As we wait for Major League Baseball to hand down further suspensions in the Biogenesis situation the issue has once again ignited the debate about the Hall of Fame. That debate of course centers on whether the players involved (and past PED users) should be eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
It isn’t as easy as just saying “yes they should be in” or “no they shouldn’t.”
Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens and many others will likely never get in the Hall of Fame. As long as the Baseball Writers of America are the sole electors of Hall of Fame members then I don’t see any of these guys getting in period. There is tremendous animosity towards these men from the writers who are by and large baseball purists.
Bonds and Clemens can scream to the moon that they never used but we know they did. They both had statistically amazing careers that in any other circumstance would garner them first-ballot entry but that time is now past.
The question centers around should they be in the Hall of Fame despite PED use?
The argument for ‘yes’ centers on this idea; From the early 1990′s through 2006, MLB pretty much turned a blind eye to the issue. Players like McGwire and Sammy Sosa were vital to the re-birth of baseball following the 1994 strike despite the fact both were obvious PED users. They were far from the only two using and the fact that baseball ignored the problem speaks of a generational thing no different than the guys who showed up intoxicated to games or on amphetamines in other generations.
Granted, being drunk and using amphetamines wasn’t exactly a performance-enhancing way to go but many did this and MLB did nothing about it.
The argument against is that these guys made the playing field unfair. What about those players who never did anything to cheat or gain an advantage? These are the guys that played in the big leagues and did it with hard work.
We also must consider the records the PED-users broke and established compared to the men who previously owned them. Hank Aaron and Roger Maris to our knowledge never used anything to gain the advantage that Bonds and McGwire did. Is it fair to place the latter in the Hall of Fame knowing they broke records while using steroids?
Many view the use of PEDs as cheating and that alone should keep any of these guys out of the Hall of Fame. This question inevitably brings up Pete Rose who has been banned from baseball for gambling while he was managing the Cincinnati Reds.
Rose is the career hits leader and his playing career is undoubtedly worthy of being in the Hall of Fame but his actions as a manager have kept him out of the Hall. I believe he should be in because there is no evidence that Rose did anything illegal as a player. There are guys currently in the Hall of Fame who weren’t exactly ‘good people’ but their playing careers spoke for themselves.
About the only way I could concede allowing these guys in is that there must be a marker on their plaque. At the top or the bottom there must be a paragraph detailing the fact that these men played in the steroid/PED era but even with that I’m not sure. For guys like Clemens, getting into the Hall was one of the major reasons why he used in the first place. His ego drove him to ensure his enshrinement when he probably didn’t even need to use to gain entry anyway.
It’s an issue that will hang around for a long time, perhaps forever. It’s also an issue that is going to be divisive forever as well.