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We all lose with MLB’s PED problem and how it’s reflected in Hall of Fame voting results

By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor | Commentary

The Hall of Fame vote is in, and it’s proof we have all lost once again.

Because of what happened on the field in the recent past — fueled in part by a wave of chemical enhancements that changed the game and now cannot be equaled — we have lost the ability to do a few things. That affects us in subtle ways as fans, and in some not-so-subtle ways it affects our cardboard.

We’ve lost the ability to have a meaningful home run chase — either in a single-season or a career. Barry Bonds‘ record of 73 in 2001 won’t be topped. His career mark of 762 looks safer and safer by the day even though Alex Rodriguez was supposed to have toppled it perhaps sometime this season or next before the wheels fell off.  Those once-magical marks — summers and chases that fueled cardboard sales like no other — are gone, wiped away from possibility for a few years, likely more. Those numbers that used to matter and be easily atop the minds of fans? Not as important — and I’ll admit I had to go look one of them up.

And they’re apparently not Hall of Fame caliber numbers, either.

And now, with this year’s Hall of Fame vote, we’ve lost the ability to have a meaningful celebration of the game’s history this summer at Cooperstown. Not that I would endorse those who likely cheated as worthy of entry — I wouldn’t — but, like the records, the scales have been shifted so far that those once-easy plateaus of statistical quality no longer matter. At least, that’s the way it seems as players who could be, should be Hall of Famers are not — both among those who likely cheated, and among the crop who likely didn’t and whose numbers just can’t compare.

Sure, the achievements on the field all happened. There’s no changing that. However, the ability to enjoy such history, as a fan, is just that much harder. It’s harder to dig in when history happens and invest — in emotion and with money for cardboard — in the potential of even more history to come, and it never used to be that way. The same that was said for Bonds can be said for Roger Clemens and his achievements from the mound — they’re mostly untouchable … and not that enjoyable now.

Sure, nobody failed a drug test, but it’s pretty obvious that there were failures along the way in Major League Baseball.

While ignoring issues of the past allowed for prosperity — something that at times was needed to revive the sport’s image — now is the time where the fans pay the price along with the game, its licensees (you know, those who make a living making your cardboard) and beyond. Ever notice how guys like Clemens, Bonds, Mark McGwire and a few others aren’t appearing on any MLB-authorized old-timers or flashbacks cardboard these days? I have.

Had some players not chased history via every potential way possible, we might have a few more names headed to Cooperstown this summer — and we’d enjoy them and not question them. Same might go for certain once-beloved spots in the record books.

And on days like today — and one later this summer — we’d win a little more as collectors or dealers of their baseball cards, too.

Instead, moving forward, we’ll get the continued debate of who should be, who could be, who won’t be — and why or why not.

And we lose with all of that, too.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

 

HALL OF FAME VOTING RESULTS

Ballots Cast: 569    Needed for Election: 427

VOTES PLAYER PERCENTAGE

388 Craig Biggio 68.20%

385 Jack Morris 67.70%

339 Jeff Bagwell 59.60%

329 Mike Piazza 57.80%

297 Tim Raines 52.20%

272 Lee Smith 47.80%

221 Curt Schilling 38.80%

214 Roger Clemens 37.60%

206 Barry Bonds 36.20%

204 Edgar Martinez 35.90%

191 Alan Trammell 33.60%

123 Larry Walker 21.60%

118 Fred McGriff 20.70%

106 Dale Murphy 18.60%

96 Mark McGwire 16.90%

75 Don Mattingly 13.20%

71 Sammy Sosa 12.50%

50 Rafael Palmeiro 8.80%

19 Bernie Williams 3.30%

18 Kenny Lofton 3.20%

16 Sandy Alomar Jr. 2.80%

6 Julio Franco 1.10%

5 David Wells 0.90%

4 Steve Finley 0.70%

2 Shawn Green 0.40%

1 Aaron Sele 0.20%

0 Jeff Cirillo 0.00%

0 Royce Clayton 0.00%

0 Jeff Conine 0.00%

0 Roberto Hernandez 0.00%

0 Ryan Klesko 0.00%

0 Jose Mesa 0.00%

0 Reggie Sanders 0.00%

0 Mike Stanton 0.00%

0 Todd Walker 0.00%

0 Rondell White 0.00%

0 Woody Williams 0.00%

 

21 Comments

Richard

Each person must be judged in context of their own time.
Barry Bonds was one of the all time greats before he cheated, but he still cheated.
Mcgwire was HOF worthy before he cheated, but he cheated.
Sosa was nothing special before he cheated, and he cheated.

