Time For a Hall of Fame Stand

In June 1966, Ted Williams did something amazing. Nobody saw it coming, perhaps not even Williams himself. He was in Cooperstown, giving his Hall of Fame speech, and he was visibly moved by the day. Williams had never been able to let go of the anger he felt toward sportswriters — even before his last game he couldn’t help but spit out “I’d like to forget them, but I can’t,” — and I imagine some people were cringing in anticipation.

But somehow Ted that day had mostly moved past bitterness.* “I didn’t know I had 280-odd close friends among the writers,” he said of the people who had voted for him, and he thanked them, he thanked the playground director who worked with him and his high school coach and others who affected his life.

*Mostly. As written in The Kid, Ben Bradlee Jr.’s excellent new biography of Williams, he could not resist a private shot at sportswriter Dave Egan, who was his personal Lex Luthor.

And then, he riffed a little bit about baseball. It’s worth putting the whole wonderful paragraph in there.

“The other day Willie Mays hit his 522nd home run. He has gone past me, and he’s pushing, and I say to him, “Go get ‘em, Willie.” Baseball gives every American boy a chance to excel. Not just to be as good as someone else, but to be better. This is the nature of man and the name of the game. I hope that one day Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson will be voted into the Hall of Fame as symbols of the great Negro players who are not here only because they weren’t given the chance.”

Williams was speaking without notes that day and, as far as I know, had not told anyone he was planning to say anything about Negro Leaguers. It honestly may have been a spur of the moment statement — Williams was pretty famous for those. Whatever, it was a a bold statement. This was 1966, right in the middle of the Civil Rights movement, and his statement was political and counterculture and took some guts.

Then again, guts was never a problem for Ted Williams. What strikes me about the statement — what makes it amazing to me — is that it was SO magnanimous. Hall of Fame speeches (all award speeches, really), by their nature, are meant to celebrate self. You applaud your own career, thank those who made it possible. Williams raced through that part. What he really wanted to do was celebrate BASEBALL. And to him, celebrating baseball meant celebrating those great players who had gone without enough notice. He wanted to remind people about Negro Leagues players he felt sure belonged in the Hall with him.

That was another wonderful part of the Williams speech. Too often people who get into the Hall of Fame want to lock the door behind them.

Williams speech did not instantly grant Negro Leaguers entry into the Hall of Fame. Not even close. But it brought the subject to the surface. By the end of the decade, the topic was hot, and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn held a meeting to discuss the topic. By all accounts the meeting was exceedingly nasty. Former commissioner Ford Frick and Hall of Fame President Paul Kerr were particularly opposed to adding Negro League players. Their reasons ranged from somewhat reasonable (there were no statistics to tell how good the Negro Leaguers were) to somewhat unreasonable (Negro Leaguers would water down the quality of the Hall of Fame — this tinged of racism) to ludicrous (no Negro Leaguers fulfilled the Hall of Fame requirement of 10 years in the Major Leagues — an absurdity since they were not ALLOWED to play in the Major Leagues).

The meeting basically went nowhere. Sportswriter Dick Young was there screaming at everybody, Kuhn was his typically ineffective self, and the one guy who knew more about any of this than anybody — Monte Irvin, who had played in the Negro Leagues and Major Leagues — quietly let others hold court. Kuhn, typically, tried a split-the-baby solution of having a special Negro Leagues display in the Hall of Fame which made exactly zero people happy. Satchel Paige announced he wasn’t going through the back door of the Hall of Fame.

The criticism was so harsh — Jim Murray in Los Angeles was particularly fierce as was the rampaging Dick Young — that the Hall decided on the fly to get rid of the display idea and let Satchel Paige into the actual Hall of Fame. Kuhn would say it was all part of his plan to let public criticism force the Hall into doing the right thing. I don’t buy this for one minute but hey I guess it worked out.

Over time, the Hall of Fame became a leader in celebrating Negro Leagues baseball. There are 29 Negro Leagues players in the Hall of Fame and a few more executives and pioneers. There were missteps, of course, and things worth disagreeing about, but all in all the Hall of Fame has done as much as anybody to keep alive the memory of the Negro Leagues, exactly what Ted Williams had asked for in 1966 (and exactly what my friend Buck O’Neil — who has a statue in the Hall of Fame — had fought for most of his life).

I bring all this up because (1) It’s a pretty great story, but more because (2) it was a case where the Hall of Fame, though it was not easy, took the lead.

It’s time for that to happen again. It’s time for the Hall of Fame to take a stand on the Steroid Era.

Right now, the Hall of Fame is passing the buck. They are letting an unwieldy group of more than 500 baseball writers who never meet as a group sort out the Steroid Era by secret ballot. That’s no way to do things. If it had been up to the BBWAA, Satchel Paige would never have been elected to the Hall of Fame. There’s almost no chance he could have gotten 75% of the vote. Josh Gibson would have had even less chance because he never played in the Majors. Oscar Charleston? Turkey Stearnes? Smokey Joe Williams? There’s no chance 75% of the BBWAA in the 1970s would even have HEARD of them.

If the Hall had not inducted them, they would not have been inducted. The Hall would have remained as racist as baseball in the 1930s and 1940s. And it would not have been enough for them to say, “Well, we turned it over to the BBWAA and this is what they decided.” The Baseball Writers are good at some things — like electing the truly great players — but this is not an organization designed to deal with complex issues like race or PEDs. The BBWAA craves leadership. The Hall of Fame is supposed to provide it.

So far, they have not. They Hall of Fame won’t say or do ANYTHING to clarify things. And because of that, we are no closer to a a logical narrative about the Steroid Era than we were five years ago. There’s no consensus about how much steroid and PED use ACTUALLY affected power numbers (not just talk but actual study of the subject), no consensus over why steroid use should be viewed differently than amphetamines or other drugs, no consensus about the role the people who run baseball played in the era, no consensus about anything really.

No consensus and no consistency. Tony La Russa is unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame as a manager, one of his greatest players Mark McGwire is not. Why? People openly (or subtly) accuse players of steroid use though they never failed a test, were never involved in a public scandal and never showed up in any of the wild accusations that were thrown around. How can the Hall of Fame just sit back and let this happen to the game it represents?

It’s actually kind of disgraceful. The Hall of Fame is meant to celebrate the game, but their silence on this issue leaves baseball and the Hall open to this annual flogging of the game and some of its greatest players.

It’s time for the Hall of Fame to create a committee of experts (former players, executives, scholars, ethicists) to look into the Steroid Era, to make recommendations how the museum should proceed. They should be open to all possibilities and apply science and philosophy and logic to this issue. They should be leaders in moving the game forward. It’s time to stop sitting back while baseball writers (including yours truly) scattershoot their own particular ethical standards and argue about Barry Bonds. This is THEIR museum. It’s time for them to tell everybody what it stands for.

On December 31, I’ll try to do a Hall of Fame online chat here. More information to come.

116 thoughts on “Time For a Hall of Fame Stand

  1. Richard Aronson

    I could not agree more. Steroid pitchers faced steroid hitters. Greenies hitters faced greenies pitchers. Corked bats have been used against doctored baseballs. No matter how many feathers these elephants put in their hats, they still need to produce on the field in order to get considered for the HOF, and many of the best steroid users were using them when they weren’t even banned. Every major league team has players who LEGALLY get steroid injections to try and recover from injuries, under a doctor’s care. It’s time to just accept it and start inducting great players, especially those who might never have juiced but are in the cloud of suspicion.

    Reply
    1. The Dangerous Mabry

      Players are getting anabolic steroid injections legally for injury recovery? The only “steroid” injections I’m aware of are coricosteroids, which aren’t in any way related to banned substances. Is there something I don’t know about?

