Written by Patrick Williams
Baseball’s Hall of Fame voters have a daunting task on their hands this upcoming ballot. This is the year in which some of the biggest names tied into the steroid era appear on the ballot for the first time. Yes, it is hard to believe the mandatory 5 years has passed since these once colossal stars were adorning the diamond with all the headlines they have been in since.
This ballot has the likes of Barry Bonds, the all-time homerun king and arguably best player in the last 40 years, if not of all time. Sammy Sosa, a rare member of the 600 homerun club with 609. Roger Clemens, 354 career wins and so many Cy Young awards you could potentially change the name after Clemens. The class then rounds out with a great hitting catcher Mike Piazza, World Series dominant pitcher Curt Schilling, and all around blue collar catcher and second basemen Craig Biggio, who has 3000 hits to his list of career achievements with the Houston Astros.
Now normally, under any other circumstances, the ballot would be clear cut and most of these names would be no-brainers to vote in. However, baseball writers and historians tend to have some high horse moral ground that has led them to the mindset of ‘it is my job to keep the integrity of the game’. I have news for them. It isn’t.
If you cannot vote based on the merits upon which a hall of fame should be in a sport, which should be statistical prowess over a substantial period of time being involved in the game in which you are being considered to be inducted into their Hall of Fame, then it is my feeling that you shouldn’t be given a vote at all.
Furthermore, what I envision actually happening is even more sickening. There were no real rules set in place or testing during most of these players’ careers involving illegal substance use or steroids. Prior to this point the majority of athletes that have broken laws, committed a rules infraction that has led to an on the field suspension, or down right just have not been a decent person, have all been elected to their respective sport’s halls of fame. This includes Major League Baseball. I am not going to sit here and list names, but we can all think of them. In fact, the M.L.B. H.O.F. is already more infamous for not allowing Pete Rose into their establishment than it is for actually having many other players in it who are not household names or have reached base safely by hitting over 4000 times.
What I can see occurring this year is putting someone like a Craig Biggio in the Hall over the likes of Bonds, Sosa, and Clemens based solely off of the fact that he didn’t look like he was on steroids. That would be true bias and something that would make the baseball Hall of Fame a complete joke. And it’s not that Biggio wouldn’t deserve it; 3000 hits and all the Gold Gloves alone would merit a solid case, it’s just that some of the other players on this ballot have transcended the way the game will forever be played. They rewrote the record books and defined a generation of baseball. Whether or not baseball wants to promote that is not an issue any more. They let it go on while it was happening, even used the inflated offensive statistic as a means to draw back fans after the strike took away a post season champion in 1994. To turn a blind eye to two decades of your sport is not the answer.
What it boils down to is this. There is no way we will ever truly know who all used steroids or performance enhancers during this time or any other in baseball’s history. For all we know the majority of the league was on something from the 80’s until recently. But that would also mean that there was a level playing field if that were to be true. Maybe not against the numbers from history, but for the players that were competing during this era there is.
If you had a job in the big leagues during this period you probably had some skill. How you obtained that skill is to be argued and debated for generations. What the end result of that skill produced is still kept on paper and in computers via statistics (something that probably means more to baseball than it does any other sport) and we know who were the best, who won the awards, and who did it as good as anyone has during this time. We don’t go back and rethink members of the Hall of Fame based on circumstances of the day. Not many would argue that Babe Ruth is not a deserving member because he played in a time when only white athletes were permitted to play. Nor are they trying to take several of his stats away for rule changes that have since occurred, such as how ground-rule doubles were counted as homeruns back then.
You need to vote and cast people into the Hall based on production versus your peers over a career. Whether it is all time, or of an era, that is a blurry line, but there are certain players that are as close to no doubt as you can find in sports and this year baseball has a few on their Hall of Fame’s ballot. It will be interesting to see what the 600 plus Baseball Writers’ Association of America will do with their votes come January 9.