The Steriod Era and Admittance to the Hall of Fame

Having discussed in my prior blog whether a player’s individual record should have an asterisk or even not count if that player took part in steroid use, I now turn my attention to a much bigger debate. Whereas an individual record is just one achievement, voting a player into the Hall of Fame represents a career achievement.

The questions I ask now are: In voting for the Hall of Fame, should a player be left off the ballot because of illegal enhanced drug use? If you believe the answer to that question is yes, what proof is needed to show the player did use illegal drugs? If you believe a player should be considered only on his baseball record and was a steroid user, should there be an asterisk next to his bust in the Hall of Fame?

First, let me say that there are good arguments on both sides of each of these questions. To get the debate going I will give my views on these questions.

Since before 2004 there was no drug testing in baseball the only way we can be convinced that a player did use drugs outlawed by baseball or the laws of this country is if the player admitted to such use or was convicted in a court of law of either using an illegal drug or lying under oath about its use.  In this case, I still believe that a voter should only consider the player’s baseball career numbers. However, if such a player is elected and has been proven a user of a banned substance or admitted to have used any illegal drug an asterisk should appear next to his bust in Cooperstown stating this fact. Of course, if the player tested positive for a banned substance the same punishment should be applied without any other proof needed.

For those players suspected but never proven of illegal drug use, the voters should just judge the player on his baseball career and if worthy put his name on their ballot. If elected such a player should have no asterisk by his name.

To define a period of years as the era of steroid use and label any player who played in that era as a suspected drug user would clearly be wrong. In fact, as I mentioned in my previous blog any player whose baseball records are good enough to be elected to the Hall of fame during the years of steroid use and did not use steroids should be praised and not punished.

Original Comments:

4 Comment(s):

Jon Quick said…

They game of baseball is a game that has been through many era’s that have changed the statistics in the game in one way or another. There was the dead ball era at the beginning of the 20th century when baseballs were allowed to be altered by pitchers and the same baseball was used for extended periods of time for he game. This led to pitchers having the upper hand in the game and dominating the hitters. However, a rule change after this created the live ball era when new balls were constantly introduced into the game and pitchers were not allowed to alter or doctor the baseball. This led to batters batting over .300 on average in the NL and an overall average of ten runs per game ( Batting records of all kinds were broken and suddenly the hitters had the advantage. That change can be applied now when looking at the steroid era. It is impossible to say that a large percentage of the league, pitchers and hitters, were not using steroids during this era since there was no drug testing until 2004. Before this rule change there were records broken, careers started, and an increase in fan attendance. Now after this rule change the game of baseball is seeing more no-hitters and perfect games because suddenly the pitchers have the upper hand again and it will take time for the hitters to get back up to speed. I do not think that an asterisk or neglect is needed for any players who used or were suspected of using steroids before 2004. I believe that this was just another era that baseball went through and it can go down in history as just that.

September 6, 2012 11:49:03


Chris Sbalcio said…

I think that PED users should have a place in the Hall of Fame, but with voting up to only the BBWAA writers, it’s not likely that it is going to happen. This year’s class will be a sign of things to come when we see the outcomes of the first ballot with Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and (as long as he doesn’t make a comeback at age 50) Roger Clemens. All 3 obviously deserve entry based on their stats alone, but might not make it because of the steroid allegations. If they were to make it, though, I would not approve of an asterisk being placed next to their names. Players who played before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier don’t have asterisks next to their names, so why should alleged steroid users?

August 24, 2012 02:19:14


Mark Torre said…

Another great topic and one that is indeed a debate amongst writers and voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame. In regards to whether or not a player should be left off the ballot: I say no. I believe it is only fair to allow the voters to decide. If they decide he is not worthy of the HOF, then they should at least have that option to choose. If left off the ballot it isn’t even giving voters that right to make a decision. To answer the second question, I do believe that any player who IS voted into the HOF and is a proven PED user, should have an asterisk accompanying their bust. On the topic of voting for a player to be inducted to the hall of fame, I believe we can agree that it is equal parts objective and subjective when dealing with convicted and suspected steroid users. Objectively there are no denying the #s. They are hard statistics of what a ball player has done over their playing career. Subjectively the means to those numbers can be defined as subjective when dealing with “steroid users”. Being that voting is both objective and subjective as defined above, I believe that we will see in many cases over the next 5-10 years that players will more often than not be kept out of the Baseball HOF for subjective reasons, even if their numbers alone are worthy of enshrinement. Another difficultly in voting is whether or not we believe a player would have amassed HOF #s regardless of steroid use. Let’s look at a common “HOF” stat like Home Runs. Let’s also look at 2 players, Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez. Over the course McGwire’s career he hit 583 HRs. In the 16 years he played, he hit 30 or more HRs 12 times and 40 or more 6 times, as well as the memorable 1998 season where he hit a then record 70 HRs. If we look at these HR #s, he’s a lock for the hall of fame. Fast Forward to what we know now. McGwire is a proven steroid user and He played for an Oakland Athletics team in the late 80s and early 90s that has been highlighted for it’s “culture of steroid use”. I believe it is safe to say that without steroids, he would not have hit 500 + HRs throughout his career. Objectively, his #s are HOF worthy, subjectively writers haven’t had the same sentiment. Since gaining eligibility, McGwire has never received more than 23.6% of the vote. 75% is what is required for HOF induction. Now let’s look at Alex Rodriguez, a player also proven to have taken steroids. In his 19 seasons he has hit 644 HRs. 14 of the 19 he has hit 30 or more and 8 times 40 or more. During his years in seattle and early in Texas his physical appearance did not look to be one of a steroid user. it is widely believed that he began using Steroids during his positive conviction in 2003, his last year in Texas and continued use through 2006-2007. If we remove all HRs from those years, he would currently have 478 HRs. If we took his average HR output from the previous 8 years (non-steroid), we would get 37/year. If we give him his “average non steroid output” of 37 HRs from 2003-2006 to the 478, we still end up with 626 HRs. One can make an argument that steroids accounted for only an extra 18 HRs over the course of his steroid use. I believe once eligible, he WILL make it into the Hall Of Fame. So we see how this subjective voting process can take 2 steroid users and keep one out, but allow another in. Needless to say, the process is not perfect, but I believe that in the end, Alex Rodriguez will have his name in the HOF (and should contain an asterisk) and Mark McGwire will never make it.

August 22, 2012 07:56:30


Martin E. Cobern said…

Interesting subject. Drug use could be considered just one more variable among the changes that have taken place in the game: longer seasons, designated hitters, “closers”, interleague play, etc. Nevertheless, I think that those proven to have used illegal drugs should be barred from the ballot for some period. Who knows? The substances may become legal in the future. FYI. There is a good discussion on this topic on today’s NYT Op-Ed page.

August 8, 2012 06:05:45

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