      Reply
      1. Matt Williams (@Matt1J)

        Because it’s still a PED. It’s allowing you to recover quicker than you would if you had not taken it in the first place. It’s “hiding” under the legal realm of PED’s.

        Honestly, I think a big problem is the war on drugs. There is a stigma attached to those that use PED’s or take pot or whatever. It’s stupid. In 100 years, people will look back and laugh that this was even an issue; just like we think it’s idiotic that black players couldn’t play in the 20′s and 30′s.

        Reply
          1. Andrew

            Yes, as it should. Whether Tommy John surgery or LASIK eye surgery or cortisone injections or greenies or HGH, it’s all medical advances that improve or prolong or enhance performances that weren’t available 100 years ago. Players play against who they play against, in the eras they play in. And people are trying to draw hard lines where there are only shades of gray.

        1. John Gale

          Yeah, I don’t buy that. I would vote for the PED guys (even Palmeiro), but by that logic, Tylenol is also a PED. I think there is a difference between a medicine legally prescribed to get a player healthy and illegally taking something that allows a player to hit 70 home runs in a season. Again, I’d still vote for those guys, but let’s call a spade a spade.

          Reply
          1. Drew

            What medicine allows a player to hit 70 home runs in a season?

            Does it say that on the box?

            Can I get some?

        2. Scott Lucas

          Corticosteroids reduce inflammation and therefore pain. They actually retard the healing process. Their use in inflammatory conditions is medically approved. PEDs include anabolic steroids and HGH. These allow unnatural rapidity of muscle building. Their medical indications include hormonal abnormalities and wasting diseases, they are not approved for recovery from sports injuries or to hit more homers. There is a HUGE difference. Please do a little research before stating BS as facts.

          Reply
          1. Drew

            The original commenter said nothing like that. NOWHERE did he say “they’re the same thing”.

            What he’s saying is, if someone gets LASIK eye surgery, which sure seems to be “performance enhancing” (and according to some players’ anecdotes, improved vision would be substantially more beneficial to a hitter/pitcher than improved bicep size), no one really cares. When someone gets an cortisone injection from a trainer, no one really cares. But that enhances performance, too, doesn’t it?

            I think maybe the anti-PED crowd should change their framing to anti-”banned substances” or anti-”drugs that make your muscles big”.

            Because being against something that “enhances performance” seems to be contrary to what modern sports are all about.

          2. Scott Lucas

            Practicing enhances performance as well. PEDs allow unnatural muscle development beyond what hard work and nutrition could achieve. They potentially give a person super-human capabilities, which corticosteroids, Lasik, and “greenies” cannot produce. If anything which increases performance is in the same category, for you there is little difference between hard training and taking PEDs, I will never agree.

  2. Jake Bucsko

    Well said. The history of baseball is littered with players who were racists, cheaters, etc, but only now are writers getting on their moral high horses and deciding that steroids are the ultimate evil. The truth is that nobody knows what steroids really did to power numbers. Nobody knows what it did to pitchers, or how many people used them. If roided-up Bonds hits a home run off of a roided-up Clemens, does that home run still count? If they were good enough, they get in the Hall.

    Reply
    1. denopac

      If they were good enough, they get in the Hall.

      But that’s not at all what Joe Posnanski is saying here. Please re-read his last paragraph.

      Reply
    2. John Gale

      While it’s true that we can’t say definitively how much PEDs helped, it’s pretty safe to say that they did help. For example, Barry Bonds now owns the three-highest OPS+ years in baseball history. The next three post-1900 belong to Babe Ruth. Bonds had those seasons at ages 37, 39, and 36 (and his age 38 season is 11th all time). Ruth had his seasons at ages 25, 28 and 26. His age 31 and 32 seasons are tied for 12th all time. To be fair, Ruth’s age 36 season is 19th (sandwiched between his age 29 and 24 seasons. But that’s only one season, and it wasn’t as good as the seasons he put up in his mid-to-late 20s and early 30s. His OPS+ at age 36 was 218, but the other seasons were all in the 225-255 range, so it wasn’t an outlier. Hell, Ruth’s *career* OPS+ is 206, which is just ridiculous (Williams is second at 190).

      Meanwhile, Bonds’ best from his clean years were 204 and 206 in 1992 and 1993, respectively. In the four most suspicious years, his OPS+ were 268, 263, 259 and 231. So we have a guy who hits .289/.412/.567 with an OPS+ of 165 up to the age of 35. And from age 36-39, he hits .349/.559/.809 with an OPS+ of 256 (higher than any single season Ruth put up). And I’m *not* supposed to conclude that PEDs had something to do with that? Come on. I’d still vote for the guy. Even discounting for PEDs, he’s one of the 10-15 best players of all time. But the level of naivete on display by some people is ridiculous. Of course the PEDs helped. How much they helped is up for debate. But they helped. There is just no way Bonds could have done what he did four seasons in a row without help.

      Reply
      1. bellweather22

        Stop being so logical. The steroid crowd prefers illogical arguments that suggest steroids either didn’t help that much or that somehow they’re equivalent to corticosteroids or Tommy John surgery.

        Reply
      2. Drew

        You’re insisting that they helped and your argument is that they did help.

        Did Roger Maris take a magic pill to go from 30 HR to 61, then immediately stop taking that pill because he wanted to only hit 30 HR again?

        How about Davey Johnson? George Foster? Andre Dawson?

        Reply
      3. hector

        Babe Ruth drank like a horse had orgy’s with 3 or 6 women the day before a game that the reason he didn’t have great numbers in his 30′s they did not work out have personal trainers , eat healthy food etc etc etc, bonds did , Clemens did etc etc etc, again if they did use when they did it was not illegal when they made PED illegal most player stopped or got out the game bond never failed at test same for Clemens, and people Greenies been in baseball for over 50 yrs until they where banned (UPPERS U know give u energy???) and baseball, the writers , everyone made $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ in PED era it saved baseball everyone forget this! writer put there finger up there butts and said nothing even thou they suspected it. only after the so called outrage of the commissioner did everyone else fall in line total BS BS BS anyone saying different i put u into the BS crowed like the man said he without sin throw the 1st Stone especially on these forums i never judge anyone. bonds, Clemens belong in the HOF it a damn joke there not in anyone with eye and half a brain who look at there numbers thru 1st half of there careers alone should be in forget the other half numbers don’t lie bond won his 4 MVP before PED became a issue Clemens won his 4 CY YOUNG before PED became a issue so what do any one of u say to this????????? last thing last time i checked PED cant make u turn on a 99mph fastball any better then without PED if u dont agree take PED and see if it help u play and big muscle also don’t help PED don’t better ur eye site either none of this has been proven scientifically what it help is ur recovery time after working out or playing a night game then playing a day game in that it help HOF writer are all full of S

        Reply
  3. Jake Bucsko

    Can’t wait for all the comments like

    “If they took steroids, they’re cheaters, and don’t belong in the Hall of Fame. Simple as that”

    As if anything about this is simple…

    Reply
      1. ksbeck76

        I realize you’re reacting to a lot of the moralizing that goes in the anti-enshrinement camp, but I think that you’re arguing with a straw man here. (I don’t buy the Ty Cobb is in and he was a racist, so Barry Bonds should be in too). The argument against including PED users in the Hall isn’t that what they did was morally wrong or illegal (like domestic abuse or DUI), but that they broke the rules to enhance their performance. Thus, their performance on the field, the criteria by which they are judged for the Hall, is suspect. Miggy’s drinking and driving didn’t make him a better ballplayer compared to other players that didn’t get DUIs, so its not really a fair comparison.

