By Shawn Muller–
Members of the Baseball Writers Association of America are making their point loud and clear to all the former players who played during the “Steroid Era”: if you think you deserve to be in the hall, regardless of whether or not you had a checkered past, think again.
Susan Slusser, of the San Francisco Chronicle said, “ I will not vote for any player connected with steroids because I believe cheaters should not be rewarded with the sports highest honor.” While I commend Susan Slusser for taking a stand against all that is wrong with the game of baseball, especially from a baseball purists standpoint, I don’t think this line of thinking is the right way to go about deciding who should or should not be considered for induction to the hall of fame.
Performance-enhancing drug use was definitely a black mark on professional baseball during it’s hey day in the 1990’s through the early 2000’s. But where does anyone draw the line between someone who is guilty and someone who is guilty by association? If the Susan Slusser line of reasoning is implemented by every member of the BBWAA, every player from the “Steroid Era” may as well give up hope for induction. Are we going to just say no player from this era is going to be eligible to make it into the hall of fame just to be fair to all the players that came before them? That would be idiotic and unwarranted.
I would ask anyone to tell me (with a straight face) that players like Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, and Alex Rodriguez do not deserve to be in the hall of fame. Performance-enhancing drugs or not, these four players are/were hall of fame caliber players…period. Rafael Palmeiro, for example, is one of only four players (Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Eddie Murray) to have over 3000 hits and 500 home runs. Like him or loathe him, Barry Bonds (though never having tested positive for anything) is arguably one of the top 3 greatest players of all-time (and his 7 MVP Awards would prove this). Alex Rodriguez will more than likely break Barry Bonds’ all-time home run record (not to mention he also has multiple MVP’s). PED’s or not, these four players deserve to be in the hall of fame. For every Alex Rodriguez-caliber player out there that uses or had used PED’s, there are hundreds more that used or use them and still remain irrelevant. No doubt banned substances played a role in inflating their individual statistics. But to claim that PED’s were the only reason their numbers were inflated is just moronic and unfounded.
Then you have the opposite end of the spectrum in a player like Jeff Bagwell from the Houston Astros. Bagwell never tested positive for any type of illegal substance, yet he has been lumped into the cheater category simply because of the era he played in. He had a career batting average of .297, hit 449 home runs, over 1500 RBI’s, and won a National League MVP Award. Those seem like hall of fame type numbers to me. If he never earns a bust in Cooperstown, it won’t be because the BBWAA didn’t think his numbers were good enough (though they will tell us otherwise), it will be due to the period in which he played.
So where do we draw the line?
I can understand why some former players who were “clean” would be a little turned off by any player becoming enshrined that was a known user of PED’s. I get that the game is “supposed” to be played clean. The fact is, however, that many great players were not clean and many more players will be proved to be unclean in the future. But basically acting as if roughly a 20 year span did not exist and the “soiled” numbers put up by them did not occur, wouldn’t do the game any favors.
Major League Baseball was in the doldrums after the strike-shortened season of 1994. It wasn’t just dumb luck that baseball recovered from utter devastation simply because of the public’s general love for the game. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chasing Roger Maris’ mark of 61 home runs brought the people back. That’s it. Nothing more and nothing less. “Chicks dig the long ball.” Remember? If it wasn’t for the “Steroid Era”, the game of baseball may have fallen completely off the map. No one was complaining when these players saved the game. Now, however, the same players who were adored en-mass just 10-20 years ago, get treated like lepers by the same people.
Simply put, not every player who put up big numbers during the “Steroid Era” was hall of fame worthy or deserves to be enshrined into the hall of fame…but there are plenty of players who are.
And one more thing…get Pete Rose in Cooperstown already.
Do you agree with Shawn? Post your comments below.
Shawn Muller has lived in Chicago for 7 years. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and just recently received his certificate in radio broadcasting in October of 2010. Sports have always been a passion of Shawn’s. In his free time, Shawn enjoys spending time with his wife Melissa and 3 year old daughter Ava, catching any live sporting event, and traveling. Check out his radio show, “Grab Some Bench with Muller and Bangser” at www.blogtalkradio.com/spmuller24.