Baseball is currently in the period when Opening Day festivities have passed and everyone is either way too pessimistic or way too excited (Looking at you, Baltimore). So to keep it simple, let’s look at the incredibly active debate of performance enhancing drug (PED) users in the Hall of Fame.
Ever since Ken Caminiti and Sports Illustrated blew the lid off in 2002, the MLB led a witch hunt for PED users. Left in the wake are many players who, if the story never broke, would be shoo-ins for the Hall of Fame. These famous players – such as Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez – have had their names dragged through the mud, especially after the Mitchell Report released the names of 87 active and retired players who allegedly used PEDs. Almost 10 years after the Mitchell Report, the smoke has mostly cleared, but the penalties for using are very severe. The penalty for failing a drug test in baseball starts at 80 games for the first offense, a whole season the second and a lifetime ban for the third, as seen with Jenrry Mejia. Baseball is a very traditionalist sport, is very set in its own ways and refuses to change. For this reason, some of baseball’s greatest players may never be given baseball’s greatest honor.
In my mind, it seems pretty ludicrous to think that baseball is the sport that is most changed by the fact that a few players used PEDs. Many famous writers say that you still need to have the ability to hit a baseball and hit the strike zone to be able to be good. Having the ability to hit or pitch isn’t entirely affected by PEDs. If I started taking synthetic testosterone, I wouldn’t be any closer to batting fourth for the Yankees than before I took them. With all this being said, the ability to hit a ball farther and throw harder is affected by PEDs. As all athletes are competitors, all athletes want to have an edge. PEDs most likely gave those players the edge that they needed, whether it turned Barry Bonds into the Home Run king or gave Roger Clemens the most Cy Young awards in history. Are these actions condonable? No. Are they understandable? To an extent. Nonetheless, PEDs didn’t drastically change baseball. All they did was make the good players better.
So how should this affect players who should be on their way to Cooperstown? It seems to already be changing. Many people believe that Mike Piazza was a user due to his size and durability, yet he was still elected this January. Coincidently, Clemens and Bonds both received 45% and 44% of the votes this year, up 10% from 2015. While guys like McGwire and Palmeiro fell off the ballot, there seems to be a trend developing – only the best of the PED users will have even a chance. This fares well for guys like Alex Rodriguez and, if the production continues, Ryan Braun. While they both have black eyes on their records, they have as good a chance as any of getting in.
Some believe that the steroid era was the darkest time in baseball’s history, while others tend to disagree. Many legacies were tarnished, whether on the player’s own accord or because they got caught in the storm. Eventually, the baseball traditionalists will have to learn to forgive and forget. They have to learn that what happens on the field comes from hard work in the bullpen and batting cage, rather than in a shady warehouse filled with syringes and needles. When it comes to records, I don’t really care if an asterisk is put next to the name or not. Even the idea of a separate Hall in Cooperstown wouldn’t be a bad idea. Just elect the people who rightfully deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.