Performance Enhancement Drugs (PEDs) and the Hall of Fame (Part 3)

Before presenting the arguments given by the people who believe PED users do not belong in the Hall of Fame, let’s recall the only instructions given to the Hall of Fame voters are, “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” Each voter is free to interpret these general instructions as they see fit. There are voters that simply will ignore PED use in making their decision. In the 2013 voting results, Barry Bond and Roger Clemens both linked to PED use received close to 40% of the votes. Mark McGwire (admitted PED user) received 16% of the votes and Rafael Palmeiro (tested positive for PEDs) received close to 10% of the votes.

Those voters that feel the terms integrity and character are violated by PED users are forced to make a decision on whether they believe a player actually used PEDs. Since mandatory testing and the naming of violators began in 2004, each voter is forced to weigh what is called circumstantial evidence, unless a player freely acknowledges that he did use PEDs. This evidence can come from a player being accused by other players or some extreme change in a player’s physical appearance or in his power numbers. As the years move forward with true testing in place and the naming of violators, this problem will eventually be less existent. It is a shame that the MLB waited so long before installing a mandatory testing program.

A voter, who believes a player did use PEDs during his career in the ML and believes the criteria set forth in the voting instructions, which include integrity, character and sportsmanship must be satisfied, will not vote for that player. Let’s look at the meaning of these three key words. Integrity is related to honesty, character means knowing the difference between right and wrong and then making the right decisions, sportsmanship means respecting and fairly competing with your fellow athletes. A PED user fails all three of these words. First, by denying the use of PEDs, the player fails the integrity test. Next, by using PEDs, when as early as 1991 players were warned by the Commissioner not to use PEDs, the character test is failed. Finally, because PEDs do give a player an unfair advantage over other players, sportsmanship is also failed. In baseball three strikes and you are out. The proponents of banning PED users from the HOF say those players who used PEDs failed the integrity test, the character test, and the sportsmanship test and therefore struck out in their bid for the HOF.

Let’s rebut some of the arguments presented by those who favor the other side of the debate. They would argue that many players now in the HOF, Ty Cobb and Mickey Mantle as two examples had serious character and integrity flaws. The other side can counter this argument by naming Joe Jackson and Pete Rose as two players with character flaws that are banned from the HOF. The reason that Jackson and Rose are banned is their character issues are related to breaking the rules of baseball by gambling; whereas, the character issue of Mantle and Cobb were not baseball related. Another argument presented by those who would look the other way about PED use is that the MLB itself looked the other way. This is documented by the fact that it took 15 years for the MLB to mandate testing. However, players did know the MLB, at least in their statements, clearly condemned the use of PEDs. Knowing the use of PEDs violated the rules of the MLB; PED users clearly are more like Jackson and Rose than Cobb and Mantle. It has been documented by fringe players that their use of PEDs was the reason they earned a spot on their MLB roster.

After reading these three postings I am interested in your comments. I would be happy to publish your thoughts in a future blog.

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