Friday, December 14, 2012

Thoughts on Performance Enhancers and the Hall of Fame

Next month baseball writers will be voting on players for the Hall of Fame.  Over the last couple of years, the ballots have gotten pretty big mainly due to the fact that they’ve refused to elect anyone with any link to performance enhancing drugs.  Unlike Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson, who are permanently banned due to gambling and the Black Sox Scandal and therefore ineligible for the Hall of Fame, players need to be caught 3 times using performance enhancers to get a lifetime banned and put on the ineligible list.  Therefore, players caught 1-2 times are still eligible for enshrinement, even though the voters are hesitant to let them in.  However, their actions aren’t completely unjustifiable; rule 5 taken directly from the Baseball Hall of Fame website states:

5. 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.

Voters are simply implementing the integrity clause to keep out otherwise statistically deserving players. 

There are several factors that can lead voters to change their minds.  This website shows that steroids don’t really give players a competitive advantage.  A common conspiracy theory is that MLB juiced the ball during the 1990s to increase the offense to get fans interested in baseball again after the 1994 strike and that commissioner Bud Selig not only turned a blind eye toward steroid users but actually encouraged them.   Keeping the players out of the Hall of Fame could be viewed as unfair if this is true, especially considering the vagueness of the steroid policies and the fact there was no formal testing until 2005.

A common misconception is that steroids have not been banned until 2005, but that’s not entirely true.  Steroids have been banned in MLB since 1991 when then Commissioner Fay Vincent issued a memo stating, “The possession, sale or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance by Major League players or personnel is strictly prohibited.... This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs ... including steroids or prescription drugs for which the individual in possession of the drug does not have a prescription."  If players were made aware of the banning and ignored it, then maybe keeping them out of the Hall of Fame is the right thing to do.

Personally, I have to side with the voters in keeping them out.  The Steroid Era is a black eye in baseball and rewarding the players by putting them in the Hall of Fame seems to just ignore that.  Some people like to compare this time to the 60s and 70s when it was a well-known fact that players were taking amphetamines and maybe in time voters will view it as such and elect them in.  But we’re in a time with the internet and technology that can tell us a lot more information than the 60s and 70s, although the media might be making a bigger deal out of this then it actually is, which adds to the negative impact of this time. 

It is however a Hall of “Fame” not a Hall of “Stats” or a Hall of Merit .  These players should be held to a higher standard other than just having just the stats.  Why have the “integrity, sportsmanship, character” clause in the voting rules, if voters are just going to ignore it?  Why ban steroids during the 90s if there’s no punishment or drug testing?

 Notable players linked to PEDs on the 2013 ballot:

           ·         Barry Bonds – During the BALCO investigation, admitted to using a clear substance
and cream
but thought they were nutritional supplement flaxseed oil and rubbing balm.       
           ·         Mark McGwire – Admitted to using steroids in 2010 during the 1998 season when he broke the HR record. 
           ·         Rafael Palmiero – Was Banned in 2005 for violating MLB’s performance-enhancing drug policy.  
           ·         Roger Clemens – Named in the Mitchell Report.   
           ·         Sammy SosaLawyers claimed that he had a positive drug test during the 2003 season.  

Therefore, my hypothetical ballot for the 2013 Hall of Fame is:
            1.    Jeff Bagwell
            2.    Mike Piazza
            3.    Edgar Martinez
            4.    Alan Trammell
            5.    Curt Schilling
            6.    Craig Biggio
            7.    Larry Walker
            8.    Tim Raines

Voters can vote up to 10 players.  

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