At this point in the calendar, I should be writing about the Hall of Fame announcement. For some reason, though, that has been pushed back to January 18. But I guess I am in the habit of posting about now, so I will write about the inconsistencies voters seem to have about players accused of taking steroids.
Now, this is not about players who have tested positive and/or have been suspended for steroid use. There is pretty much universal agreement that those players should not get into Cooperstown. This is about the judgments voters are making simply about unproven accusations.
I have written about my opinion on the matter many times — players who never tested positive or were not suspended should get in. Even though we are virtually certain Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens took PEDs, there was no testing during the bulk of their careers and MLB all but encouraged usage by not doing anything about it. So they do not deserved to be punished now, especially when Bud Selig, the architect of the shameful era, will be taking his place in Cooperstown this summer.
There are two classes of steroid accusations. The first is where there appears to be damning proof that they were users. Players in this category include such worthy candidates as Bonds, Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield and Mark McGwire, when he was eligible. The second class contains players who were victims of rumors, with absolutely no clear evidence that they used PEDs. Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez, on the ballot for the first-time this year, are some of the players in this category
Voters are obviously more lenient on the second group; Piazza was voted in last year (although it took four tries), and Bagwell looks like a lock this time around in his seventh year on the ballot.
To me, it is an all or nothing affair. You either vote for all of the players in each class, or you vote for none. Yet in their time on the ballot, Bonds and Clemens have been polling in the 40% area (this year they are trending at about 65%), while Sosa has been in single digits (trending higher this year).
Many writers use the “he was a Hall of Famer before he started using steroids” as their argument to vote for certain steroid-tainted players. Some also use it to vote for Bonds and Clemens but not for Sosa or Sheffield or McGwire. They figure the latter men were products of PEDs and that Bonds and Clemens would have been great without them.
I feel this is a flimsy argument. You should take a player’s career in its entirety — if he used steroids, he used steroids. You can’t just ignore that part. That’s just like ignoring all of the bad games a player has and only count the good ones. If that were the case, everyone would be in the Hall of Fame. You also can’t assume a player would not have been great without the juice. Maybe Sosa would not have hit 600+ homers without PEDs, but he might have still topped 500. You just don’t know.
Jon Heyman, he of the spectacular fall from Sports Illustrated to CBS Sports to something called Fan Rag, took it one step further, voting for Bonds and not Clemens. He admits “to this point there are only a handful of voters who separate the two, and I am one of them.” His argument is that by the time Bonds allegedly started taking steroids (after the 1998 McGwire-Sosa home run chase), he was already a Hall of Famer. Clemens’s PED moment, Heyman theorizes, is harder to pinpoint because Clemens is such a liar (maybe it was after leaving the Red Sox, maybe before). Thus, he cannot tell if he was already a Hall of Famer or not.
Heyman also did not vote for Bagwell because even though he admits there is no proof of PEDs, he just doesn’t trust the “authenticity” of his statistics. Yet he voted for Rodriguez even though the steroid whispers surrounding him are far louder than those against Bagwell (Jose Canseco says he injected him, plus Rodriguez was not longer “Pudge” once drug testing went into effect).
Heyman is not alone in having inconsistencies. Rodriguez is trending towards induction, yet Piazza had to wait. That could be because perhaps voters are becoming more willing to dismiss those unproven rumors, as they should.
I would never criticize someone else’s Hall of Fame vote (after all, I’m sure not everyone agrees with my IBWAA ballot), but I do think voters should be consistent in their thinking. Often times, that does not seem to be the case.