        Reply
        1. Andrew

          But so did Gaylord Perry, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Whitey Ford, and for that matter Babe Ruth. But for some reason we’ve decided to make a stand on anabolic steroids and HGH?

          Reply
          1. ksbeck76

            Andrew, I’m wasn’t arguing that we should take a stand against anabolic steroids and HGH (should they be against the rules – yes; should their use keep someone out of the Hall – no). I was pointing out that the (common) argument “Bonds used PEDs and can’t get in, but Miggy got busted for DUI and will be a first balloter” is a non sequitor. One has nothing to do with the other.

        2. Matt Williams (@Matt1J)

          That’s not the argument though. A writer can’t say he won’t vote someone in because the moral standard for enshrinement is so high while ignoring the fact that someone like Cobb was elected in.

          Basically, these guys shouldn’t be judge and jury.

          Reply
          1. ksbeck76

            Sorry, Matt, – I mixed up which bone you were picking with the anti crowd.

            Any argument on the morality of the PED issue is ridiculous when it comes to Hall voting. It seems to me like the more common (and stronger) argument against enshrinement is that PED use makes a player’s numbers suspect. In other words, we don’t know if the player would have out up HOF without PEDs, so we can’t vote for them. I actually think that’s a pretty strong argument, although I’m not ultimately convinced by it, especially with no way to know definitely who was using, when they were using, and how it affected their performance.

          2. bellweather22

            Matt: whoever votes on the HOF is, by definition, judge and jury. You can complain that they have the “wrong” voters who do a poor job. But if they are replaced with other voters, then all you have is another set of judge and jury to complain about. It’s like the BCS system. Put in a new system and, even if it’s better, many will still complain if they don’t like the outcome.

        3. bellweather22

          Ks: I’m 100 pct in your camp. The issue is the illegitimacy of their careers and their career numbers. People can, and are, putting up valid arguments for allowing Bonds and Clemens in the HOF based on their performances pre steroids. The main issue with most is either we don’t know what years they used or didn’t use….they probably used most of their careers truth be told…. Or, most likely, without steroids they’d have no HOF case at all, like Mark

          Reply
          1. Drew

            Relative to the league, McGwire’s late 80′s and early 90′s numbers (check 1992) were right in line with his late 90′s numbers.

            The league experienced an offensive boom. It happens.

            In the 60′s, hitters sucked and pitchers were awesome. No one is saying Sandy Koufax should be out of the Hall because he got to pitch from a 50-foot high mound at Dodger Stadium. The only reason his late-60s numbers look good was because the league couldn’t hit. Johan Santana’s 2000′s run was just as good relative to the league, and went on for longer (7 years).

          2. Pat

            Oh, Drew, this is preposterous:

            …McGwire’s late 80′s and early 90′s numbers (check 1992) were right in line…The league experienced an offensive boom. It happens.

            The boom was “offensive,” but otherwise this is completely absurd. For an entire century of baseball, a 60-homer season had been accomplished twice, and one of them was by the best player ever to put on spikes.

            Then in a four year season, it was accomplished six times. By three guys we all know were using steroids specifically for their ability to help with home runs. The dimensions of the new parks, the expanded league and different pitching, the hotter air under global warming—all of these things were still around after testing started, but the home runs went back to more historical norms.

            (I know Joe Posnanski thinks it’s a curious thing that fans care this much about the sanctity of the home runs and not so much about that of the rest of the game. But whatever; they do.)

            So yeah, “It happens.” But it only happens when a bunch of players use steroids in order to make it happen. This ain’t ’68 in reverse.

        4. Anon21

          “The argument against including PED users in the Hall isn’t that what they did was morally wrong or illegal (like domestic abuse or DUI), but that they broke the rules to enhance their performance.”

          I’d be a bit more circumspect about declaring what “the argument” is for excluding PED users from the Hall. Writers have absolutely declared that PEDs are different from other forms of cheating because they’re against the law. Commenters on this very blog have staked their argument on the “it’s illegal” point.

          Reply
        5. Pat

          Precisely. The fact that someone’s a drunk driver doesn’t make his Triple Crown less impressive—even as it makes it really easy to despise him as a person. Contrariwise, if documentary evidence were to emerge that Hoss Radbourn had soaked his game balls overnight during his 59-win season—-and it were reasonably certain that he couldn’t have managed the feat but-for the trick—well, that’d make you think vastly different about (a) how magnificent that season was, and (b) how good you think Radbourn was, even if you thought (as I would) that the old-timey bit of cheating was more charming than troubling. The moral indignation at behavior is on an entirely different axis from the analytical judgment about what should be considered when electing or excluding a player from the Hall of Fame.

          Reply
  4. Pingback: Knuckleballs – The Hall of Fame Ballot Gets Crowded

  5. KC Oracle (@KCOracle)

    Guys like Bonds and Clemmons were so exteme in their use of steroids and their lies about it that, to me. it is rough justice that they are denied Hall of Fame entry. As to other closer cases, life is not fair and it really is no big deal if a guy who became fabulously rich through baseball is denied an additional honor. The notion of a “blue ribbon committee” often is a bad idea and, in this case, it seems like a particularly bad idea. There is no reliable information upon which they could base conclusions. Why would their conclusions be any better than the collective votes of the writers? The voting system is imperfect. Any system would be. I’m fine with letting the writers sort out the steroid issue, the same as they sort out all other issues related to HOF admission.

    Reply
    1. Dave Fred

      “Letting the writers sort out the steroid issue” is ridiculous; the ballot has 16 or 17 deserving players this year, in 5 years there could be 25 or more; the more measurably excellent players there are on the ballot the less likelihood of anyone getting in the hall of fame; anyone.

      Reply
    2. hector

      cause the HOF writer have a agenda they want to be the moral hand of baseball the problem with that is there were complicit in the PED era they suspected , say , knew and kept quite that is where the problem is and since no one know who what why how many all some player did did not then u cant single anyone out, for real how many player do u all think who never been singled out have really used????? if u can answer that correctly then u can say that the HOF writer are correct but if u cant answer this question then system is broke and need fixing!

      Reply
  6. Peter Cusumano

    Richard:
    I totally disagree. Yes, there were some steroid abusing pitchers pitching against some steroid abusing hitters. But there were many non-cheating players that were being struck out or getting bombed because the opposing player WAS cheating.

    And you can’t compare the likes of amphetamines to steroids. One keeps you alert, the other helps your muscles recover faster and larger than is humanly possible, to the point where the players are caricatures of themselves (almost Marvel Comic characters). There performances become enhanced and the results make a mockery of the record books.

    Barry Bonds goes from hitting a career high of 46 home runs at the peak age of 28. For the next 6 yrs averages 37 home runs per year with a slow decline of 42 – 40 – 37 – 34 homeruns between the ages of 31-34. Nothing to be ashamed of for sure. Actually, very good stats. Then at age of 36 he hits 73HRs?

    Clemens in his first 13 years of his career, between the ages of 23-35, posts an ERA of 2.87. That is an amazing accomplishment. For the next 5 years between the ages of 36-40 he posts a 3.99 ERA, which is respectable for the average major leaguer, but not by Clemens standard. Then for the next three years, at age 41-43, he posts an ERA of 2.40. Almost half run better than his prime years 1.59 runs better than the five years prior.

    It is painfully obvious that there were some performance enhancing drugs being used. These aberrations of aging players surpassing their peak years not just matching their peak years but smashing them, had never been seen before nor since the steroid era.

    So, there are two questions. Since baseball didn’t have rule about steroid use, was it cheating? and Who did they cheat?

