniably yes.

    Until MLB says Bonds didn’t hit 73 home runs in a season, or 762 in a career, he belongs in the hall.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but your duty as part of BBWAA is not to decide the credentials of a player, but to decide whether those credentials are enough.

    June 22nd, 2012 7:02 am

  6. Dennis

    One of the top 5 greatest baseball players of all time and you say NO? No question it is a judgement call. But it does call into question your judgement. It seems to me that you just made Bray’s arguement about why sports writers shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Being able to write doesn’t mean you are qualified to judge. But that is the way it is.

    June 22nd, 2012 7:22 am

  7. Dave T

    Lowell, well written and I can respect your points of view. They are all in valid and defenseable. And I can completely respect that.

    I am curious however, did you vote for Gaylord Perry to be in the HOF? A known and self admitted doctorer of the ball while on the mound. He brazenly cheated and flew in the face of the rules, almost daring for people to challenge him. Yet there he is today, in the HOF. Did you vote for him?

    What about all the players who took “greenies” which are now banned as well? If that list was ever released, did they not cheat? Should they be removed? They ‘cheated’ as well. But there was no rule and certainly no testing for it.

    I agree, in 1991, the then commissioner, Fay Vincent banned them from the game. But the Owners, who then for all intents and purposes ousted him and put in one of their own in Bud Selig, never truly adopted the rule until what, 2003? I am not condoning the players who skirted and broke the rules. They made their choice all on their own. I concede that as fans and a culture we wanted and demanded bigger, better, faster, more. And due to human nature some of our sports “heros” fell victim to our desires and pushed the limit of the rules and perhaps even beyond.

    I do find it interesting though, always have, that the Hall of Fame, that is visited by the fans and the masses, is voted for by sportswriters and not the fans who by and large give the players their fame. I suppose the All-Star game is where the fans kind of really get their vote, mostly, well maybe not even there.

    Again, I take no major issue with your stance Lowell. And I have no doubt that this debate will rage on well beyond all of us as both science and sport continually advance. Thanks for putting it out there for us.

    June 22nd, 2012 8:17 am

  8. Stan

    Its Because Lincecum wont eat..Oh,..now its different huh?.lol

    I get what what your say’in. You know he cheated and you wont pretend you don’t. But you know THEY ALL did. Its like Lowell-you won’t vote for DH to the HOF..even if baseball equates his hitting stats with REAL players who also have to run and catch AND hit.
    But,if the sport itself has said nothing that tells you the DH doesn’t count…then why when MLB also has not said a single word that player caught or admitted or convicted for steroids should not be recognized? MLB hasn’t issued any edict to writers have they?
    They might order you not to Tweet..but vote for Bonds and Clemens? They are fine with that.

    June 22nd, 2012 8:35 am

  9. TonyT

    Would you feel different if Pete Rose were in the HOF?

    June 22nd, 2012 8:40 am

  10. Stan

    One more..this is 2012. The steroid era? we really don’t know exactly when it started..I suspect Reggie back to the early 80′s when he ballooned too. And boy could he hit at 40.
    How can you say no near 35 years of everybody doing it?..Just like you KNOW Bonds used..you KNOW everybody else did too. The ones who say they didn’t? either very stupid or liars or too afraid of shots..if they had steroid pills-or “the clear” then..THEN Hendo and Schmit do doubt would have .(And they could still be liars to this day).
    Lance is another cheat…Flo Jo…all of them..all.

    June 22nd, 2012 8:42 am

  11. Stan

    I take steorids just to be best blog poster of ALL TIMES….

    June 22nd, 2012 8:42 am

  12. Chris F

    What about the players that used corked bats, they cheated, pitchers who used foreign substance, they cheated. So your position is anyone who cheated should not be allowed in to the HOF, going to become really hard to elect the great players.

    June 22nd, 2012 9:25 am

  13. John

    Oh dear….here we go again….

    Ty Cobb, Smokey Joe Wood, Dutch Leonard and Tris Speaker bet on baseball games they knew were fixed. Cobb and Speaker are in the Hall of Fame. I suspect the list of avowed racists in the Hall would fill a full page.
    It’s revealing that we revile cheaters like Bonds and Clemens, but grudgingly admire cheaters like Gaylord Perry. In addition, it’s also revealing that some will denigrate the statistics of Bonds and Clemons while at the same time having cheered them on while they were playing, knowing full well that they were cheating at the time.
    I’m afraid that if were looking for consistency from the Baseball Writers of America, we’re not likely to find it very soon. The last really good sports writer I remember was Grantland Rice, and he probably had some character flaws himself. Of the present group, I like Andrew Baggerly…good man. I played golf with Baggerly by pure circumstance at my home course here at The Sea Ranch some years ago as he was passing through. He was well reasoned and a pleasant playing partner. I like him a lot….even though he appears to have Stanford connections now….mmmm.

