PED's and the Hall: Time to End the Arbitrary Standard of PED Users in Cooperstown
This will be the introductory piece in a new short series which is going to outline the Hall of Fame credentials of a number of players who were caught up in the steroid era. While I have not doubt eventually Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will enter the Hall of Fame, but what about the rest of the field of so-called "juicers." I wrote in a previous article how the BBWAA is taking their role in this matter too far. However, there seems to be a grimy undertone and a witch hunt aspect when it comes to who gets in and who does not. The writers want to claim they are keeping the Hall of Fame clean, but they have already failed to do this. While some are let in others who had better careers are being left out. What about Sammy Sosa? Why was Big Mac dropped from the ballot? Why are players like Bonds and Clemens struggling to get votes when many in the Hall have similar links to steroid use?
We cannot continue this witch hunt on some of the game's greats because this was simply a sign of the time. The issue with holding players out is there is no verifiable way to prove any of these players used. There are very few "positive" test, and there are even fewer confessions. This was a time where baseball failed as a game. While the attempt to venerate those who did not use was a good idea, in theory, the practicality was nearly impossible. However, people look at these players like they were the only cheaters. Hundreds of cheaters entered the Hall without any flack. Ballplayers, well athletes in general, look for anything which will give them an edge, and the risk, in the end, is getting caught. However, these so-called edges only go so far, you can't juice up an athlete and expect him to be the next Babe Ruth. Look at the Mitchell Report and it flooded with players who put up mediocre stats with the juice. So the fact of it is these players were already special and benefited from a slight statistical bump. The fact that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are not in right now is asinine, the fact Mark McGwire was booted off the ballot was an injustice, the fact Sammy Sosa is still lingering is a slap in the face. Plenty of worthy candidates are being written off because of the vice of the time. I understand punishing those who had a link to this, but to keep them out is unacceptable when the standard is not kept across the board.
While there are former players who have voiced their disgust with PED users, none more loudly than Joe Morgan, a slowly developing majority is growing in favor of letting them in. America is all about second chances, and one of the aspects of human nature is the concept of forgiveness. Letting them in the Hall is not going to hide the fact they used, their image is already tainted. They have paid their price, and it's time to move on. This was a group of players who took advantage of a loophole and exploited it. This is nothing new, and it will be an entirely different case when Ryan Braun's name may come upon a HOF ballot. The line needs to be drawn, and those who entered the league following the implementation of these PED policies there needs to be a zero-tolerance policy with them. However, that time is not here, and at the moment the standard for the Hall is purely an arbitrary standard.
This is All Arbitrary
If the BBWAA wants to continue to state that keeping the likes of Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Ramirez, and Sheffield becomes of drug and steroid use that's, excuse my language, total bull$#!%. Why is this might you ask? They have already let known or alleged users in the Hall of Fame, and it was in the past, but quite recently. Mike Piazza admitted to using androstenedione before it was "illegal" and into the Hall goes Mike Piazza. This again shows the hypocrisy of the BBWAA who let in a player who openly admitted to using the same substance which was linked to Mark McGwire. Though never proven, Jeff Bagwell was always linked to steroids. The reason behind this was his stout physique and then rapid decline which many attributed to sustained use and sudden stop. Again, Bagwell's case was probably one which was acceptable to write off as his links were purely circumstantial at best. However, a similar case occurred with Ivan Rodriguez, but his link to juicing was far more than outsider speculation. He was also named in Jose Canseco's tell-all book as a user. Then there is Tim Raines who was a known cocaine user, so it can't be about drugs either. This standard is purely arbitrary and their so-called movement to keep the "Hall Clean" has failed and there is no longer a reason to keep some of the games elite talents out of the Hall when we have no idea how clean other players in the Hall are. Draw the line and move on from the steroid era.
Who Else Deserves the Call?
So over the next couple weeks will be outlining the cases of many of these players. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens deserve a Hall call, anyone who doesn't know needs to watch a lot more baseball. So besides the obvious two I throw in the ring Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield, and Manny Ramirez. As neither Rafael Palmeiro nor Mark McGwire on the ballot I will abstain from arguing their case, but if Sosa, Sheff, and Manny get in this likely opens up a veterans committee vote for the other two. The election of these five would not only be the right decision, but it would ensure that Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz would close the door on the steroid era selections. Following those two would be the time the BBWAA could draw the new imaginary line in the sand on steroid users as every other player who would be on the ballot would be a candidate who played at least 95% of the career in an era where steroids were clearly outlawed by the MLB.
While we should never condone the actions of these players there was a massive amount of players who were using, and a massive amount of players who have cheated in this spectacular game. Baseball is the one game which reflects humanity and their weaknesses the best. However, I would not argue this level of leniency remains, these players took advantage of a loophole. While we should not venerate these players as those who were "clean" they should be given this honor. There is a growing trend of hypocrisy in the BBWAA, and it needs to end. If a player today is suspended today for PED's, IE Ryan Braun, then yes it makes sense to keep him out. The voices of support for these players are becoming overwhelming, we get it, they cheated, but they are far from the only ones who used. So please keep your eyes open for the coming called PED's and the Hall.