    It is correct that baseball or the lame commissioner Selig, did not have the stomach to outlaw steroids. But they should not have had to. The baseball rule book does not have to incorporate the entire penal code. There is no rule in baseball outlawing murder? They don’t need such a rule because it is against the law. Steroids are the same. They are illegal. They are illegal for a reason. They shorten the life span of humans. They have numerous detrimental side effects (for example – the inability to reproduce, sexual organs). So to protect society, there are laws banning the use of non prescription steroids. So these players were not just cheating on baseball, they were breaking the law.

    Who did they cheat? They cheated all the players that were not using illegal substances. There were players that may have been waiting their turn to get to the majors and labouring in the minors for years waiting for Bonds or Clemens to retire to get their shot and a few seasons in the “The Show” and never got their turn. There were players that being struck out or being bombed and either did not get as lucrative a contract or were sent to the minors as their stats were not as good as they would have been. They also cheated the record books and past stars that did not cheat and their names are removed from record books.

    The shame in all this is that, without the steroid use, both Bonds and Clemens, were and should have been first ballot Hall of Famers based on their numbers up that point where they decided to cheat.

    But unfortunately, they did cheat. They did decide to break the law. They also decided to lie and make a mockery of the legal system and baseball community.

    Rose bet on baseball. Shoeless Joe threw games. They have been banned from the Hall. Their playing records also would assuredly have allow them entry into the Hall of Fame. But they broke rules and have been excluded. If Bonds and Clemens are allowed in, then Rose and Jackson must also be allowed in based on their performance up that point in their careers.

    Reply
    1. The Dangerous Mabry

      Tony Gwynn played his first 15 seasons in the big leagues, and the most home runs he’d ever hit in a three year period was 28. Then all of a sudden from age 37 to 39, he hit 43 home runs (that’s an increase of over 50% over his previous best HR output) . Unprecedented power in his late 30s. I certainly don’t think anyone would accuse him of anything. Is that because he didn’t break a record, or because it’s perfectly reasonable for some players from time to time to increase their power output in their late 30s?

      I’m not trying to say there’s no likelihood that a PED was involved in some players’ performances, but by requiring all players to fit the same aging curve and performance arc, you’re excluding the possibility of anything exceptional ever happening. And I think it’s a real shame to say that nobody can be exceptional.

      Reply
    2. Andrew

      But both steroids and greenies improve performances, no? The difference between the two is one of degree, so either they should both be unforgivable or neither should be.

      I feel like people downplay the effects of amphetamines all the time, and liken them to a cup of coffee. They’re much more than that. People also try to differentiate between the two by saying amphetamines allow you to perform at your best more often, while steroids improve what your best is. But if at your best you can go 5 for 5 with 2 home runs and you take a drug that will allow you to perform at your best more often, surely you’ll hit more home runs? I mean, they’re not tic tacs.

      Reply
      1. Greg

        An example of how greenies could improve statistical performance can be easily calculated. While these numbers are pulled out of the air, you can substitute your own guess on what the numbers should be. Lets suppose that a player normally hits a HR every 15 AB. He plays 160 games a year. He is tired/run down for 40 of these games lowering his HR power to every 20 ABs for these games. He now takes greenies for these 40 games restoring him back to his normal talent level. Doing the math, he hits about 3 extra HRs a year and about 50 extra HRs for a HOF length career. Sluggers of course get more benefit based on a smaller HR/AB ratio and would likely see a bigger improvement. You can make similar estimates for the other statistical categories such as BA.

        So I agree with Andrew, both types of PEDs improve on field performance. Why is one form acceptable and not the other. Just be consistent.

        Reply
    3. hector

      hahahahahaha u are funny papa really wow ur on a high horse lol you can’t compare the likes of amphetamines to steroids. One keeps you alert,this is priceless really have u use them to make such a sure statement like this ? alert huh really ask a doctor look up the meaning and what it does on web med i doubt it say alert and they didn’t take one it was in a bowl in the middle of clubhouse and took fistful of them hahaha lol alert lol i never heard this before one drug worse than another cool i vote for u if u run for president make all drug legal. cheating been part of baseball since it started im not even going to give examples cause a real fan should know this , player now are playing better into there late yr more than ever before so they all using right, rose bet on his own team papa that a disgrace, shoeless Joe jackon got railroaded there more than enough evidence to prove he wasn’t part of the player who did the crime check again all of them said he was not involved but no one listened and still not listening. and thanks for ur numbers on bond and Clemens u proved my point there 1st half number are enough to get them into the HOF period and again i hope people don’t think that after 40 ur old and no good cause im 50 and still going strong with all the stuff player with money have workouts, healthy food etc etc no reason they cant put up great numbers into there 40;s as long a pitcher doesn’t have major arm problem no reason Clemens number are whacked? oh what about NOLAN RYAN who threw his 7 and last no hitter at age 40 something and when he retired he was still clocked in the mid 90′s with his curve as nasty as ever did he use PED too?

      Reply
  7. billybawl

    Absolutely agree. The silence from the HOF on the steroid scandal is a disservice to voters and ultimately more importantly, fans. And if you think it’s ok to lock out admitted and suspected PED users, consider that it also hurts the candidacy of “clean” players as well. As long as enough voters use some of their precious votes on players like Bonds, Clemens, whoever — who will never get the 75% needed for induction at least until the HOF clears this up — there will be other deserving clean players who might otherwise get those votes and will never reach the magic 75% themselves. Forget arguments pro/con for a “big” HOF — this is creating a bigger mess that will take some extraordinary action to resolve down the road, if not addressed soon. Maybe if Maddux is the only player elected by the BBWAA this year, this will become obvious to all.

    Whether the HOF says that PED use should count against a player’s candidacy, or should not be a disqualifying factor, it would help matter tremendously.

    Reply
  8. buddaley

    I know this is tangential to Joe’s post, but I will revisit my comments in another thread. Suppose we do this from now on. Whenever discussing any player from the past, or any era, we automatically append a parenthetical note about cheating or PED use of some sort. For example, “Willie Mays, despite repeated denials known to be a habitual amphetamine user, may have been a cheater, but we still have to vote him into the HOF. Mays hit more home runs in August (132) than any other month, as pitchers were tiring from the strain of a long season. How many would he have hit without chemical enhancement?”

    Or “Henry Aaron, who claimed to have popped an amphetamine only once but who is obviously under suspicion as many others also have made similar admissions only to be found out later to be lying, did indeed break Ruth’s record, but we now have to wonder how legitimate that was. After all, he lived through the amphetamine era, an epidemic when every clubhouse locker room was littered with bottles of the stuff. Could he have survived the debilitating Augusts without using PEDs to get onto the field, perhaps against exhausted pitchers who would not cross that boundary and take that advantage?”

    We could do this for just about every player and every era. “Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker, suspected of gambling on games,….Did they throw games? Cobb was known to leave for the off-season early when his BA lead was safe. What else did he do to enhance his figures in an era when “anything goes”? How legitimate are his numbers?”

    Does it leave a sour taste in your mouth? It does in mine. I would never consider doing it seriously. Yet we do it automatically now. It is almost impossible to start a thread about any recent ball player without stupid jokes, nasty comments and accusations, self-righteous blather and the like. Leave aside the injustice (or justice if you are so inclined) it metes out to players. Consider what it is doing to fans. I don’t mean that it is forcing them to face the truth. It isn’t, since the truth is so much more complex. Neutralize stats for the recent era, and the problem of comparing stats is lessened, a problem that always exists anyway. But focus on the game on the field-on the achievements relative to the era if you prefer.

    Reply
    1. Drew

      Stellar comment.

      I know this was a minor point in your comment, but regarding neutralized stats, if more people used stuff like WRC+ or WAR, it would help put things in perspective, and extinguish some of the crazy anti-steroid fervor and tendency to engage in weird witch hunts that Jay Bell, Brady Anderson, or Luis Gonzalez stats often foment.

