In late November, the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot was unveiled bringing with it a lot of controversy. Among first timers on the ballot are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. They join holdovers from previous years on the ballot including Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. All of these names have been proven or suspected users of performance enhancing drugs setting record after record during baseball’s so-called Steroid Era.
If you’ve read my post on Lance Armstrong, you know how I feel about drugs and cheating in sports. To give you another example, I took a sociology of sport class my freshman year of college taught by the football coach. One day I argued against an entire class of football players as the lone believer that Pete Rose should never ever see the Hall of Fame for betting on baseball and possibly cheating to push the outcomes in his favor.
For me, drug use in sports has always been a black and white issue, but deciding who from this era should be accepted into the Hall of Fame is a bit tougher. I’ve always hated Barry Bonds so I have no problem saying no way, he should never be in. No grown man’s head should expand in size that much after reaching adulthood. He knowingly took drugs and cheated to get better stats. The Hall should be closed to him.
It’s an easy choice with Bonds.Then I see names like McGwire, Sosa and even Mike Piazza who I don’t like to admit is even under suspicion of steroid use since he’s one of my New York Mets and one of my all-time favorite players. I grew up playing Little League baseball and loving watching Major League games. After the baseball strike of the early 90s I packed all my baseball cards away in the basement and never touched them again. I boycotted watching any Major League game on TV for years. As you can see, I’m a bit stubborn.
I stopped watching right up until the magical season where McGwire and Sosa chased down Roger Maris’ record. That homerun chase brought me back to baseball and made me love the game again. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean they cheated any less than Bonds did, so why should they have anymore consideration on whether or not they are accepted into the Hall? Yet another element of confusion on the issue comes from the fact that during most of the Steroid Era, while illegal in the United States, steroids weren’t banned in Major League Baseball.
I’ve seen good arguments on both sides of the issues.
From ESPN the Magazine: “Understanding history and being unable to distinguish nonusers from the generations of users, there is no chance I’ll go back and apply retroactive morality. … They [Sosa, McGwire, Clemens and Bonds] weren’t outliers in baseball. They were the best of a time saturated with drug use, a true reflection of what the sport was, whether my fellow baseball writers like it or not. Excluding them is an exercise in ignored reality. So just as I voted for McGwire, I’ll be voting for them.”
From a New York Times article, Scott Miller of CBSSports.com said: “I know it isn’t the Hall of Choirboys. I know the stories about Ty Cobb and others who at times were miscreants. But I also know that the Steroid Era was one of the most shameful chapters in the game’s history. It made a mockery out of the record book. It pushed retired legends into the shadows when they should have remained in the spotlight, and it put the spotlight on others who never should have been there.”
In a perfect world, no drug user should be allowed in the Hall of Fame. The world isn’t perfect however. It’s impossible to know everyone that did steroids given that there was no system for testing in place until recently – and even now, it’s not a great system. You can say this whole era should have an asterisk next to it, but how is that fair to players who were clean?
When they announce the 2013 class on January 9, I don’t think any known steroid users will get in on their first go around. I think that’s the extent of the punishment though, and eventually many who vote against them for that reason will let them in anyways because the world isn’t black and white and either is this.
I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this in the comments.