    But, I digress. If I want to see who belongs in the Hall of Fame, I’ll go to my grandson’s PONY league game in Santa Barbara. Last weekend, he led off with a gapper in right center that one hopped the fence……legged it out for a legitimate inside the parker homer. He’s 12 and there’s not single molecule of PED in him. He’s my hero.

    I know there are lots of others…..

    June 22nd, 2012 9:29 am

  14. Stan

    Our former Governor took steroids for decades and might still be at it!

    June 22nd, 2012 10:19 am

  15. Brady

    Also Lowell, I thought of an interesting counter argument to your claim that sportswriters never use steroids. Google is currently changing their code to avoid being tricked by the thousands and thousands of businesses that create computer programs to “click” on their site via Google, thus boosting their hits and rising their page to the top of a Google search. I would vehemently disagree with you if you think that the PD, NYTimes, Chron, Tribune, or whatever places have been ultimately responsible for your job have not employed such tactics at one point or another.

    Columnists also use misleading headlines to draw the attention of readers.

    The list goes on. Steroids are gross, no doubt. I do not for a second condone cheating. But the reality is, if you give the average American a button and say “if you press this you’ll be more successful at your job,” the majority would press it. That’s why we buy self-help tapes, and $250 sneakers and dress is deceiving ways for interviews. Everyone is trying to be the best they can; some are trying to avoid doing the necessary work, others are trying to reach a new level only achieved by doing the necessary work and then getting a boost from somewhere.

    I do not for a second condone steroid use. But the only thing that separates Barry Bonds from 95% of the other “successful” Americans, is that his shortcut made his voice sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks.

    June 22nd, 2012 10:50 am

  16. CohnZohn

    Brady, columnists never put headlines on their columns. Headline writers do that. So columnists never put misleading headlines on their columns. That is how newspaper journalism works.

    June 22nd, 2012 10:58 am

  17. KauaiRobert

    What about all of the managers and owners who won titles while PED-using players were on their teams.
    Do THEY get into the HOF?
    Just curious…

    June 22nd, 2012 11:13 am

  18. lameduck

    It’s your vote. Use it. I think that is the way its supposed to work. I don’t think you are supposed to vote based on your constituency but rather on what you think for whatever your reason or rationale is.
    One could argue that the BBWAA is no longer an adequate body to vote for the HOF, but the current reality is such that. So, vote as you’d like based on your criteria. It’s your job.

    June 22nd, 2012 11:33 am

  19. CohnZohn

    thanks, lameduck, that’s what i intend to do. but, honest, this is very hard.

    June 22nd, 2012 11:34 am

  20. Brady

    Lowell – fair enough. The point is, no profession is as honest as we’d wish. Everyone is looking for a leg up.

    June 22nd, 2012 11:39 am

  21. Stan

    You might not answer Lowell. But how can you not vote for Barry when you know damn well Vernon Davis is pumped?..and Larry Anderson,and the rest of the NFL. When you see those 230 pound minus 2% body fat body’s..you have to know just as body builders..that’s chemicals.

    June 22nd, 2012 11:43 am

  22. Dave T

    I am with Stan here (sort of), new film coming out, Expendables 2, with Stallone, Arnold, Couture, Van Damme et al. Think for a moment some of them did not use PED’s and that it boosted their career? Predator featured, Arnold, Bill Duke, Carl Weathers and Jesse Ventura, two went on to being Governors, boost careers? Hmmmmm….

    All good, just saying. Food for thought and fun to debate. Oh, and yes, I will see Expndables 2, and shamelessly admit, I want to be entertained!

    June 22nd, 2012 11:52 am

  23. Brady

    I disagree with Stan regarding Vernon Davis. Football is a sport where 80% of training is physical fitness, 20% is football. Baseball is 95% baseball skills, 5% physical ones. Vernon Davis has literally spent hours a day, 300 days a year, for the last decade lifting weights. And his body reflects that.

    June 22nd, 2012 1:00 pm

  24. Tiburon Dave


    Score one for the adults in the room…

    June 22nd, 2012 1:46 pm

  25. Stan

    Better yet. Let it be known to Barry’s people..that for a new Corvette you could vote HOF. Laugh last…wink.

    June 22nd, 2012 1:59 pm

  26. B-Rad

    You’re around HOF voters all time. I’d be curious as to their leanings
    at this time.