The question is , what is the HOF for?
Too many of the recent players broke the rules. If this means that for a decade or so there
are few/no inductions because you want it to only include “clean” players, so be it.

If you want to ignore their cheating, put an * by their names and move on.

If you really are mad, strip them of their stats the way they stripped the wins from Penn State
for putting winning and personal reputations before morality. You either watch sports as mere
entertainment or you use it as a display of a wholesome past time. If merely entertainment,
what do we need a HOF for?

My only problem is, Steroids should be legal for adults over a certain age since the harm done
is for developing bodies. Likewise other PEDs that only provide an edge for a while, while damaging
the body. It is not fair to make athletes have to sacrifice so much of their future to compete today.

Posted January 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink
chrisolds

One of the biggest farces in all of sports is the NCAA vacated win. For the love of God, don’t let that happen in baseball.

Posted January 9, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink
bill johnson

i really thought they would vote on someone not related to peds. biggio, murphy, smith and morris. all great players and deserving of the hall. biggio has over 3,000 career hits, with the class he was in this year i thought for sure a shoe in. piazza best defensive catcher in baseball a clear shoe in as well. i think with both cases they didnt get elected because they were first time ballots. but you have murphy, smith and morris. guys that have amazing careers that should be in the hall but got snubbed. i think the baseball voters wanted to take a stand this year but telling everyone they will not vote the steriod players in. cant wait till next year. i think my favorite player is on the ballot for the first time. wonder if big frank thomas will be a first time hall ballot inductee. guess well see next year.

Posted January 9, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

I’m not at a loss for guys hitting less homeruns. It’s a way inflated aspect of baseball, IMHO. I personally like guys who steal bases, like Henderson Guys who can hit triples like Jose Reyes. And guys who are just awesome at getting on base like Ichiro.

Baseball has such a depth of history that it’s practically impossibly to break the triple record. Or the stolen base record. And that’s fine. I’d rather applaud the players who perform well.

Posted January 9, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink
chrisolds

Most pitching records will never fall — but people understand that the game itself changed. Not the players and the way they got there stats-wise.

Posted January 9, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

I completely agree about the NCAA “vacated win”. The Olympics also have a tendency to remove accomplishments (see Ben Johnson). But even baseball established this precedent this year with Melky Cabrera. He hit for the highest average in the NL, qualified for the batting title, yet is not the recognized winner of the batting title. His stats still say he hit .346 but the 2012 NL batting title is considered to be Buster Posey (.336).

Perhaps baseball could take a queue from themselves and simply say Bonds hit 73 Homers, but the single season record is still Maris’ 61. And the career record for Homeruns is Hank Aaron at 755. Bonds still keeps his 762, just not the official record.

To me the biggest travesty of today is Biggio not getting in. There are other smaller travesties (Murphy not getting in, Mattingly’s vote total DECREASING 5 percent, Piazza and Bagwell not going in despite zero evidence, any voter turning in a ballot with no names checked, etc) But not inducting a member of the 3,000 Hit Club who has never been tied to anything steroids related may be the single dumbest outcome in Hall of Fame history.

One final point…let’s face it. In the end, everyone will get in. The Veteran’s Committee or whatever future version exists will arrogantly correct our mistakes and put all the steroid users in. (Just like they did this year with Deacon White.) Here’s hoping they at least take care of the Murph while their at it.

Posted January 9, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

Sorry for the typos. I was a bit passionate when writing it. :-)

Among others, I should have said “while they’re at it” not “their”.

