Looking at the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot (Part One): The PED Question

12/17/12 in MLB   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Blog Photo - Looking at the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot (Part One): The PED QuestionI have been writing and commenting about the Baseball Hall of Fame on this site for a long time. Admittedly it’s a little strange and more a labor of love than anything else, since I don’t have an actual ballot and I’m not anywhere close to a premiere Internet baseball analyst. That said, it’s fun to talk about and it’s nice to look back through baseball history.

With that context, I can say that this is easily the most difficult ballot I’ve ever dealt since I started looking at the Hall of Fame voting closely. Between the sheer size of the ballot and the controversy surrounding many of the candidates make the 2013 ballot quite the monster to tackle. This year there are 37 players on the ballot, 24 of which are appearing for the first time. You can vote on 32 of those players here (sorry, Royce Clayton).

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I'll have my thoughts on the new players on the ballot, and the returning players on Thursday. Today, however, I feel I must begin by addressing the PED question. The specter of PEDs cast its pall over almost the entire ballot, and almost all of the major players who have joined the ballot this year. Everyone knows the stories behind the names in question: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and even more. I certainly speak for no one but myself on this matter. Everyone has their own individual opinion on what to do with this, and all opinions are welcome to be shared.

There are many that feel that any player connected to steroids or other PEDs from this era should never be allowed into the Hall of Fame. I do not share this view. The way I see it, the vast majority of players from the mid-90s to the mid-2000s likely used steroids. The exact number is not known and will never be known, but I believe that users were all over the spectrum of Major League players: from the sluggers and the power pitchers to the average guys to the utility men and relievers just trying to hang on.

The reason for this was the lack of testing and oversight by Major League Baseball (and yes, in conjunction with the Major League Baseball Players Association). It’s basic human nature. If the temptation to use is there, and there were no obvious consequences, what’s stopping a player? Alex Rodriguez once called the era “loosey goosey,” and while that is a crude and juvenile way to put it, it’s true. No one was watching the hen house.

At the same time, no one is 100% sure of the true impact of PEDs. Obviously, the Steroid Era was a heavily offensive era, and drugs almost certainly played a role. The exact role though is unknown, as there is no conclusive science pointing to the true enhancement steroids and other drugs bring. There were other factors  to the increase in offense, primarily the ballparks that were built, as well as expansion and alleged juiced balls. Certainly a deflation of the numbers of the era are necessary when evaluating these players, but no one can say with any certainty that “Player X would’ve hit Y less home runs if he had not been on drugs.”

The other issue I have is the different levels of suspicion, so to speak. At one end of the spectrum there is Rafael Palmeiro, who did fail a test, and McGwire, who admitted to steroid use a few years ago. Then there are those like Bonds and Clemens where evidence is there and no one believes they did not use, but not the smoking gun of a positive test. Then there’s someone like Mike Piazza, who gets tarred because Murray Chass once saw him with bacne, or Jeff Bagwell, who gets accused because he had big muscles and hit home runs. Further still are players who appear to be future Hall of Famers that no one accuses. Guys like Greg Maddux or Ken Griffey, Jr. come to mind. You can’t prove that most of these guys used steroids, but at the same time you can’t ever know for sure if guys everyone thinks were “clean” actually were. Thus, I don’t believe in picking and choosing. The way I see it, if one player is being kept out solely on suspicion of use, then it’s essentially saying the entire era is tainted and *anyone* from that era should be kept out. Obviously that has not happened.

As such, I can’t justify ignoring an entire era of baseball when it comes to the Hall of Fame. In the end, the Hall of Fame is primarily a museum dedicated to the history of baseball. Can you tell the history of baseball without Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens? Of course not, that’s absurd. In addition, I can’t see how a player with Hall of Fame numbers could be kept out given the uncertainty of it all. I don’t see the point in denying players like Piazza and Bagwell, where there’s no concrete evidence, induction because certain sportswriters have to take out their frustrations about getting snowed for years on *someone*.

The truth of this era of baseball is not great, but if the alternative is whitewashing it like it never happened, then I’d rather have it this way. The best players of the Steroid Era should be in the Hall of Fame regardless of what we know, and more importantly, because of what we don’t know.

Coming tomorrow: A look at the 1st half of the new players on this 2013 ballot.
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12/22/12   |   scquwi1   |   1227 respect

ML31 wrote:
Says the person who thinks their thoughts are the only ones that mean anything....

hahahaha yea OK... hahahahahaha

12/21/12   |   ML31   |   3671 respect

scquwi1 wrote:
You are still full of it.. just like all the other stuff....

Says the person who thinks their thoughts are the only ones that mean anything....

12/21/12   |   scquwi1   |   1227 respect

ML31 wrote:
For the moment I'll take your word for it...  I don't feel like doing the research to confirm or deny it at this time.  But it still doesn't make much sense to me...

You are still full of it.. just like all the other stuff....

12/18/12   |   ML31   |   3671 respect

marcus_nyce wrote:
I think he mentions it was a provision specifically for steroids (following an extensive article in the Washington Post -?- in the late 80's specifically questioning the Oakland A's bash brothers & steroids), not drugs or narcotics in general, that the commish instituted as one of those 'best interest of the game' deals or whatever? I'd need to listen to the podcast again to be more accurate. 