      For example, take Bonds. Whether or not you believe that HGH made his offensive game improve, everyone can agree that his increase in size slowed him down in the field and on the basepaths. If you believe his offense was compromised (for the better) by getting bigger, take away a few wRAA and replace them with a few baserunning and fielding runs. He probably ends up with similar career WAR totals anyway. No harm, no foul.

      Reply
  9. Scott P.

    Yes, isn’t it messy allowing people to have their own individual opinions. Much better to have somebody tell people what to think. Avoids all the unpleasantness.

    Reply
  10. Section 220

    Peter – respectfully, your comment highlights so many problems I have with the “keep the PED users out!” contingent. First, you don’t actually know anything about the relative effects of amphetamines and steroids – you’re just operating on the basis of intuition. Second, selecting the outsized performances of two individuals and saying, essentially, that those performances speak for themselves, is just a remarkable act of illogic to me. Go take a look at Roger Maris’s home run totals by year. If he’d played thirty years later, you would probably be insisting he was on steroids for one year. Third, PEDs constitute cheating, even though they weren’t against a specific baseball rule, because they were illegal? I mean, a collision at home plate would be illegal outside the context of baseball, right? But no one would say that is cheating. Fourth, making a mockery of the record book? The record book makes a mockery of itself, without any help from outside sources. Really, different ball composition, different mound heights, different parks, SEGREGATION – and anyone thinks just blindly comparing stats across eras makes sense? I’ve never understood that. Finally, I don’t agree that if Bonds and Clemens, then Rose and Jackson, and I have no idea what is the logical link there, but, you know, personally I’d be fine with all four of the players you name being in the Hall of Fame.

    Reply
  11. Michael Green

    Today, on his website, Murray Chass has a column blistering the hypocrisy: both LaRussa and Torre in particular benefited from players who used steroids, and he cites the point that the manager’s job is to work with the players and run the clubhouse–and that here, the two of them obviously failed. It’s a point well worth pondering.

    On Dave Egan: when Casey Stengel was hit by a taxi and suffered a mangled leg (why he walked a bit strangely later), Egan said the cab driver should get an award for that year’s greatest contribution to Boston baseball. Years later, when someone came up to Stengel and said Egan had died, Stengel said Egan drank and he had saved his job for him. Knowing of Casey, I’d say he probably had. But T. Ballgame had very good reason to despise Boston sportswriters, and, even decades later, Curt Gowdy–yes, a sportscaster whom sportswriters of his time adored–said you can’t win with the Boston press. Was Williams temperamental? Yes. But he had reason to show his temper at times.

    Joe, wonderful to see reminders anew of Bowie Kuhn’s monumental ineptitude. Or, to put it another way, he was a decent fellow who saw his job as serving the owners, and he failed, because under his leadership, the owners he obeyed really hurt the game.

    Reply
  12. Michael Q.

    They should have the guts to just ban Bonds,Clemens, MacGwire, Palmiero and all the other guys that we know without a doubt abused PEDs. The people arguing “Well everybody does some bad stuff” are missing the point.

    The HoF is primarily about celebrating baseball excellence which we measure primarily through statistics. Now obviously, in the case of Negro Leaguers, we have to make allowances for the fact that they were unable to compile credible MLB statistics through no fault of their own. It is a benefit of the doubt thing but Josh Gibson deserves the benefit of your doubt. The steroid users actually have a simliar problem because their statistical records have been tainted by their PED use and we don’t know when and when they were not using PEDs (otherwise I would say just throw out all the stats compiled using PEDs and let them in if the rest is good enough).

    But does a law breaking drug user deserve the same kind of latitude as a victim of a racist system? Should we also give Bonds and Clemens the benefit of the doubt because, similar to Josh Gibson, the might have been all-time great players but we can’t prove it?

    I don’t want to see Bonds and Clemens in the Hall of Fame, not because they’re “bad people” I’m sure there are many worse people already in the hall as many commenters point out but Cobb, racist psychopath that he was, has an undoubtable statistical case for his place in the hall. That’s something Bonds can’t say unless you think that PED enhanced stats should be equal to natural stats, in which case we may as well just let all MLB players start taking HGH.

    I feel sorry for guys like Bagwell though who are blackballed without anything more than rumors. The Hall should have the guts to make up a concrete list of who is and isn’t eligible and justify their decisions. I totally agree with Joe P. on that point.

    Reply
      1. The Everlasting Dave

        Don’t Bonds and Clemens have solid HoF cases even if we disregard their late-career resurgences? Palmeiro is an example of a guy whose substance use might have actually let him hang on long enough to hit the big counting stats. I think you could argue either way on McGwire. But Bonds and Clemens were Hall of Famers on talent alone.

        Reply
    1. Doug

      It just seems horribly unfair to start saying at the present moment “There can be no cheaters in the Hall, ban everyone who cheated” while leaving tons of cheaters in the Hall. It’s unfair and unjust to start applying this standard now. And it seems to me that most of the people who take this position just want to ignore all the history and the context of baseball in favor of just drawing some simple line in the sand, or they just don’t like these players. But that’s not realistic, and it’s unfair.

      Reply
    2. Danny

      “The HoF is primarily about celebrating baseball excellence which we measure primarily through statistics.”

      The HOF is actually a museum that tells the history of baseball. To fully tell the history you cant just ignore the ugly parts of history you dont like. That would be like studying American History and not learning about racism because some people didnt think that painted us in a good light.

      Reply
        1. Danny

          Any inclusion of Bonds, Clemens or any other known PED guy should include a little history about their PED usage in their plaques. Its part of the history of the game and their career. I have always mantained that whatever can be proven should be included.

          Reply
  13. BobDD

    While I find it particularly irritating that so many make the idiotic claim that we cannot know if PEDs helped Barry Bonds for example or not, I am in favor of voting in guys based on their accomplishments – no further penalties. The need many have of punishing users further will be automatically taken care of – the caveats will follow them forever, a punishment that fits the crime as far as I’m concerned, both being fame-based.

    Reply
  14. Pat

    “The argument against including PED users in the Hall isn’t that what they did was morally wrong or illegal (like domestic abuse or DUI), but that they broke the rules to enhance their performance.”

    Which, of course, they didn’t, except for Rafael Palmeiro. Baseball’s rules did not disallow the use of AAS or “speed” during the careers of those who are currently being locked out, by and large. If you want to vote against someone who tested positive after such rules were in place, fine, but Bonds didn’t break any of baseball’s rules, nor did McGwire, or Clemens, or Piazza, or Bagwell. Or are you just assuming they did despite never testing positive?

    Reply
  15. DjangoZ

    Joe,

    I respect your opinion and your logic a great deal. And I understand the point you were trying to make (that sometimes the BBWA needs a nudge or some direction).

    But to compare Ted Williams making a case for Negro Leaguers getting in to the HOF to a committee sorting out the steroid era (so more of those players get in) is insulting. And on some level I think you know that.

    You have made your views about the PED players known: you think they should be in. So you are not really arguing that we should discuss what happened, you are arguing that we should find a way to get more of these players in the Hall. Which means that your posting here equates Negro Leaguers being denied entrance with PED users being denied entrance. Something I’m pretty sure you would never have written or said directly.

    I have no problem with you calling for a special committee to sort out the steroid issue (it is complicated) I don’t agree with it, but I understand it.

    But please reconsider whether using the story of Negro League players to make that case is a good idea.

    Thanks,
    Django

    Reply
    1. BIP

      You’re demonstrably wrong. Joe’s point isn’t that PED users are being mistreated like the Negro Leagues players were–it’s that the BBWAA is not equipped to handle these kinds of special circumstances, so the HOF needs to step up and provide a standard by which players from the Steroid Era can be judged, whether it be for inclusion or exclusion.

