Following the players’ strike in 1994-1995, the MLB turned a blind eye and allowed players to use Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs), such as steroids and HGH. But why would Bud Selig do this? Easy, PEDs created a renewed interest in the sport and put butts in the seats in stadiums across the country.
This year will be the first year that many of the best players of this “Steroid Era” will be on the ballot. Not all of the players were accused of using PEDs, but some of the prominent names who were accused are on the ballot this year. Many people do not believe the PED users will be voted into the Hall of Fame, but the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) holds the key.
New to the ballot are Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Sammy Sosa. Clemens won 354 games and has over 4600 strikeouts. Bonds holds the record for the most home runs of all time with 762. Sosa hit 609 home runs. Without the cloud of alleged steroid use hanging over their heads; Clemens, Bonds and Sosa would be locks for the Hall of Fame and locks to be inducted in their first year on the ballot. But all three have their own steroid issues to deal with.
This past June, Clemens was found not guilty in a perjury case, he was accused of lying to a Grand Jury about his steroid use (or lack of steroid use, as he insisted). But many still believe there is too much evidence showing Roger Clemens took steroids, even if it is coming from a shady looking ex-cop/ex-trainer who kept needles in beer cans for 15 years, but that is another story in itself. There is a mountain of evidence against Barry Bonds, much of it outlined in Game of Shadows by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, who both wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle in 2006 when the book was published. Bonds came up with the Pirates as a 5-tool superstar, he was the second 40 homer-40 steal player in MLB history and was most likely on his way to the Hall of Fame before he began taking steroids. But as Fainaru-Wada and Williams said, Bonds realized after the 1998 season that “the game and its fans were less interested in the complete player who could hit for average and power, and who had great speed and an excellent glove” (Game of Shadows, xv), so he started to take steroids. And Sosa, who was disgraced during his playing days due to his corked bat incident, has had the steroid evidence piling up on him since he conveniently forgot how to speak English in front of the Grand Jury. With these players on the ballot for the first time, along with Mark McGwire who admitted his steroid use, the BBWAA will have a decision to make.
The BBWAA voters need to get over themselves. They are a group made up of reporters who have covered baseball for 10+ years for a newspaper, even if they are not covering baseball now. They are not the final authority on good and bad. The baseball writers need to get past the fact that people used PEDs, because guess what, it happened and the players will always be holding those records and the players names will be all over the MLB record books anyway.
We need to recognize that this happened. In my eyes, the “Steroid Era” is just that, another era in baseball, just like the “Dead Ball Era”, the era when there were no African-American players in the league, the era when there were no night games, and the era when no teams played either south or west of St. Louis. We need to stop putting a double standard on these players. Yes they did something illegal, but didn’t the players who took amphetamines up until the 1970s. Yet, some players accused of taking amphetamines are in the Hall of Fame, and these PED users will be denied entrance?
Bottom line: Players of this era should be allowed entrance into the Hall of Fame. If they are held to a different standard, then why don’t we penalize Babe Ruth for not playing at night, south or west of St. Louis, and against black ballplayers? I think by those qualifications Babe Ruth wouldn’t make the Hall of Fame. By holding many players from the Steroid Era out of the Hall of Fame, the BBWAA would be trying to act like this time period never happened, which simply cannot be done. Because I remember staying up past my bedtime as a 4th grader to see Roger Clemens win his 300th game and strikeout his 4000th batter. I remember rooting against Barry Bonds when he was chasing down Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record. And I remember seeing the highlight of an umpire looking at Sammy Sosa’s shattered bat with a puzzled look on his face, not quite sure of what he was seeing (spoiler alert: it is a cork). These three played the game of baseball, and they played arguably just as well as anyone else in the history of the league, steroids or not, they still did it.
This year Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa should all make the Hall of Fame. Instead, it will likely only be Mike Piazza and Craig Biggio as the Hall of Fame inductees who played in the Steroid Era, but always stayed clear of the accusations and had Hall of Fame careers.