It’s How They Played the Game

Nancy Woo, sophomore

January 9, 2013 was judgement day- it was, at least, for Major League Baseball players eligible for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

On November 28, 2012, the 2013 MLB Hall of Fame ballot was released for a selective panel to decide which players should be inducted into the prestigious Baseball Hall of Fame, the ultimate honor for baseball legends. Of the twenty-four players selected as candidates for the first time, there were four names that particularly stood out: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, and Sammy Sosa. The fates of these record-setting, history-making big names were in the hands of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), which determined whose careers merited induction into the Hall of Fame. Essentially, these media writers judged the worth of these individuals and their careers. And in the end, no one was chosen. For the first time since 1996, no baseball player met the required 75% of votes required to earn induction. Craig Biggio, a member of the 3,000 hit club, came closest with 68.2%. But then came news that four players connected to performance- enhancing drugs who would have otherwise been definite choices for induction were rejected during their first year on the ballot. With that, fans must wonder: who is the BBWAA to judge?

The BBWAA electorate has consistently stated that the Hall of Fame has little tolerance for steroid users, which is evident in its multiple rejections of former St. Louis Cardinal slugger Mark McGwire, who publicly admitted to using performance
enhancing drugs in 2010, and Rafael Palmeiro, who failed his drug test three times. This left out a critical category of players: those who had no conclusive evidence of steroid usage against them.

Take a look at Mike Piazza. Regarded as the greatest offensive catcher of all time, Piazza has never failed a drug test. He appears to be facing opposition based on suspicion. Jeff Bagwell, who was on the ballot for this third year, is a victim of the same problem. In other words, the two former stars are suffering as a result of succeeding in an era in which numerous athletes used PEDs, ultimately throwing them in the bunch as well. Refusing to vote for Piazza and Bagwell based on this suspicion is less acceptable than the possibility that they are using banned substances.

Roger Clemens, however, is a different case. There seems to be an overwhelming amount of proof that Clemens had used PEDs early last decade. Testimonies and even books exist claiming his use of steroids. Yet, Clemens has been found not guilty on all
charges of perjury.

Many people have forgotten that drug testing began just a decade ago. Once upon
a time, Human Growth Hormone was seen as a miracle with no negative side effects.
Random drug tests did not even exist. It is no coincidence, therefore, that not a single
baseball player of that time has been accused or punished for using steroids. Yet, this
does not necessarily mean that each of the 236 Hall of Fame athletes has been drug free throughout his career. If the BBWAA is really so adamant about not allowing any player with drug-related history into the Hall of Fame, then the association should conduct an in-depth investigation of each Hall-of-Famer and subsequently remove every member who has ever had any association with steroids. So before players such as Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa are immediately disqualified for their alleged PED usage, voters should take a look at their accomplishments: Sosa is one of the best home run hitters in the MLB; Bonds, the player who holds the all-time MLB home run record. Bonds still had nearly 3,000 hits, 2,000 RBIs, and 500 stolen bases before he reportedly took steroids, which is no doubt worthy of a place in Cooperstown today; these numbers are the facts the BBWAA should use.

In late July, Piazza, Clemens, Sosa, and Bonds will not speak at the podium in Cooperstown, New York. Based on how low the support was for each of these former stars this winter, one has to wonder whether attitudes will ever change in order to induct
some of the best players the game has ever seen. How can we possibly distinguish between those who have admitted to PED use, those who have been accused but never found guilty, and those who are victims of baseless suspicion? It is in the best interest of the baseball world and the image of the game to evaluate all stars based on what they contributed to the game. As inexcusable as gaining an unfair advantage is, the “’roid era” has caused many to look past the glory days for so many legends and, in many cases, unfairly evaluate candidates.

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