Posted January 9, 2013 at 2:57 pm | Permalink
Ryan R

Well to me some of these writers that get to vote, especially many of them that swear by WAR (sorry, when Alex Gordon apparently had the 10th best season last year, you may have a flawed stat on your hands), should be replaced. For example whoever voted for Aaron Sele shouldn’t be getting a vote in the future. They need to incorporate some kind of player vote, they actually have a unique perspective and could better gauge how dominant a player was or how challenging it was to face some of these names. But anyone with a vote needs to take it seriously, as having one is a privilege.

I would vote for Bonds and Clemens for a variety of reasons, but I have no problem with them not getting in/ having to wait because they had very public trials.

But not voting in guys because of rumor, namely Piazza (back acne) and Biggio (To me this guy not getting in is my problem) is not very American to put it plainly. They need to suspend voting until they figure out how to handle this situation, because they clearly exhibited today that they don’t have a clue.

The one thing baseball has over the other major sports is it’s past, that took a hit today.

Posted January 9, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink
Ryan R

Something I forgot, that makes the whole PED thing a joke in the first place. If you are going to strip anyone of anything strip them of the ability to get rich off breaking the rules. How many hundreds of millions of dollars did A-Rod make after he tested positive, in a test they didn’t make public? How much money did Melky Cabrera just make from taking PEDs (he was average at best as a yankee, then all of a sudden started hitting .340)? The list goes on and on.

While I’m sure A-Rod would love to get in the hall one day, I think he’d take his scrooge mcduck esque money vault as a consolation prize. That right there is the problem.

I totally agree about the NCAA vacated win being a farse.

Posted January 9, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Permalink
RJ

The real question here is why someone is having a 2004 base card graded by Beckett. If the card is worth less than the postage to send it in, it’s probably not worth it.

Posted January 9, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Permalink
Coimbre21

Whether one believes like me that the feats of Bonds, Clemens, etc were false and fabricated or whether one looks beyond that and supports them, no one really wins and you accurately conveyed the drag and burden this era has placed on baseball.

Posted January 9, 2013 at 5:10 pm | Permalink
chrisolds

RJ: that card wasn’t issued in packs because bonds signed with Topps late in the year. It was only given out via hobby shops.

Posted January 9, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink
Randall

More than having cheaters on the ballot, I can’t stand the fact that writers who don’t even follow baseball have a ballot to vote. Please stop allowing these people to vote!

Posted January 9, 2013 at 7:52 pm | Permalink
Joe R.

The main problem with the voting is agenda driven writers vote instead of some independent panel, former players or some combo panel. how many writers would have really voted for bonds anyway because a bunch of people thought he was a jerk before he took PEDS. the same players the writers are accusing of ruining the game with steroids or peds, were getting just as rich of writing and covering all these players and they just like fans, players, owners, commish, turned a blind eye to the issue because the money stacks were higher than mountains. so a writer now becoming all high and mighty and condeming players is just hypocritical crap. IT IS A GAME, not life and death. the hall is full of players who did far worse things morally than take drugs. Mickey Mantle was a drunk, Cobb was a pure racist, and there are tons of players wh tell stories from the 60′s and 70′s about pill popping. and really whats the difference between being given the “needle ” to be able to play the game and some guys taking PEDS. put them in based on numbers and let the hall of fame tell the story of the drug era. quit running from it and just face it already.

Posted January 9, 2013 at 8:16 pm | Permalink
Bob C.

Today’s result is a travesty for the game and the hobby. I personally do not have any issue with the writers failing to elect someone IF there are no viable candidates. But the fact of the matter is, this was likely the most stacked ballot in the history of the HOF. You can make a strong case against the likes of McGwire, as his numbers were largely HRs (which can surely be inflated by PEDs). However Bonds and Clemens deserve to be in the hall. Even if they were taking PEDs, it is clear that there was rampant abuse by many players during the era they played in, and yet NO ONE came close to approaching the numbers they achieved (with the exception of Ruth and Young). Leaving them out of the hall as part of some moral crusade is simply ignoring history just as the NCAA “vacated games” attempts to do.