For the moment I'll take your word for it...  I don't feel like doing the research to confirm or deny it at this time.  But it still doesn't make much sense to me...

12/18/12   |   marcus_nyce   |   26946 respect

ML31 wrote:
Hmmm...   That is the first I heard of that.  All I had heard was the owners wanted to test players for quite some time and the MLBPA blocked it every time.  Citing privacy.  Owners wanted to do checks way back in the 80's for the more recreational drugs and into the 90's for the so-called "performance enhancing" ones. 
Seems odd that MLB would allow individual teams to do testing when the MLBPA said "no" every single time the subject came up.  How does Olney claim teams got around the MLBPA's refusal to allow testing?  Further still...  Even if someone came up positive, there was no punishment or even rehab system in place.  Again...  Because the MLBPA wouldn't allow it.

I think he mentions it was a provision specifically for steroids (following an extensive article in the Washington Post -?- in the late 80's specifically questioning the Oakland A's bash brothers & steroids), not drugs or narcotics in general, that the commish instituted as one of those 'best interest of the game' deals or whatever? I'd need to listen to the podcast again to be more accurate. 

12/18/12   |   scquwi1   |   1227 respect

I see what you wrote, then you have Pete Rose, who still is not in the hall.

Insert of Fay Vincent's 1991 memo about drugs to include steroids.

'MLB believes that its testing program is the most effective means available to deter and detect drug use. For admitted or detected drug users, testing will be a component of that individual's after-care program for the balance of his or her professional baseball career.'

Baseball lost an individual who was honestly seeking to preserve and improve the game. He had a definite plan to move forward with drug testing that included steroids and amphetamines. Every owner was aware of this drug policy, but no one would embrace it for the better part of a decade. Vincent's departure constituted the last true and honest effort to maintain integrity in the game of baseball.


so because the owners and MBLPA wanted to look the other way there is no good reason to keep any player out of the hall just because he has admitted, been accused, or had his named tossed around with others. I also believe they shold lift the ban for Rose so he can get in where he belongs.

12/17/12   |   ML31   |   3671 respect

marcus_nyce wrote:
Buster Olney goes into that (ESPN Mag podcast 12/13) and mentions the only provision for steroids dating back to '91 was that a team could test their own players if they wanted too. Obviously no team ever has or did.

Hmmm...   That is the first I heard of that.  All I had heard was the owners wanted to test players for quite some time and the MLBPA blocked it every time.  Citing privacy.  Owners wanted to do checks way back in the 80's for the more recreational drugs and into the 90's for the so-called "performance enhancing" ones. 
Seems odd that MLB would allow individual teams to do testing when the MLBPA said "no" every single time the subject came up.  How does Olney claim teams got around the MLBPA's refusal to allow testing?  Further still...  Even if someone came up positive, there was no punishment or even rehab system in place.  Again...  Because the MLBPA wouldn't allow it.

12/17/12   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

marcus_nyce wrote:
Buster Olney goes into that (ESPN Mag podcast 12/13) and mentions the only provision for steroids dating back to '91 was that a team could test their own players if they wanted too. Obviously no team ever has or did.

I didn't listen to that, but that doesn't surprise me. It's not like anyone in baseball had any reason to do anything about it until forced to.

12/17/12   |   marcus_nyce   |   26946 respect

ML31 wrote:
Surprised in that I am on board with nearly everything said here.  There is currently no solid evidence of what the drug use may or may not have added to the field.  Currently, the only consensus on their effect on baseball players is they may speed up the recovery process.  In fact, many players who have tested positive have claimed that was the reason they used. 

The one tiny quibble is the testing comment.  The MLBPA was 100% of the reason behind the lack of testing all those years.  MLB had wanted to amend the agreement since at least the mid '90's to include drug testing and to set up punishments.  The MLBPA had the power to block it and used it for quite some time.

Buster Olney goes into that (ESPN Mag podcast 12/13) and mentions the only provision for steroids dating back to '91 was that a team could test their own players if they wanted too. Obviously no team ever has or did.

12/17/12   |   onemanrevival

Great start Can't wait to read the rest of the article. My opinion is available via my book, 2013 Baseball HOF Nominees: The Case For 37 Men. The book is available only in the Kindle Store for $3.99.

12/17/12   |   huskerdoug2009   |   2790 respect

If I had a vote for the Hall I would vote all of the players in who I believed made me want to come to the ballpark, no matter what.  That is why i don't have a vote and people like Tim Kurkijian at espn does. Now in their own little way they can feel like they got their guys in the Hall and all "the bad guys" won't get in.

12/17/12   |   ML31   |   3671 respect

(Edited by ML31)

Surprised in that I am on board with nearly everything said here.  There is currently no solid evidence of what the drug use may or may not have added to the field.  Currently, the only consensus on their effect on baseball players is they may speed up the recovery process.  In fact, many players who have tested positive have claimed that was the reason they used. 

The one tiny quibble is the testing comment.  The MLBPA was 100% of the reason behind the lack of testing all those years.  MLB had wanted to amend the agreement since at least the mid '90's to include drug testing and to set up punishments.  The MLBPA had the power to block it and used it for quite some time.