      Reply
  16. Adam

    “Guys like Bonds and Clemmons (sic) were so exteme in their use of steroids and their lies about it that, to me. it is rough justice that they are denied Hall of Fame entry. As to other closer cases, life is not fair and it really is no big deal if a guy who became fabulously rich through baseball is denied an additional honor. ”

    At some level, this viewpoint is inherently the problem. Writers and others feel that omitting a player is simply punishing THAT PLAYER. They miss the wider impact this punishes the Hall of Fame and the fans of the game. I hope to visit the Hall over the next few years. It would be disappointing to me if 75-90% of the recent greats weren’t enshrined. They also feel than enshrining these players diminishes the Hall. Does letting in marginal candidates like Rice, Dawson, and Sutter diminish the accomplishments of others?

    Reply
  17. NevadaMark

    I’m sure all of you realize that in the not too distant future, this discussion will be rendered academic. The writers elected no one last year and, according to informed opinion, will probably select one player (Maddux) this year.

    This is completely ridiculous. As one BR pointed out earlier, there may be 15 completely qualified players awaiting induction right now. There is no way, NO WAY, that the Hall of Fame is going to go along with the writers electing one player every two years. They tried that crap before, back in the sixties, and in the forties, and then all those guys the writers rejected ended up in the Hall through the back door, along with some real clunkers.

    Did you notice that after the Hall was patting itself on the back last year after the writers shut out the most qualified class of players in many years, they turn around and put in three guys only a baseball scholar had ever heard of? You tell me how that makes the Hall look? And of course this year they threw together a special expansion committee and put in three more. So that is six inductees in two years, completely bypassing the writers.

    The point is, the Hall of Fame is not going to stop electing people. And if the writers are not going to put in these guys (again, the most qualified class in years), then the Hall of Fame will get them in some other way. It is going to happen. There is no way the Hall is going to leave out Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens indefinitely. They will have to wait, no question. But they are going in eventually, no matter what the writers say.

    Reply
    1. DjangoZ

      We’ll see. But you sound way more confident in your prediction than you have a right to be.

      The PED era is unlike anything that has happened before involving the HOF. Predicting what will happen with certainty seems like a fool’s bet.

      Reply
  18. KC Oracle (@KCOracle)

    By saying the ballot now has 16-17 deserving players and will soon have 25, you are more saying the current voting system is flawed, not that “letting the writers sort out steroid issue writers sort out the steroid issue” is ridiculous. To me, it just does not make that much difference who makes the HOF, and I’m a big baseball fan. I enjoy the debates, and like to see the guys honored, but I don’t care too much about the ultimate votes. The only true injustice I can think of was not putting Buck O’Neil in before he died, but that was an entirely different system. Who is excluded that the typical basebal fan should be distressed about?

    Reply
  19. Cristián A. Huidobro

    Most people seems to agree with Joe… I do too… I’d love to see Sammy Sosa in the HoF. Why? Because in 1998, when I first get interested in baseball it was because Sosa and McGwire. I’m from Chile so the chances of getting to know something about baseball was nonexistent… Until the home run chase happened and even some local newspapers published something about it… this far south.

    It was great… and it was my first approach to baseball. From that point I became a fan, first rooting for Sosa (you know, the latino guy) and then for the Cubs (and crying when Steve Bartman happened) and then for baseball in general. I’ve read a lot (all Posbooks for starters) and I learned to love it.

    Yes!! I was as disappointed when Sosa was caught corking his bat as I was when he forgot how to speak English… but still, I’m now a fan of baseball who travels frequently to USA to catch a game. Isn’t that the whole point of the Hall? To honor the the great players and the history of the game?

    Reply
  20. Paul78

    If steroids was no big deal, why didn’t any of these guys admit they were taking them? Answer: because they knew it was wrong.

    Posnanski is a very talented writer but he is a steroid apologist.

    Paul78

    Reply
    1. BIP

      Some of them testified to Congress under oath while still playing, so an admission now would constitute perjury. In general though, players don’t stop trying to make money after they retire, and admitting to PED use is bad PR. Neither of those reasons have anything to do with the efficacy of steroids (and it can be wrong to use them even if they don’t enhance performance–perception matters, also health consequences).

      Reply
    2. Matt Williams (@Matt1J)

      That’s not why they didn’t admit it. They didn’t admit it because it could cost them money. Sosa used millions to build hospitals and schools in the DR. Do you really think he gives a shit what Joe Schmo from the US thinks of him using PED’s? Who among us wouldn’t cheat in a game if it meant using the money that we made to better the community? This is why the “high moral standards” voters have is such a joke. They have never been in a positon where if the family didn’t catch dinner, everyone went to bed hungry.

      Reply
  21. Evan

    I don’t understand why so many people equate induction into the hall with recording history. It’s not as if people who oppose Bonds or Clemens being inducted believe that their names and accomplishments should be blighted from the history books. The hall is also a museum, and these players, their numbers and their transgressions will have a place there. Rather, it is an argument that these players are not worthy of receiving baseball’s highest honor. This is, at heart, a subjective assessment. There are some who argue that a player like Ty Cobb, a racist and a bully, is not worthy of the honor. While I personally disagree with this argument, I accept the position as perfectly valid. Likewise, my personal stance is not that Bonds and Clemens are worse people than Cobb but rather that their actions undermined the game and its history to such an extent that drastic action is necessary both to preserve the game’s history (imperfect as that solution is) and to provide the firmest rejection for future players who may consider taking steroids. Zero tolerance is a position consistent with every major international athletic governing body, and baseball is in fact lenient by comparison. Bonds and co. should consider themselves lucky that unlike Marion Jones or Lance Armstrong, they have not been retroactively stripped of their awards.

    Reply
    1. bellweather22

      Excellent point! I had not thought about how track and cycling treated steroids. Obviously, both had reached the point where PED usage was a virtual requirement to compete and they had to take extreme measures. Certainly denying someone a plaque in the HOF pales by comparison.

      Reply
  22. invitro

    I have not read the comments closely, as I want to save what looks like a lively debate for tomorrow’s reading. But in a scan, I didn’t see anyone address what I think is the main issue with steroids — their effect on health. I assume that steroids, the drugs that Bonds and Clemens etc took, are illegal because they are very harmful to future health. If that’s not why they’re illegal, someone please sort me out. I have a problem with honoring steroid users because of their influence on other players; other players feeling like they have to take steroids to keep their jobs, especially if it is true that they do.

    I can’t imagine that I’m the only one for whom this is the main opposition to PED-enhanced players. The illegality is a factor, and the cheating is a factor, but they are smaller ones, and alone, would not nearly be enough. If the drugs that the players used were not suspected of being very harmful to one’s health at the time the players took them, then I would not have a problem with honoring the players.

    I hope to see more people say just why they are ok or not ok with players’ use of steroids, rather than just jumping past that issue.

    Reply
    1. Ross

      Good point invitro. I’m a steroid/HOF agnostic as I won’t be upset if they do or do not get in. Since some say PEDs today are similar to greenies and you can’t draw a line between the two, imagine this hypothetical: there’s a drug that one can take that will give them superman/terminator/Robocop hitting powers and those that take this drug dominate. But the catch is that you’ll instantly die when you turn 45. No doubt some players would still take it. But it’s obvious many would object to the drug’s use and be troubled if those players were treated the same as those who didn’t take the drug. I’m not being all that serous here, but I just introduce this slippery slope argument to point out that it’s possible to draw a line somewhere.

      Reply
    2. Doug

      Fine, as long as you’re also in favor of removing all greenie users from the Hall. But I don’t see why a standard should apply only to players from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, and not to players from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, and it’s not like amphetamines can’t be used in unhealthy ways.

