This was a nice Hall of Fame weekend. Curveball guru Bert Blyleven was finally inducted after 13 years of hand-wringing by the voters. And Roberto Alomar, one of the finer second basemen to play the game, got his day. Next year's inductions should be a nice one too. Wonderful shortstop Barry Larkin will probably get elected. Perhaps stars like Jeff Bagwell, Larry Walker or Tim Raines will get their due.
But I'm already looking ahead two years. That, to me, is when we're going to find out just what the Baseball Hall of Fame means after the eras of gaudy numbers and in this new age of skepticism. There will be six fascinating first-time players on the 2013 ballot, and there's no telling how the voters will respond to any of them. They are:
• Barry Bonds, who hit more homers than anyone else and who was the central figure in the BALCO scandal.
• Roger Clemens, who won 354 games and seven Cy Young Awards, and who was indicted for perjury after telling Congress that he did not use steroids. (A mistrial was ruled in the case on July 14.)
• Sammy Sosa, the only player to hit 60-plus homers in three different seasons and who, according to The New York Times, tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003.
• Mike Piazza, perhaps the best-hitting catcher ever, who was accused of steroid use by anonymous sources in Jeff Pearlman's The Rocket That Fell To Earth.
• Curt Schilling, an outspoken critic of steroids who once won a playoff game while bleeding through his sock, but who has only 216 regular-season victories.
• Craig Biggio, who won four Gold Gloves as a second baseman and had 3,060 hits, but who took 20 seasons to reach that mark.
There's never been a class like this. For all of the arguments that the Baseball Hall of Fame has sparked, there's always been a certainty about the place. Baseball really invented the whole idea of the Hall of Famer, and that notion became a part of the game. Everyone understood that when you were watching Tony Gwynn or George Brett or Tom Seaver play, you were watching Hall of Famers. When Mariano Rivera comes out of the bullpen to close a game, parents can say to their children, "That guy will someday be in the Hall of Fame."
But things are cloudy these days. Bonds and Clemens are two of the best ever to play the game. If not for the steroid noise that surrounds them, you could make a viable argument that they are simply the two best ever.