*Sounding Off will be featured every Sunday morning as we address a hot topic from the past week. Feel free to weigh in and make your opinion heard!*
The true effect of the steroid era will be felt for years to come. I written at length about the legacy of the steroid era, but I have come away feeling as though that piece was not enough. There are so many different facets to the steroid era that need to be addressed. Because now that the steroid shock has somewhat gone away, some clear, rational thought needs to expressed about steroids and the future.
Perhaps nothing conflicts me more with the steroid era is how to view statistics. Here we have a group of players, who have used an illegal substance to give themselves a competitive advantage. There is no doubt that their statistics are tainted and will leave a stain over their careers, no matter how significant they were. This much we can all agree on.
But what about those who have never used steroids or at least have never been linked to performance enhancing drugs? Do we now elevate their statistics knowing that they played against a group of athletes, who were putting illegal drugs into their body in the hopes of performing better. There are a significant number of players who still put up great statistics even when faced with chemically enhanced players, who looked more like body builders instead of ball players.
Take for instance, Curt Schilling. The former Diamondbacks ace put up very good statistics throughout his career (216 career wins, 6 time all star) and is thought of in many baseball circles as one of the better pitchers of my generation. However, whether Schilling is a hall of famer or not is a widely debated topic. Hell, Schilling himself does not believe that he should be in the hall of fame!
But should the baseball community re-evaluate how they view Schilling because he performed at an optimal level during the steroid era and by all accounts has not used any sort of PED? There is no telling how Schilling's performance would have improved if he had used steroids during his career or if the rest of baseball had been clean. But the fact remains that Schilling put up fantastic numbers as a clean athlete. That's damn impressive.
If Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Roger Clemens are going to be excluded from the hall of fame because of performance enhancing drugs, then I think there will be "clean" players who will gain credit with hall voters because of their performance during the steroid era. Schilling is one of the guys who I can see entering the hall of fame based both on his performance and that he was clean.
It'll be hard to figure out exactly who was clean and who wasn't during this era. But the presumption of innocence will play a large role in who enters the hall of fame. Because Lord knows, the worst case scenario for major league baseball is if a player in the hall of fame is found to have used performance enhancing drugs. Baseball simply cannot afford to have that happen.
So what do you think? Will the candidacy of "clean" players be elevated because they did not cheat?