    June 22nd, 2012 2:44 pm

  27. Frank in Minnesota

    Yes, i know it was a hard choice, and if i a vote i would vote for him….but i cannot argue that you are wrong, either…that means no on Sosa, Mcguire and Clemens then….

    June 22nd, 2012 6:30 pm

  28. Dennis

    Frank, That means NO on a whole generation. Who knows who was and who wasn’t. This is total speculation and a very big joke. HOF ain’t what it used to be. Or maybe it is?

    June 22nd, 2012 7:45 pm

  29. B-Rad

    Results of the CohnZohn Bonds/HOF survey based on these comments
    and those on the June 19th Zohn article. Zohners were only counted once
    regardless of the number of comments they posted, and based on my
    best understanding of those comments.


    Last December, just after the Bonds trial, the NY Daily News surveyed
    21 HOF voters as to whether they plan to vote for Bonds on the first ballot.


    (Bonds needs 75% of the voters to vote YES to get in)

    June 22nd, 2012 9:52 pm

  30. Neal


    You have changed your mind? I thought you had said that you were going to vote him in because he would of made it before he became a bubble head.

    June 23rd, 2012 7:54 am

  31. CohnZohn

    Neal, I don’t believe I ever said or wrote that.

    June 23rd, 2012 10:15 am

  32. Stan

    First Brady: Its a known fact that Vernon’s agent and the 49ers fought against testing surprise (OK ,I forgot the technical phrase) HARD. That and looking at Vernon’s veins bursting out of his forehead..a string indicator of chemically overdeveloped muscles straining to get enough oxygen (blood flow) to those muscles. Body builders have had those veins burst after years of weight lifting with steroids included.

    Second Lowell: You read Nightingales USA TODAY article where Righetti,Lincecum and his father admit..HE LOSE TOO much weight?. They say it.
    As a matter of fact if you listen to them Lowell..Lincecum weighed 157 pounds in ST,when he had weighed 197 in mid winter..so that’s not the 30 pounds as said before…that’s FORTY pounds he dropped off.
    Tim now says he’s gained 10 pounds back-167. He needs 15 more I say. But his A’s outing WAS a good one..he got stronger as the game went on.
    Wheres my Pulitzer?

    June 23rd, 2012 11:13 am

  33. Stan

    Sometimes I count on spell check too much. He “lost too much”..not “lose too”. And anything else flawed,uh,that’s spellchecker too!
    My story and I’m sticking to it!

    June 23rd, 2012 11:17 am

  34. Stan

    One last- I heard a comic say last year when he was asked about the scandal causing no votes for certain players? He answered ” The Hall of Fame is not the Pearly Gates”..’”No Peter reading a book of you’ve been good or not”. He’s pro Bonds.

    June 23rd, 2012 2:11 pm

  35. lameduck

    What is seeming off to me is that if you can tell someone is doing steroids just by looking at them, then why bother with testing? Or, include in the test process those that exhibit steroid use signs?
    Police pull over drivers because it looks like they are driving under the influence.
    So if Vernon is overly showing of veins which implies illegal drug use, he should be tested. Or anyone for that manner. I’m a bit confused on the process because if you can tell just by looking then by all means identification of offenders ought to be easy.

    June 23rd, 2012 2:47 pm

  36. Stan

    Because LD there is a gray area to steroid use. Heavy users are obvious,like Bonds-Vernon. And then you have a Ryan Braun who I wouldn’t know from a doorknob if he got into a elevator with me. I cant say if he’s changed since his rookie days or not.
    And users seem more emotional..Bonds to Canseco’s anger or McGwires crying spells. VD cry’s too.”My Quarterback!”..etc.

    Like I told Lowell,he should talk to Bonds again. I bet Barry would be cordial and want to let bygones be bygones. That would confirm my suspicions!

    June 24th, 2012 5:59 pm

  37. Stan

    And not to be heavy..but some I mentioned at their peak use of steroids had a history of spouse or partner abuse. Something you don’t read of ex players do you?

    June 24th, 2012 6:01 pm

  38. mike

    Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

    Lowell has never liked Bonds and its because Barry was not a very nice man to Mr. Cohn. Boo Hoo.

    If you can’t vote for a player to be in the Hall of Fame because you think he used steroids or they used steroids then you have to throw out the last 20 years (at least) of baseball stats, MVP’s, and championships.Its a horrible argument and to make matters worse, writers like Lowell are very selective in who they think the bad guys are.

    Go Bonds. Thanks for some of the greatest baseball memories in Giants history.

    June 25th, 2012 12:55 am

  39. alex

    Years ago when you wrote for the SF Chronicle I voted no on you. Today, I affirm that vote: No More Cohn!

    June 27th, 2012 12:11 pm

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