Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Uses Guilt by Association to Bring Down Good Men

Written by: Ken Fallon

And now, ladies and gentlemen, your Class of 2013 inductees into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame!

Barry Bonds is pictured as a young baseball player, and later in his career.

Barry Bonds, who made his first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot this year, is shown as a young baseball player (left), and later in his career. Bonds is at the center of baseball’s steroids scandal, which caused voters to elevate no one to the Hall of Fame this year.

If that announcement had actually been made, if a ceremony were to be held for this year’s inductees, the only thing that might show up on stage would be a cricket or two.

You see, the Baseball Writers Association of America has spoken, and its members decided no one deserves to join the hall this year. There are just two many question marks, they say — question marks that revolve around the idea of who used performance-enhancing drugs, about who cheated.

OK, I get it. I understand the desire to keep steroids out of baseball’s most hallowed institution.

Barry Bonds juiced. Or did he? A jury convicted him of obstructing justice because of his denial during his 2003 grand jury testimony about whether he used PEDs. Ironically, the grand jury deadlocked on whether he actually lied to them.

Roger Clemens juiced. The Mitchell Report said so. Jose Canseco said so. But, of course, the jury didn’t concur.

Sammy Sosa juiced. The New York Times said so. Never mind that it was an anonymous test. Everyone believes the Times.

Rafael Palmiero and Mark McGwire, making repeat appearances on the ballot? Guilty by self-admission.

But everybody? All 37 on this year’s list?

Curt Schilling made a good point; everyone was guilty. Either you used PEDs, or you did nothing to stop their use,” said Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. “This generation got rich. Seems there was a price to pay.”

Really? The entirety of Major League Baseball was either using steroids or turning a blind eye to them?

Guilt by association works if you want to lump Bonds with his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, a convicted steroids distributor and money launderer. But to say that you can’t vote for, say, Craig Biggio, because he was one of roughly a thousand people who played major league baseball at the same time as Bonds or Sosa or Clemens? Isn’t that a stretch?

Biggio, in his first year on the ballot, was respected enough to earn the highest number of nods among Hall of Fame voters this year, but he was still 39 votes shy of the 427 needed. One of the hardest working players in the game and holder of numerous Houston Astros records, he thinks he was bypassed because of his first-year status, but also because of the company he kept on that ballot.

“I think it’s kind of unfair, but it’s the reality of the era that we played in,” he said. “Obviously some guys are guilty and others aren’t, and it’s painful for the ones that weren’t.”

How about Mike Piazza, considered by many as one of the best hitting catchers to play the game? Or consider Biggio teammate Jeff Bagwell? Neither Piazza nor Bagwell has been linked to steroids, other than by rumor, but they must have used PEDs, right? Look at what was expected of them when they were drafted. Look at their early career numbers compared to their major league numbers. Look at how their bodies changed over time.

Such allegations are as egregious and unfair as the Department of Homeland Security interrogating every Muslim it sees in an airport. But in an era where the latest rumor can spread on social media faster than a Randy Johnson fastball, it doesn’t take long before allegations take the place of legitimate debate and hard evidence.

Players like Biggio, Piazza and Schilling (and even Bonds, Sosa and Clemens) are first-year balloters who have many more years to convince the voters otherwise. But unless the baseball writers admit that none of them has a crystal ball spelling out who used PEDs and who didn’t, the guilt by association will take down some good men who did nothing wrong — except grow up in the wrong era.

Minor Leaguers To Get Real Drug Tests, Now For The Pros

With all the talk of declining home run numbers of this “post steroids” era of baseball, it still can’t be said that the game has cleaned up all that much. After all, Major League Baseball doesn’t even test for what is said to be one of the most popular performance enhancing drugs among players: Human Growth Hormone. The league says its wants to, but is stymied by the players’ union position against blood testing. MLB, however, is going to sidestep that hurdle the best it can.

The league announced last week it’s going to test minor leaguers for HGH, given that players not on a 40-man major league roster aren’t subject to union rules.

It’s about time MLB made this move and it’s about time the players’ union gives up its fight in favor of the ability to cheat. These PEDs allow unscrupulous and undeserving players to break honest records. They allow players to steal a finite number of jobs from those who are more deserving. The union’s argument that blood tests are too intrusive is childishly weak. Surely players can trade a needle poke for the privilege of getting rich while playing a game. MLB and all its players should be clamoring for the chance to clean their images, and to cleanse the game of cheaters who are stealing from players of the past, present and future. Test for everything and test everyone.

Will Home Run Record Remain Forever Tainted by Steroid Use?

Alex Rodriguez connected for his 584th career home run to pass Mark McGwire for eighth place on baseball's all time home run list Saturday. Like many others, however, his records may always be looked upon in doubt due to his admission to steroid use earlier in his career.

On Saturday, April 17, at the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez passed Mark McGwire for eighth place in Major League Baseball’s all-time home run record with a shot over the right-center field wall for his 584th career home run.  What may be unique about this particular instance of milestone eclipse for baseball is that it marks what may be one of the most significant in which both players have admitted to using performance enhancing drugs at some time during their careers.

Mark McGwire was the first player whose steroid use gained high-profile media attention, when it was admitted in August of 1998—during McGwire’s original pursuit or Roger Maris’s single season home run record—that McGwire had been using a dietary supplement called Androstenedione for more than one year up to that point, according to an Associated Press report published by CNN/SI in 1998.  Although use the supplement was not prohibited by Major League Baseball at the time, the moral questions and scrutiny which arose in subsequent years in reaction to the fact that a sports icon was using a performance enhancing drug already banned in the National Football League led to the uncovering of one of baseball’s most widespread scandals in recent decades and raised serious questions as to the legitimacy of individual achievements of players engaging in steroid use.

Today, baseball’s single season and career home run record leader in the all-time record books—Barry Bonds—is known to have used performance enhancing substances now banned by Major League Baseball during his pursuit of what for a time had been McGwire’s single season record and his later pursuit of Henry Aaron’s all-time mark of 755 career home runs.  Although less is known regarding his steroid use and it is believed that he did not engage in the use of performance enhancing drugs to the same degree as Bonds, McGwire and many others, the fact that Alex Rodriguez admittedly used performance enhancing drugs, combined with the secretive nature of much of Major League Baseball regarding the trend at the time during which Rodriguez admitted to using casts a similar shadow of doubt upon his career numbers.

Many fans and analysts who have followed the career of Alex Rodriguez agree that it is not unlikely that he could challenge what is currently Barry Bonds’ all-time career home run record of 762 home runs; but regardless of whether or not Rodriguez surpasses Bonds’ milestone, the significance of such an accomplishment will always remain shadowed by doubt in light of the fact that all parties engaged in the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs during their careers.  It will most likely take many years, if not many decades, before baseball sees an eclipse of its single season or all time home run record whose legitimacy will not remain clouded by such doubt.