      I feel like I’ve made these points a million times, but this is what always bothers me about these arguments – people constantly seem to be arguing for these standards by which steroid players can’t be put in the Hall that they don’t apply to and that haven’t been applied to any other players in history. And it’s not just a question of voting for the Hall, it seems like it’s true in general of how people judge these players.

      Reply
      1. bellweather22

        Cite me an example where a greenie using player suddenly amps up his performance to ridiculous levels, such as hitting 70 or 73 HRs, and I’ll be with you on your perpetual attempt to somehow link the impact of steroid usage to greenies.

        Reply
        1. Doug

          Either the use of steroids was morally / ethically unacceptable, or it wasn’t and it only matters because it makes the statistics unreliable.

          If it was morally unacceptable, then it shouldn’t matter whether or not greenies were more effective – if it was wrong, it was wrong, and if you’re going to subject the Hall to the standard that cheating is unacceptable, you can’t give players passes for not being as good at cheating. If it’s simply wrong, then it cannot possibly matter how effective it was. Because at that level, you’re keeping players out of the Hall for having the historical bad luck to be born at a time when PEDs were effective.

          If it’s purely a question of statistics, numbers, and performances, not at all a question of ethics or cheating, then people should get off the moral high horse, and they should vote Barry Bonds in, since he put up what is basically a Hall of Fame career before the point where most people believe he started to use steroids.

          But you can’t have it both ways – either it’s morally wrong and greenies are just as wrong, or it’s a question of statistics, in which case it’s nuanced.

          (and I don’t think that steroids are solely to blame for the spike in HRs by the way, but that’s neither here nor there)

          Reply
          1. invitro

            “Either the use of steroids was morally / ethically unacceptable, or it wasn’t and it only matters because it makes the statistics unreliable.”

            “But you can’t have it both ways – either it’s morally wrong and greenies are just as wrong, or it’s a question of statistics, in which case it’s nuanced.”

            I don’t get it… why don’t you think both issues can matter?

      1. invitro

        Mr. Williams: my impression is that yes, the fat dude is healthier. If I could read some facts that say not, I will immediately change my mind.

        Doug: First, it matters not at all if amphetamines -can- be used in unhealthy ways, what matters is if there was a climate where the typical player believed that they had to use them in order to compete, and if such use was extremely unhealthy. I believe neither was the case, although as always, I will change my mind given facts (or a very good bit of reasoning).

        Reply
        1. Greg

          According to Ball Four, there were “coffee pots” in each clubhouse that were full of amphetamines. When the Feds were prosecuting Bonds and Clemens, they spent millions trying to find someone other than their trainer to testify that they did steroids. So which one is the climate with more pressure to use drugs, the one where greenies were actively available in the clubhouse with the teams consent, or the one where the players didn’t talk about their PED use?

          Reply
          1. invitro

            Well… good point. But I don’t think the pressure to use was some kind of childlike peer pressure, where the players were pressured to use because they worried that they wouldn’t be popular unless they used. I think they worried that they would lose their jobs unless they used. I think that more players used steroids than amphetamines with a fear of getting released if they didn’t. But more information could change my mind.

  23. Clayt

    I really love Joe’s posts on the Hall of Fame and frequent this blog daily. I think he’s a great writer and a good human being. But I also think he’s a bit too forgiving at times. As someone else pointed out, he’s a PED apologist and as I’ll point out, he’s a Joe Paterno apologist to some degree. This is not to imply that he condones PED-use or any of Paterno’s actions but rather that Joe Posnanski’s tender heart sometimes seems to get in the way of his brilliant mind.

    I think the HOF basically has an A or B decision: A) eliminate the “character clause” in the HOF voting regs and essentially let the PED-users all in or B) simply state that proven PED users are ineligible for the HOF. I’d have no problem with the HOF stating that only players who have been caught cheating during their playing days and received a suspension are ineligible for the HOF. That would eliminate Palmeiro, A-Rod, Manny Ramirez, and many others while still allowing for the likes of Bonds and Clemens to get in.

    Reply
    1. The Everlasting Dave

      The BBWAA has already made it clear that they know better than anyone who did what. They’d be free to translate B) to say “You can’t vote for anyone who was suspended. Or anyone you think should have been suspended. Or anyone who might have given a dirty look to you or someone standing near you that one time.” Which is pretty much what they’re already doing. I don’t think it’d help Bonds or Clemens one bit.

      Reply
    1. Dan Shea

      Compare equate. Certainly in both cases there is a variance between what people believe the Hall should include and the players actually voted (or not voted) in. Joe’s thesis, that the Hall should provide more guidance to the voters, isn’t crazy at all. Leaving it up to the BBWAA has proved to be unsuccessful before and appears not to be working again.

      Reply
  24. Dave Gilland

    I agree that LaRussa shouldn’t get in while McGwire doesn’t. Let’s find a way to stop LaRussa from making it in.

    Reply
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    1. Greg

      False, there WAS NO rule against PEDs before testing. If you are referring to the 92 memo, that was not applicable to the players. The CBA covered the drugs rules and management could not unilaterally change the CBA. PEDs became against the rules when the CBA changed in the 200x (don’t remember the exact year). The 92 memo had the same legal affect for the players as our comments in a sports blog.

      Reply
      1. invitro

        I just read some on the issue:

        http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1151761/1/index.htm
        http://www.steroidsinbaseball.net/commish/vincent.html

        and my interpretation was that the 1991 Vincent memo did indeed constitute a rule (with no testing). The strongest statement that it was not a rule is “the union maintained the right to challenge disciplinary decisions that resulted from a violation of the policy”, which does not at all deny that it was in fact a rule. I will try to protect myself by saying that I do not understand or know the details of this issue.

        I believe it had more strength for the players than our comments :), but of course less strength than the 2002 setup.

        Reply
      2. bellweather22

        Not true. The commissioner could make something against the rules. He just couldn’t dictate punishment for breaking that rule without collective bargaining. But make no mistake. The players knew it was wrong and against the rules. Not one player has ever argued that what they did was OK? In fact, virtually all denied it beyond the point of ridiculousness.

        Reply
        1. Greg

          The owner’s flunky (aka commissioner) could not unilaterally change the CBA. He can send out a memo today making eating blueberry pancakes for breakfast against the rules, but it would be meaningless without changes in the CBA. Substitute steroids for blueberry pancakes doesn’t suddenly make it a valid rule change.

          The players have also never argued that taking greenies was OK, although they did for 50 years.

          Reply
          1. Pat

            I’m so confused by this line of reasoning. If there was really no rule against using steroids, why weren’t there players out there saying, Yeah, we’re using it? I don’t mean Canseco’s book; I mean guys who were playing the sport at the time—why did all of them pretend that OF COURSE we’re not using it (even when we all knew they were)?

  28. TWolf

    Joe is very naive if he thinks that the creation of a select committee will come to a consensus on how voters should treat PED’s in evaluating Hall of Fame candidates. It is inevitable that there would be deep divisions between the relative liberals (individuals like Joe) and the many hard liners who currently do not favor players such as Bonds or Clemons, let alone Piazza or Bagwell.

    How good was the committee appointed by Congress to deal with the more serious problem of the federal budget deficit? Congress, along with the President, created the sequester so that the parties would come to an agreement. Maybe the committee suggested by Joe should adopt a drastic solution like the sequester. That is, if no consensus is reached, the Hall of Fame would be abolished!

    Reply
  29. Alejo

    Dear Mr Posnanki,

    You are a fine writer and I read your blog frequently but, let me say (with respect) that you are totally off your rocker on this one.

