Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Hall of Fame and Steroids

This should be an interesting discussion:
The Chicago chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America is taking up the thorny question of what to do with "Steroid Era" players and the Hall of Fame.

The writers plan to meet Friday to discuss whether there should be any guidelines for voting in light of the drug scandal that has tainted baseball over the last dozen years. Six of the top 20 career home run hitters have been linked to performance-enhancing drugs, including Sammy Sosa, who spent most of his career with the Chicago Cubs.

Excellent. This is a much needed discussion. It's vital that the baseball writers figure out (or at least try to) what to do with players who took steroids and those who might have taken steroids. Because let's face it, because of steroids, the hall of fame HAS AND WILL change forever.

As Rick Telander put it:

"The guidelines used to be so simple: stats, longevity and star power. It's all been trumped by performance-enhancing drug use and drug use suspicion," Telander said Tuesday. "Part of me says it's not fair we have to make these determinations, but we do."

Well said. What in the world should the hall of fame do with these players? Put them in the hall of fame? Don't put them in the hall of fame? Have a separate wing for steroid users/the steroid era? Asterisks?

I don't have the slightest idea about what will happen, but if it was up to me, I would put the steroid users in hall of fame. At this point, we have to assume that a large group (majority?) of players were using steroids during this period and it'd be extremely difficult to keep all the steroid users OUT of the hall of fame. Perhaps an asterisk on the hall of fame plaque or something like it would make the baseball purists feel better about putting them in. Maybe not.

The nightmare scenario is that the hall of fame allows entry to a player, who they believe was never on performance enhancing drugs, but then a few years after entering the hall of fame, it's discovered that he indeed did use PEDs. What should the hall of fame do then?

This issue is so fascinating because there is no answer that will satisfy the baseball loving masses, most of whom just want the issue of steroids to go away. However, over the next few years, the hall of fame and steroids will be THE highly debated issue that will offer a vast array of solutions and ideas. This is merely the beginning of the debate.



Anonymous said...

I suppose that I kind of agree with you i that you can't keep all of them out. But I also think you are comflating a few things (maybe you were just being general and you didn't intend to). There are various categories of players: Those who got caught (A-Rod, Palmeiro, Manny, Sosa) those who there is almost certainly took but were technically never caught (McGwire, Bonds, Clemens), those who there is some suspicion, but have not been caught nor is there much evidence yet (Pudge, and many others). And then the players who played in that era. Within each of those categories there are any number of future surefire/solid/marginal Hall of Famers. I think for me, if I were a HOF voter, I would look at the evidence of steroid use and were a player falls in what caterory and then see in which HoF category they fit (surefire/solid/marginal) and then weigh the results based on that. So for example, a guy who was a marginal HoF candidate who is guilty of steroid use would definitely not get in (i.e. a juice Tony Perez wouldn't be in my HoF), but a guy who was a surefire HoF would probably get in (A-Rod, Bonds, Clemens). A merely solid HoF candidate would be moved down to marginal status if he juiced and would probably stay out my HoF. On the other hand, a marginal HoF who I would feel pretty reasonably sure didn't juice will get added consideration from me (say a Fred McGriff, who was facing juiced pitchers). Anyway, I haven't fully thought this through or anything, but that's kind of where I see things going.

AvengingJM said...


How can you tell who is a "sure-fire" candidate? If ARod has been taking steroids "allegedly" since high school can he be denoted as a "sure-fire" HOF candidate? If that were true wouldn't his whole career be a fraud and all achievements be minimized if not negated?

Most would agree that Barry Bonds is probably a sure-fire HOF candidate because he looked like he was on his way to the HOF prior to bulking up. But who's to say it was the late '90s that Barry really started using? Rafiel Palmeiro didn't look too muscular and Manny made himself look pretty dumpy with the way he wears his uniform.

It will be nearly impossible to segment players into "did it/speculation that they did it/and everyone else"......the everyone else category has plenty of cheaters in it too--we just don't know it yet.

If voters are already shutting down McGwire isn't that a harbinger of votes to come?

Anonymous said...

Well, you can't make hard and fast rules about this today, since new evidence continues to come up. We can only have some general guidelines to this and hope for the best. Regarding A-Rod, I'm saying that if I were a voter, I would consider A-Rod a surefire HoFer even if he had used steroids since high school (of which there is no real evidence, BTW). When all is said and done, A-Rod will rank among the very best of all time (at least in terms of numbers). There is no evidence that steroids help you that much (although I believe it does help you some and believe that it is cheating). What I would do is mentally take him down a peg, from one of the very best of all time, to simply solid HoFer. So I still vote him in. In the case of Palmeiro, after taking him down a peg, I can't consider him more than a fringe HoFer, and the same is true for McGwire, so I feel ok leaving them out. These are probably the easy cases. There are going to be more complicated ones. If the list happens to come out and a few fringer HoFers are ont it, it will simplify matters a bit more. I mean, we are not talking about a huge universe of people here, just potential HoFers. And of that group (which numbers what, three dozen players?) there is a subset of complicated cases. Some of them will be sorted out further by evidence yet to come. So in the end, I think the truly complicated part of this is going to come down to just a few cases. That's very manageable.