By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Arguing whether players who took performance enhancing drugs should be in the Hall Of Fame is sort of like the sports version of arguing about abortion or capital punishment.
Everyone’s got an opinion, everyone’s passionate about it, and no one is changing their mind. It’s a combination that usually leads to any discussion ending loudly and without much resolve.
Also, most people aren’t able to shut up about it. And with that … here we are.
When the baseball Hall Of Fame ballot is released at noon on Wednesday, there will be three names on in it that will be discussed ad nauseam; Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. All three players will be argued about not because of their baseball resumes, which are all impressive, but because they’re all suspected of knowingly taking performance enhancing drugs to improve their performance.
None of the three will be elected to the Hall, certainly not this year. All three should be first ballot inductees, even though they’re likely guilty of cheating.
There are three reasons why Bonds, Clemens and Sosa should be voted in.
1 – They were three of the best, most dominant players of their generation.
The numbers supporting Bonds and Clemens are beyond undeniable, and Sosa’s resume would make him a lock if PEDs were not an issue.
Bonds is baseball’s all time home run leader (762), all time single season home run leader (73), all time leader in walks (2558), has 2935 hits, 1995 RBIs, won seven MVP awards, won eight Gold Glove awards, was elected to 14 All-Star teams, and the best, most dominant hitter of the last 30 years. He’s the all time leader in intentional walks because of how feared he was.
Clemens won 354 games, recorded 4672 strikeouts, won seven Cy Young Awards, one MVP award, won 20 games six times, and was elected to 11 All-Star teams.
Sammy Sosa hit 609 home runs, got 2408 hits, knocked in 1667 RBIs, won one MVP and was elected to seven All-Star teams.
2 – There is no official, confirmed record of who took PEDs and who did not.
If we knew who cheated and who did not, and wanted to make Hall Of Fame decisions based on those facts, those would be fair and reasonable decisions to make.
The problem is, we don’t really have any idea who took anything.
The rampant use of steroids in the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s calls into question not just the statistics of these three players, but every single player who played during this era, not just those who excelled. It’s not just certain players who deserve an asterisk, it’s an entire era.
It’s also important to note that Bonds and Clemens were dominant players even before it appears they took any PEDs.
It’s certainly fair to say that the increased offensive statistics of this era should be considered when comparing these players to those of other generations. However, when we compare these players to other players during this era, they’re still the best of that group of players.
Think about it, would you be truly surprised to hear about a confirmed test from anyone in this era? Even Derek Jeter or Jim Thome, you’d be disappointed for sure, but no one would be truly surprised. PEDs don’t just make people big and strong (and make your head huge), they can help recover from injury faster, which allows more games to be played and more statistics compiled. Who knows how many disabled list trips were avoided that we’ll never know about it. We can look and see with our eyes that Sosa, McGwire and Bonds were on something, but that’s far from enough reason to suggest they were the only ones. Andy Pettitte did not have giant arms or a giant head.
Until there’s some kind of confirmed steroid master list, we should consider everyone guilty until proven innocent.
Either they’re all out, or they’re all in.
3 – Lots of players cheat, in lots of different ways.
Pitchers doctor the ball, batters cork bats and kick away the lines in the back of the batters box to get an extra step beyond where the line was. They’re all cheating, and they’re all doing it on purpose.
Putting players who took PEDs into the Hall Of Fame will not cause us to forget what they did.
Keeping players who took PEDs out of the Hall Of Fame doesn’t absolve the media or the public for ignoring that it was happening, something that in hindsight is pretty clear that happened.
We’ll also be able to raise the profile of those who are innocent, by pushing this discussion to the back burner. If it’s no longer a debate, players like Biggio and Piazza, both eligible this year, will be able to get their just due.