Reds Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin used a charity autograph signing event this week to weigh in on the Hall of Fame ballot. He is quoted as saying in an article by AP Sports writer Howie Rumberg, ”I think if you cheated, no, you don’t deserve it because I know how difficult it was for me to get there and how difficult it was for me just to compete on an everyday basis,” Larkin said. ”I think if you cheated I think you made a decision and I don’t think you belong.”
Performance enhancing drugs have changed the game of baseball. We will never know how players from the steroids era compare with any other era in the game. To be honest we could never compare era vs era long before PEDs got in the way though. From the Dead Ball era to the breaking of the color barrier to the lowering of the mound, the game of baseball has constantly evolved. Would Babe Ruth have been as effective against Satchel Paige or Tom Seaver? We can only speculate. Is the main effect these drugs have had is the ability for players to recover from injury or just the daily grind and perform?
The ballot facing the Baseball Writers Association of America members this year is going to be a challenge. 23 new names join the 13 holdovers on the ballot and writers will have to make judgement calls to decide what criteria to follow and who has earned a place.
It is unsurprising that any current member of the Hall of Fame is offended at the idea of allowing these players in. When you are a member you don’t want to dilute the membership roles by adding anyone. Numbers that where hallowed when I was a boy – 3000 hits, 500 home runs, 300 wins – seem almost commonplace now. The drugs enhanced the recovery abilities of the players using them to enable them to keep playing day after day so the numbers accumulate.
How many players have reached these plateaus and not entered the hall?
3000 Hits (28 members of the club, all but 4 in the HOF)
- Pete Rose – 4,256 (My thoughts on his HOF credentials can be found here.)
- Derek Jeter – 3,304 (Still active.)
- Craig Biggio – 3,060 (Eligible for the first time in 2013.)
- Rafael Palmeiro – 3,020 (Denies knowing use and passed a polygraph test to that effect, but tested positive.)
500 Home Runs (25 members of the club, 9 not in HOF)
- Barry Bonds – 762 (Eligible for the first time in 2013, denies use but has been frequently linked to PEDs.)
- Alex Rodriguez – 647 (Has admitted use and is still actively playing.)
- Ken Griffey Jr. – 630 (Never tainted by accusations of PED use. Eligible for HOF election in 2016)
- Jim Thome – 612 (Like Griffey, Thome has never been accused of PED use, eligible for HOF consideration in 2017.)
- Sammy Sosa -609 (Eligible for the first time in 2013, denies use but was linked to PEDs.)
- Mark McGwire -589 (Admitted use and has failed garner more than 23.7% of votes to enter the HOF.)
- Rafael Palmeiro -569 (Denies knowing use and passed a polygraph test to that effect, but tested positive.)
- Manny Ramirez – 555 (Been suspended for violating the drug policy multiple times.)
- Frank Thomas -520 (Never accused of PED use, eligible for HOF consideration in 2014.)
- Gary Sheffield – 509 (Accused in the Mitchell report, but aside from a cream used on stitches no concrete allegations have ever been issued. He is eligible for HOF consideration in 2014.)
300 Wins (24 members of the club, all but 4 are in the Hall of Fame)
- Greg Maddux – 355 (Eligible for HOF consideration in 2014.)
- Roger Clemens -354 (Eligible for HOF consideration in 2013, significant evidence that he used PEDs though he denies accusations.)
- Tom Glavine – 305 (Eligible for HOF consideration in 2014.)
- Randy Johnson – 303 (Eligible for HOF consideration in 2015.)
If I were voting it would be an agonizing decision. Barry is correct in implying that they have each tarnished the game with their decisions. But lest we become too sanctimonious we must recall that the members of the Hall of Fame over the decades have not been saints either. At the end of the day, I believe I would only vote for Craig Biggio and no other. But looking at the performance of St. Louis Cardinals hitters over the last couple of years I am inclined to believe that Mark McGuire knows a thing or two about hitting…
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