This past week the Baseball Hall of Fame announced its 2017 class which includes Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez. Oh and by the way former commissioner Bud Selig will also go in this summer as elected by the “Today’s Game Era” committee. All of this comes a year after inducting Mike Piazza and a year that saw Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens make significant jumps in their vote totals, which will inevitably lead to their Hall of Fame induction. So what does all of this mean? What happened to the steroid outrage?
Back in 2005 when news of the juice-era in baseball broke thanks to Jose Cancesco’s book Vindicated steroids was at the forefront of all sports media. Writers and fans were outraged. They felt cheated by the players and by a league that turned a blind eye. But just a decade later the Hall of Fame, and the writers that vote players into the shrine to be memorialized, have changed their minds. Writers have spent the past two years putting players, and a commissioner, into the Hall of Fame while also seemingly caving and allowing Bonds and Clemens to make their climb to enshrinement.
From the start, when the news about steroids broke, I felt that people were being too judgmental. Not in the fact that what the players did was wrong, but in the fact that the writers were attempting to hold out players from the Hall of Fame because of steroid usage. My contention was that you did not know who was using and who wasn’t. What was first thought to be beneficial only to hitters as actually shown that pitchers were just as guilty of using. And with a percentage that was likely around 70-percent of players using, all offensive numbers that were affected were countered because pitchers were just as guilty.
What I did not like was writers discounting certain players because of their connection to steroids while allowing others. Why was Mark McGwire dismissed so easily? Was he not the most feared hitter during his playing days? McGwire had 12 seasons of 30 or more home runs, amassing the 11th most home runs in baseball history, and had seven seasons of 100 or more runs batted in. He helped define an era of baseball. True he was not a great hitter but no one can argue his impact on the game. Not all players are well-rounded hitters, some are power hitters like McGwire and some slap the ball into spots like Wade Boggs. There should be enough room in the Hall of Fame for both. Mark McGwire still ranks 7th in slugging percentage and ninth in OPS with 12 All-Star game appearances and four times leading the league in home runs.
Quick side not on McGwire. I still stand by that he was taking Andro, which was legal in both the United States and MLB at the time. In addition Andro is a product that allows for recovery, something that was needed for McGwire due to his numerous injuries, but is not a product that automatically creates muscle. You still need to work hard in the weight room to benefit from the product. Unlike Bonds and Clemens who were associated with HGH, a product that changes your physical structure on its own without hard work, at a time when the product was illegal in both the U.S. and baseball. It was against MLB guidelines and they still used steroids. To me that is different.
The steroid situation also dovetails into the Pete Rose dilemma. The Hall of Fame is now allowing players who cheated the game but remain solid on keeping Pete Rose out of the Hall. Why? Pete Rose would go into the Hall of Fame as a player not a coach. His gambling occurred when he was a coach. Therefore why should he be held out? In my opinion using steroids at a time when it is banned is a worse offense than betting on your team to win.
The Hall of Fame is walking a dangerous line right now. Do they want to show their integrity and say anyone that cheats the game does not get its highest honor? Do they want to acknowledge the era of baseball that was shaped by the long ball and steroids? I have no problem with them doing either but they can not pick and choose. A decade ago a line was drawn but now voters have kicked dirt over that line like a hitter stepping into the batters box and the guidelines are blurred. If you are letting players who are associated with steroids in, and voting for players that defied rules and openly used steroids, and inducting the man in charge of the game that oversaw the rise in usage of steroids, then you have to welcome every player with open arms. Right now voters are acting like a pitcher facing Mark McGwire, scared to face the problem head on and just giving a pass, walking away from it. Voters need to step up and determine what it is they believe in. Because right now I am confused.