Tomorrow, on Wednesday, January 8th, 2014, the Baseball Writers of America will reveal who they voted for to enter the Hall of Fame. There are a few who have been on the ballot seemingly forever, notably Jack Morris, who’s on his last possible ballot. Joining him are a few newer former players, like Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas to name a couple.
Joining them again, are five players in particular, who have been linked to performance enhancing drugs. Those players I am referring to are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Rafael Palmeiro. Also, two other guys who have been supposedly linked to steroids, but not nearly at the same level, include Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza.
Last year at around this time, two of the more polarizing figures on that list joined the ballot for their first time, Bonds and Clemens, and that sparked a massive debate, of whether they should be let in to the Hall of Fame, despite the cloud of steroids that hover around them wherever they go.
Last year, Bonds received 36.2% of the vote, well short of the 75% necessary to enter the Hall. Clemens received 37.6%.
With 14 more chances to be let in, the first real test begins tomorrow. With those two now officially out of the “first ballot” argument, the question remains, should they be let in?
Many baseball writers have argued each specific case, whether Bonds or Clemens were good enough before they were linked to steroids, or before the 1998 season when steroid use surfaced as an issue. Many writers continue their points based off of that point, and used it as a springboard into whether they should be let in.
I, for one, think that that argument is a load of trash, for the lack of a better, more appropriate term.
I know that it’s tough to create blanket statements in cases like this, where the umbrella covers guys who have oh-so-obviously did the drug like Bonds, or who may have but know one knows for sure, like Mike Piazza.
But the nature of the beast we are dealing with here, is cheating.
Sure, Bonds was a top talent before he took steroids. Sure, Clemens was still firing split-fingered fastballs down people’s throats before his accusation. But they used performance-enhancing drugs to take the next step and to put up legendary numbers, that rival those of baseball immortality.
Why should we hold them any different than any other steroid user, just because these guys were big names who succeeded on the field?
For every steroid user from this year forth that appears on a Hall of Fame ballot, there are handfuls of minor leaguers who take steroids to try and make that next step, and enter the big leagues. The level of success varies between the two, but the intent was the same thing, to cheat their way to the next level.
People frown on those minor leaguers without any remorse, because they are cheating to try and earn a job over a clean ballplayer, who has natural talent and an honest past. Yet they look in a different light at those guys who were already in the Show and decided to beef up their numbers a little more.
I am well aware that in the period of time between the mid-to-late 90’s to the mid 2000’s, many players took steroids, making an “even playing field”. But if half of the people are cheating, isn’t it still cheating? There is still that other half of the group who’s playing an honest game.
Before you criticize me for making these rash blanket statements, think about it. Here are the criteria of the MLB Hall of Fame voting:
Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.
Integrity is the word that should strike us. Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and morally upright. Integrity is defined as not cheating. Integrity is one of the major criteria of being elected into the Hall, showing us that it’s also how you got there, and not just the end result.
If we set aside one criterion for the Hall of Fame, and make an exception for two players just because they were statistically top 3 in most major categories, then we might as well put in the best personalities in baseball, who never once reached 15 home runs, or the most charitable players in the game who bounced around from team to team as a journeyman for his whole career.
I know I will still receive arguments and criticism about my opinion, but I will not stand behind people who cheated their way to greatness. You can still make your case for these guys, but I will not argue on behalf of players lacking integrity.
So to sum it all up, I don’t think alleged steroid users should be voted into the Hall of Fame. There are many, more deserved players, who earned their chance to be enshrined forever among the all-time greats honestly.