Today is the day many people have been waiting for (or perhaps dreading) for years. The Hall of Fame ballots have been announced, and there are some very big names on this list. You have Curt Schilling, Craig Biggio as well as Mike Piazza making their first appearance on the list of retired players vying for their place in history. However, they likely will not be the ones getting the bulk of the attention this year. That honor goes to the three men who are at the center of the “Steroid Era”, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa.
Doing a straw poll of our followers on our Facebook page, the opinion is split almost down the middle as far as whether or not these men are worthy of entering the Hall of Fame. If the decision were left up to the World Series Dreaming fan base, these three men would not be granted access into baseball’s hallowed halls, as you need more than 50% of the vote to gain enshrinement. That honor does to the Baseball Writers Association, and if the past history is any indication, none of them will be given the honor of carrying the title of Hall of Fame player.
Looking back at the only other players who have been on the ballot who have had their careers tainted by steroid allegations, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, these three men will not even come close to the total votes needed. In his six years of eligibility, McGwire has not received a percentage higher than 23.7 percent, while in Palmeiro’s two years of eligibility, he maxed out at 12.6%. In order to be elected into the Hall of Fame, you need to get 430 votes from the 573 ballots that are cast, or 75% of the votes.
The greatest argument against any of these players making the Hall of Fame is because their careers are tainted by the cloud of suspicion (or in some cases failed tests) of steroid use. Baseball purists do not want to see these men granted access into the Hall of Fame because they were not able to play the game “the natural way”. Because fans believe they “cheated” their way to the top, they should never be given the honor of being called one of the game’s greatest players.
But should these failed tests or allegations be enough to keep any of these players out of the Hall of Fame? Consider the era these men played in, fans did not call the years these men played the “Steroid Era” for nothing. Everything you need to know is in the name alone, a majority of players in that era have been suspected of using steroids to improve their statistical lines. Power numbers around the league skyrocketed during the years of the “Steroid Era”, and that was not due to just these three men. There obviously was a lot of players who went undetected who were using just as much as Sosa, Bonds or Clemens. Should they be penalized for being the best of the “cheaters”? Should the ones with the power to decide their fates cast them out into the cold forever because they were the ones who were caught? I do not believe that is the fair way to do things.
In this era, you should take note that steroids were not a banned substance until 1991, which means there could have been some steroid users and abusers in the major leagues before they were banned. Not being banned, they were a perfectly legal substance to use. Does that make a difference to you? If you found out that Hank Aaron or Willie Mays were using steroids, would you want them out of the Hall of Fame? Or would their use of such performance enhancers be permitted since they were not banned? I am not saying they were steroids users, not in the least; I am just using two of the more storied hitters in the game’s history as an example. So the question at hand is, do you have a problem with players using the drug, or that they were using a banned substance? Just a little bit of interesting food for thought.
While steroids were a banned substance, baseball did not start testing for any form of performance enhancing drugs until 2003 when players took the idiot test. I call this the idiot test, because players were told they would be tested, and the results would influence their decision on whether or not testing was needed in the future. Even with being given advanced notice, five percent of players tested positive for some form of performance enhancing drugs, and if you think those that failed the test were the only ones using anything, you are fooling yourself.
Because steroid testing did not start until 2003, there is no way to prove that Sosa used any form of PED during the historic home run chase of 1998. He may look like a puffed up cartoon character, but without testing, there is no way to prove any wrong doing during his years of dominance, because there was no testing. If you want to use the eye test, feel free to do so, but know that the eyes can often be deceiving.
Does the name Alex Sanchez ring a bell? He was the very first person to fail a test for steroids. Does he look like someone who was using them? He sure as hell does not look like one to me, not when you compare his body to those of the players we are talking about now.
If you want to keep these guys out for testing positive though, how about some of those who were only suspected, but never failed a test? Piazza is often mentioned among names of those who were steroid users, as was Jeff Bagwell. The argument for Bagwell is that his body broke down at the end of his career, and that is a sure fire sign that he was a steroid user, as steroid users tend to have a body that breaks down over the years. This opens up a doorway to hell and a lot of other names of players who could be grouped into the steroid group just based on the Bagwell assumption.
Two of my favorite players from the 90s, were Frank Thomas and Ken Griffy Jr. While they did not rate with Sosa, Ryne Sandberg or Andre Dawson in my books, they were two players I loved watching. In both cases, more notably with Griffy, the body broke down leaving them a shell of their former selves. Was that just due to old age, or possibly due to steroid usage? Should the possibility of use keep them out of the Hall of Fame along with these other men? Can you honestly trust that anyone from the “Steroid Era” was clean? How can you if there was no testing until 2003?
Even with the clouds of suspicion and failed tests, these men should be elected to the Hall of Fame. They deserve the honor, because they were the best of their era. Am I wrong, or is that not one of the qualifications to be elected into the Hall of Fame? As I said before, they may have been cheaters in the eye of baseball, but how many others in that era were also cheaters? Without testing, everyone in that era is a suspect. They belong in the Hall of Fame, for the very reason there is a Hall of Fame.
What is the baseball Hall of Fame after all? Are the hallowed halls a place for the greatest players in the game’s history to call home for all eternity? Yes, that is part of what the Hall of Fame is. The other part is a baseball museum where the story of baseball is told. The Hall of Fame tells the history of the game, shows the time line of how we got from point A to point B. The “Steroid Era” is a part of the history of baseball, and cannot, should not, be ignored. Can you tell the story of baseball without including the “Steroid Era”? Whether you want to accept the fact or not, steroids are a part of the game’s history, as are the players. Even if they are never voted in, they will always be a part of the game’s history, and a part of the Hall of Fame, even if there is no bust or plaque.