That said, I think the biggest tragedy seems to be that PED suspicions have permeated to other players who were NEVER proven to take steroids, or in some cases even alleged to take them. The HOF has let in a number of undesirable characters, former cheats, and frankly undeserving/overrated players (Jim Rice comes to mind) in the past. We do not need the BBWAA to be the moral filter. Writers do not find a player worthy of the hall in year one, but suddenly 3-5 years later they are viable candidates. The BBWAA voting is a broken process and A HOF with out Bonds, Clemens, Biggio, or Piazza is a broken hall.

Posted January 10, 2013 at 12:21 am | Permalink
Keith

If 70% of the players were using steroids, doesn’t that pretty much make it a level playing field? So isn’t the HOF about putting in the best players of an era? I’ve always heard in the past arguments that “he was the best when he played” so compare his numbers to everyone else who was playing at the time. Since the majority of the players were using steroids, shouldn’t we just vote in the best of the era? That just means the bar should be higher for players in the steroids era.

Posted January 10, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

Trouble is, 70% of the players weren’t using steroids. Was it rampant? Yes. But most of the players weren’t using. In fact, when they did the random testing in 2003 only 5-7% tested positive. Also, after the most thorough investigation in baseball history, the Mitchell report named just 89 players with connections to steroid usage. Does this mean Senator George Mitchell uncovered everyone and everything? Certainly not. However, even if we tripled the numbers, we’d still have a small group of players trying to gain an advantage.

The issue with the Steroid Era has little to do with breaking rules or taking drugs. It has to do with desecrating the history of the game. Perhaps the state of New York should erect a small tent behind the Hall of Fame to display the plaques of the Steroid Users and call it the Hall of Shame.

Posted January 10, 2013 at 11:14 am | Permalink
Keith

70% is the number that has been thrown out by a number of players so that is where the 70% comes from. I tend to think that may be pretty close to a legit number.

I don’t support the use or think it was ok in any way, I just don’t think you can ignore an era just because of steroids, which by the way were not banned substances in baseball at the time. Second, suspicion should not be part of it. What if your suspicions are incorrect? You are then unfairly penalizing someone for something they did not do. Anyone who tested positive should definately pay a penalty but the problem is that players who were clean are also being penalized just because of the era they played in.

The other problem that i see is that records were set that are not legit and will never be challenged because they were set with the help of PED’s.

Posted January 10, 2013 at 7:32 pm | Permalink
Michael Poyma

It may not happen in his lifetime, and will certainly require his reinstatement to baseball by a commissioner other after Selig, but as far as I’m concerned, the moment a PED-head gets into the HOF, Pete Rose deserves a shot also.

Posted January 10, 2013 at 10:55 pm | Permalink
JeffB

MLB has done nothing to diminish the accomplishments of any of the players from the Steroid Era. There have been no Kennesaw Mountain Landis-type banishments, removal of records, relinquishing of championships, etc.

But the writers have now declared themselves (by their lack of votes) Judge, Jury and Executioner for the entire era.

What kind of “Hall of Anything” excludes the greatest in their field?

Last night on MLB.TV’s “HOF Roundtable” one writer said that the players “need to be punished”. Really?

There were hundreds and hundreds of PED users, so how do you punish the Marvin Bernards, Phil Hiatts, David Seguis etc who used as well?

Whether Bonds, Clemens and the other players on the ballot used, PED’s one thing is certain: These were the guys that the fans were coming to see. The ones that filled the ballparks, sold the most jerseys, and increased the revenue throughout the sport. The one’s that helped their teams win ballgames, division titles and even world championships

I understand the “no first ballot for these guys” attitude, but in the next 5 years or so, they should be allowed in. Wednesday was “punishment” enough.

Yet today, they are the only ones that are “guilty”.

Posted January 10, 2013 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

“I just don’t think you can ignore an era just because of steroids, which by the way were not banned substances in baseball at the time.”

Keith, steroids were banned in baseball in 1991 which would include most of the “Steroid Era”.

As for “70%” being thrown out by a number of players…who? The only two players I am aware of who have ever put a percentage on how many players took steroids were Jose Canseco (85%) and Ken Caminiti (50%). No offense to Jose and the late Caminiti (far be it from me to question their motives or integrity), but it was in both of their best interests to paint a picture of rampant steroid use. For them, if everyone did it then they don’t look like villains.

Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink

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