    Let’s put it this way: until the late 1940′s black players were robbed of the opportunity to play in the big leagues, realise their potential and make a decent living off their talent and effort. Ted Williams said as much and opened the way to at least give those players a place in history. He “took a stand”.

    Half a century later a group of players decided to use illegal (as in, illegal under federal law) drugs to enhance athletic performance. They did this in secret, so their advantage would remain unknown of their colleagues. Players who did not use these drugs were at a disadvantage and in many instances were robbed of the opportunity to make a decent living off their talent and effort (Tom Verducci has documented this). During much of the 1990s and 2000s PED users were not discriminated, but celebrated and several of them compiled numbers big enough to write a new record book.

    Racists worked to tilt the playing field their way. PED users worked toward the same goal. Both succeeded, for a time.

    The equivalent of the negro players of old are those players who couldn’t reach the big leagues because PED users out-competed them, the sluggers that couldn’t reach the HoF because they were out-homered by steroid-takers, the young who destroyed their bodies by dabbling in dangerous drugs without the money to pay for a cutting-edge doping regime.

    And you request the HoF to “Take a stand” and let PED users in????? I am sorry to say this, but you are raving.

    Reply
    1. invitro

      Wow, beautifully said. It seems that the PED users are not the ones discriminated against, and in fact it is the non-users who were discriminated against. But about half the BBWAA has realized this and voted accordingly.

      Reply
  30. Richard

    (Not Richard Aronson, but a different Richard)

    I agree with the main thrust of Alejo’s comments above (not that Mr. Posnanski is “totally off [his] rocker”, but what the use of PEDs did to those who *didn’t* use them).

    Let me offer an analogy on the matter of PEDs and the HoF:

    You’ve got three co-workers, Tom, Dick, and Harry, who are all in line for a major promotion. Your boss’ boss (from Corporate HQ) is asking you for your thoughts on the three of them. Since he doesn’t know them personally, your advice will be important.

    You take the time to think on what you know of them.

    Tom is a bit of a brown-noser. It’s not obvious, and never done in a “Hey, look at what I’m doing!” manner, but he always seems to be in the middle of things. Reliably reliable, he never seems to take vacations, or even call in sick. He never complains about anything, and even offers to work overtime on occasion. This is offset by the fact that overall, his work might not always be up to snuff. But he’s just so darn nice and polite and never gives anyone problems. And he can usually be counted on to bring in doughnuts every now and then…

    Dick must be living a charmed life. His projects always manage to come in on time and under budget, and for no apparent reason. It always seems like the more vital a project is, the better he looks. The day-to-day stuff, he’s nothing particularly special. But when the chips are down, and the corporate overlords are watching, Dick always manages to pull of something spectacular.

    Harry… Well, he’s a good worker and an asset to the company. But there was that one time, where purely by chance, you caught him taking drugs on the job. In his defense, he said that what he’s taking is legal, and often prescribed for neurological matters. He told you that it relieves mental fatigue, helps him focus, and aids his memory. He even points out that taking it is not against any corporate policy. You do a little research on the stuff, and find out that he is entirely correct on all points. But you also find out that despite there being no long-term studies of the drug at present, there’s good evidence suggesting that overuse and misuse can lead to serious health problems down the line.

    All three candidates are worthy of the promotion. But which one is the best choice for the company in the long term? Who is the right choice from an _ethical_ standpoint? No one is doing anything wrong…

    Reply
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  34. Mike Emeigh

    The one time that the Hall of Fame *has* intervened in the process – by changing the rules to prevent the BBWAA from considering players on baseball’s ineligible list, AKA the Pete Rose rule – the writers screamed bloody murder. And they’d probably scream again if the HoF tried to step in on the PED issue, regardless of which way the HoF decided to leap.

    What kind of guidance could the HoF give that would move the process forward? Would any of the militant anti-PED writers change their opinion? I think not, and I think the powers that be at the HoF realize this.

    Reply
  35. Pat

    “The BBWAA craves leadership. The Hall of Fame is supposed to provide it.”

    Oy, Joe. What does it mean that the Hall of Fame is “supposed” to do anything? And more to the point, when has anyone ever thought that it could do it? It’s amazing to me that—what is it, thirty years since Bill James published The Politics of Glory?—that this long after, people still use this moralizing tone of what the Hall is and what it should mean. You know that it doesn’t, and it won’t. I know it’s satisfying to pretend that the world is other than it is, but c’mon.

    As for the specific recommendation, permit me a bitter chuckle. First, the cheap dig: Do you want Clemens or McGwire or Bonds to play the part of Jackie Robinson in this second-bit-of-integration, on the part of the users? There’s an enormous gulf between the exclusion of Negro Leaguers from the Hall and the fact that the voters are still struggling with what to make of the steroid era.

    Second, the (somewhat) more serious point: The voters aren’t throwing a tantrum, they aren’t making a scene, they’re doing just what I said: still struggling with what to make of it. The inescapable fact of the steroid era is that, among other things, it made once-remarkable feats feel a lot more ordinary. You don’t have to think that Mark McGwire is a dirty cheat who would be served right if he were excluded for his dirty cheating to wonder if he’s really a HOFer. Some of those voters are trying to figure out what his line would look like if he’d never used. It’s not an easy determination to make.

    If the Hall were to make an authoritative pronouncement, they could do one of two things that would actually be useful to the voters. The Hall could say that (a) no player who played during the steroid era is eligible for the Hall or that (b) the numbers should be considered as-if clean, even for players for whom substantial evidence of use exists. Those bright-lines would both be lousy decisions, but they’re also the only decisions that would actually help the voters vote.

    If they said instead that players who used shouldn’t be considered, then you just move the inquiry to who used. If players who tested positive, or admitted, or were convicted in a court of using get excluded, then what about the considerable number of their contemporaries who probably used but never got caught quite so red-handed? Is it really fair to treat them differently? (No.) But is it any fairer to exclude those players on evidence they don’t get the chance to rebut, under circumstances where the factual record is almost inevitably unreliable? (Not much.)

    If they said proved or suspected use is one factor to consider, but not dispositive—that you should think of it in the leadership and character clauses—-they wouldn’t have changed a single thing, because that’s already what the voters are doing. And it still doesn’t tell you anything about whether an individual player is induction-worthy. Barry Bonds stole 400 bases and hit 400 home runs long before he got pissed at McGwire and Sosa making a show of it and his hat size changed—should that outweigh his use? The voters who think steroids are A Big Deal will still come to that conclusion under any new Hall guidance, and the voters who would come to a different one—well, they already think that Bonds of course belongs in, no matter how much you take away from his case because he did it with steroids (just count the stats under the old hat size).

    If they did the thing I think is right—which is to say, voters who think a player may have used steroids should try to adjust the player’s accomplishments to reflect (a) how likely the player did in fact use and (b) what they player would have accomplished in the absence of such use (and possibly adding a de jure exclusion for players with a second or third positive test), they would have just given the voters an essentially impossible task.

    Which is after all what they already have.

    Reply
  36. Doug McClure

    Ken Griffey Jr.

    My greatest argument against letting in the Steroid users is the message it sends to the ones who didn’t use.

    Imagine you are Griffey in 2000 and sitting out with a hamstring injury while McGuire and Bonds and Sosa put up staggering numbers. He HAD to have been tempted to use what I’m sure he knew was available to get back on the field.

    If he would have used steroids and not sat out 1/3 of his games with the Reds, we could be having the same conversation about him now. “A juiced Griffey hit 852 home runs. What he did was wrong, but it was the era he was in.”

    It seems REALLY wrong to give the ones who did not have the inner fortitude to do the right thing for the game of baseball into the Hall of Fame. It would kill the Hall for me.

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