Baseball, Drugs, and the Hall of Fame

Posted by on Dec 28, 2012 in Baseball

Leaving performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) out of the equation for a moment, and looking at the raw numbers alone, here’s a list of eligible players sorted by career WAR (I also looked at the trendy JAWS but didn’t like it).

Player WAR Summary
Barry Bonds 158 762 HR,.444OBP,7xMVP
Roger Clemens 134 354-184,143ERA+,7xCYA
Jeff Bagwell 77 MVP,RoY,4xA-S,GG
Curt Schilling 76 216-146,127ERA+,3xCY#2
Larry Walker 70 MVP,7xGG,3xBA#1
Alan Trammell 67 6xA-S,4xGG
Rafael Palmeiro 66 569 HR,4xA-S,3xGG
Tim Raines 66 808 SB,7xA-S
Kenny Lofton 65 6xA-S,4GG,’94WAR#1
Edgar Martinez 64 7xA-S,2xBA#1
Craig Biggio 62 3060H,RS#15,HBP#2
Mark McGwire 59 583 HR,12xA-S,GG
Mike Piazza 56 427HR#1@C,10xSS,12xA-S
Sammy Sosa 55 ’98MVP,7xA-S,609HR-8th
David Wells 49 239-157,pWAR#81
Fred McGriff 48 5xA-S,2xHR#1
Bernie Williams 46 ’98BA#1,5xA-S,4xGG
Dale Murphy 43 2xMVP,7xA-S,5xGG
Steve Finley 40 304HR,320SB,5xGG
Julio Franco 40 5xSS,played to age 62
Don Mattingly 40 MVP,6xA-S,9xGG
Jack Morris 39 5xA-S,2xW#1
Reggie Sanders 37 305HR,304SB
Jeff Cirillo 32 ’96-’01 WAR@3B#2
Shawn Green 31 328HR,’99AL-TB#1
Lee Smith 28 478 SV,7xA-S
Woody Williams 28 132-116,103ERA+,A-S
Rondell White 26 108OPS+,+52rFld,2xA-S
Ryan Klesko 25 278HR,128OPS+
Aaron Sele 18 148-112,2xA-S
Roberto Hernandez 17 326SV,>>Mesa
Royce Clayton 16 2x dWAR#1,1904H
Jeff Conine 16 Mr.Marlin,1982H,2xA-S
Mike Stanton 13 68-63,84SV,112ERA+,A-S
Sandy Alomar 12 RoY,6xA-S,GG
Jose Mesa 10 321SV,100ERA+,2xA-S
Todd Walker 8 .289BA,’02F%/PO@2B#1

Now the PED issue… Been thinking long and hard about it. In the end, I’ve decided that players who may have used PEDs should be allowed into the Hall of Fame without penalty, and that MLB should be blamed for everything.

Did players cheat by using PEDs? Fuck yes, they did. But so many players from so many eras have cheated in so many different ways. Doesn’t mean it’s OK, but who’s responsible for a) monitoring players to make sure they are playing fairly, b) doing everything they can to prevent cheating, and c) creating consequences when cheaters are busted? MLB.

MLB busted Joe Jackson and Pete Rose for offenses so malicious that they were banned from the game and Hall of Fame forever. Fine. Whether or not those guys should go in is another issue altogether. But MLB never busted Bonds or Clemens or McGwire or Bagwell. And when a big name, Rafael Palmeiro, finally got busted, he received a 10-day ban and then returned to finish the season with the Orioles. Now fans and voters are supposed to do what MLB was never willing or able to do, pass the proper judgment, and prevent these guys from going into the Hall of Fame? Bullshit.

A side note here… Some players have admitted using PEDs after their careers are over. That’s not noble. You’ve already played your career, made your money, cheated your fans. Voluntarily admitting you’ve used PEDs DURING your career, when there’s still a lot of money on the table… Now THAT is noble. Let’s say a serial rapist admits that he’s a serial rapist before he’s caught. Is that noble? No. In fact, he’d probably be tried in court and sent to prison. What is MLB doing with admitted PED users? Giving them jobs as batting coaches and leaving the Hall of Fame doors wide open for them.

It’s not our responsibility to keep the Hall of Fame pure — it was and always will be MLB’s responsibility to keep the game pure. Players did wrong, but MLB did wronger. As fans, we should sit back and enjoy watching the best players from our generation go into the Hall of Fame, not be burdened by the responsibility of judging and punishing them. It’s MLB that should be judged and punished for failing to responsibly handle this matter.

All this to say that I’m fine with the above list as is. I say, let ’em in, and then let’s all agree that the Hall of Fame doesn’t mean anything anymore, thanks to MLB.

Thoughts on Specific Players

Jeff Bagwell
His stance was unusual, but there was nothing special about it that helped him hit home runs. Note how few he hit in the minors and early career with essentially the same stance. Given his minor league stats, the fact that he hit substantially more home runs AFTER the traditional power peak of age 27-28, and his notable change in body appearance, I’d bet that Bagwell did steroids. Regardless, for reasons stated above, I think he belongs in the HOF.

Barry Bonds
An obvious user. No player in history had as great a resurgence as he did after age 34. It was unprecedented and unnatural.

None of other players who have used steroids were as good as Bonds. Without steroids, McGwire may have been an above average hitter, Sosa likely would have been below average. (At least their minor league numbers seem to suggest this.) Bonds got on the juice when he was already the game’s greatest hitter.

Jose Canseco
You may call him an opportunist, but I call him a breath of fresh air. He was the first guy to speak openly about it, and you can argue that his 2005 book blew the cover off the Steroid Era. I’m surprised no serious attempts on his life have been made.

Roger Clemens
With pitchers, things get a bit murky. There are lots of opinions about how PEDs help pitchers, but here’s mine: Steroids make pitchers stronger, but it also makes them more susceptible to injury. Muscles simply become too strong for the tendons that attach them to bones. Look at how many young, muscle-bound pitchers blow their arms out these days.

Perhaps the careful use of HGH prolongs a pitcher’s career by allowing him to recover/heal more quickly, and this may have been how Clemens and other pitchers have unnaturally extended their careers.

I’ve heard rumors that his 50 game hiatus in 2006 was actually time served for steroid conviction swept under the rug. Seems to fit nicely.

Mark McGwire
Proof that MLB just doesn’t care. After admitting to steroid use throughout his career in 2010, he became hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals. Disgusting.

Manny Ramirez
Got busted. Twice. Idiot.

Alex Rodriguez
Might have been one of the best players in history without steroids. Now he’s just another asterisk.

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