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Baseball Hall of Fame Class 2012: Predicting First Known PED User to Be Inducted

Christopher BenvieCorrespondent IIJanuary 10, 2012

Baseball Hall of Fame Class 2012: Predicting First Known PED User to Be Inducted

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    Now, things get interesting.

    With the 2012 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee being announced yesterday, we saw Barry Larkin become the sole player to enter Cooperstown on this ballot.

    Next year, a slew of players that may have been first-ballot Hall of Fame inductees will be on the ballot for the first time. It marks a very interesting time in American Baseball history.

    While it is evident that the current Baseball Writers of America are not willing to budge on players that have been tied to PED use, these are also the same guys that probably won't vote Greg Maddux in on his first ballot because they think he needs to "earn it."

    I jest, but the point is, 2012's ballot will be filled with players that are deserving of Hall admittance based on their stats alone. What I would like to do is break down eight players who have been tied to PED's, either by implication, admission, rumor or having their name on the Mitchell Report and examine just how likely they are to be one day adorning the sacred walls of Cooperstown.

    Let us begin.

Mike Stanton, Pitcher 1989-2007

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    Pitcher Mike Stanton's name appeared among 46 others on the Mitchell Report.

    During his career, Stanton was a versatile pitcher. He did start one game during his career, but his body of work came out of the bullpen.  

    He posts a career ERA of 3.92 with a 1.352 WHIP. During his 19 years in the big leagues, Stanton played for eight different teams and put up a 68-63 record with 84 career saves. Stanton is second all-time in career games pitched (1,178).

    He was an All-Star once, in 2001.

    While his name is tied to the Mitchell Report for HGH use, it is his less than eye-popping statistics that will keep him out of Cooperstown.

    Chance of Getting In: Zero percent

    Does He Deserve It: Nope

Rafael Palmeiro, 1B and Left Field 1986-2005

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    "I have never used steroids. Period."  

    Those are the words Palmeiro said while testifying in front of a congressional panel in March of 2005.

    Fast forward to Aug. 2, 2010, and Palmeiro would find himself docked 10 days for testing positive for steroid use.

    Ever since that moment before the congressional panel where Palmeiro adamantly waved his finger in the air so forcefully while denying any steroid use, the man goes and fails the tests. To me, and I assume to many baseball writers, Palmeiro is one of the biggest frauds in all of this mess.

    I can concede steroid use before it was banned in baseball. However, for those that tested positive after 2003 and the release of the Mitchell Report, those players deserve no mercy in my book. Rafael Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez and Ryan Braun...for shame.

    Now, the sad part is, looking at Palmeiro's career numbers, he likely would have been a Hall of Fame lock. The man is a four time All-Star and won the 1999 Sporting News Player of the Year award. He has led the league in hits, doubles and runs at some point during his career as well.

    His batting line was certainly impressive with a career .288/.371/.515/.885 with 3,020 hits, 569 home runs and 1,835 RBI. Not to mention, he was a three-time Gold Glove winner with two Silver Sluggers mixed in there as well.  

    Chance of Getting In: Zero percent

    Does He Deserve It: Nope. If you are so vain as to think you can lie to Congress about steroid use and then go test positive five months later, you don't deserve it. It calls all of your previous accomplishments into question.

Sammy Sosa, Right Field 1989-2007

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    I don't care who you are or what you say, the 1998 home run chase to beat Roger Maris' record of 61 bombs in a single season was the most exciting thing baseball had seen for a long time.

    Remember how ESPN would break into other games or televised events whenever Sammy Sosa or Mark McGwire came to the plate? It was awe-inspiring. We all were wrapped up in it, and every last one of use looked the other way.

    Why?

    The game needed it. The game needed Sosa and McGwire. Baseball was still reeling from the 1994 strike. The fans needed excitement and drama. Sosa and McGwire gave them, nay, us, all of us, just that.

    However, Sosa did test positive for steroids on the 2003 MLB survey test. This test was meant to be anonymous and to gauge the level of use in baseball. That is neither here nor there. He did test positive in 2003. It does call in to question what he had done previously.

    Once again, though, steroids were not illegal in baseball during the 1998 run. Sosa did not test positive after the 2003 report. However, looking at his career statistics, most of his accomplishments seem to come from 1993-94 onward. I'm purely speculating here; just making observations.

    During his career, other than the mesmerizing 1998 season, Sosa was a seven-time All-Star, won the NL MVP award in 1998 and has six Silver Sluggers on his resume. His career batting statistics are formidable with a .273/.344/.534/.878 batting line with 2,408 career hits, 609 career home runs and 1,667 career RBI.

    Chance of Getting In: Five percent

    Does He Deserve It: Is Batman a good guy or a bad guy? He breaks the laws to help the city of Gotham rid itself of crime. Sosa, while surely his intentions were self-serving, possibly used steroids during a race that brought national attention back to America's past-time. I think it is hard to ignore his impact on the game.  

    However, there are players that I think are made better by taking steroids.  Their talent is elevated to a state whereby they become, well, legendary.  

    I fear Sosa may be one of those players. During his career, he was a good to very good player from 1989 until around 1995, and that is when his career took off.

    Does he deserve to be in the Hall of Fame? In my opinion, no.

Roger Clemens, Pitcher, 1984-2007

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    I have previously written a piece on Roger Clemens and his Hall of Fame bid.

    While Roger Clemens' name appears on the Mitchell Report, and certainly there is a pile of evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, that points towards his steroid use, the one thing you cannot deny is that Roger Clemens was a dominant pitcher during his generation.  

    In my previous piece, and based on what you've just read in regards to Sammy Sosa, I look at Roger Clemens a bit differently than the other players on this list. For the sake of argument, let's assume that he did use steroids.

    In his 2009 book titled The Rocket That Fell To Earth: Roger Clemens and the Rage for Baseball Immortality, Jeff Pearlman took an in-depth look at just what went wrong with Roger Clemens and when. In his book, Pearlman goes into great detail on how Clemens and known steroid user Jose Canseco became friends, and that, he implicates, was the beginning of Clemens' steroid use.

    If indeed that was the starting point, Canseco did not join the Boston Red Sox until 1995. So, looking at what Clemens did before that point, I think a case could still be made for his Hall of Fame bid.  

    From 1984 to 1994 Clemens won the 1986 ML AS MVP, 1986 AL TSN Pitcher of the Year,1986 AL MVP, 1986 ML Major League Player of the Year, 1986 AL Cy Young, 1987 AL Cy Young, 1991 AL TSN Pitcher of the Year and the 1991 AL Cy Young.

    He would also be a five-time All-Star and have racked up a 172-93 record with a 3.04 ERA and a 1.261 WHIP.

    Looking at the whole picture, Clemens is an eight-time All-Star, 1986 AL MVP, seven-time Cy Young Award winner with a record of 384-184 on the heels of a 3.12 ERA and 1.173 WHIP over 24 seasons. The man has 4,672 career strikeouts and a career K/9 ratio of 8.6.

    Chance of Getting In: 10 percent

    Does He Deserve It: Absolutely. Clemens was already on his way to Cooperstown by 1994. In his case, I believe steroid use prolonged his career, allowing him to continue dominating for a longer period of time. However, he already had the goods.  

Mark McGwire, 1B, 1986-2001

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    Mark McGwire never tested positive for steroid use during his playing days. However, on Jan. 12, 2010, Big Mac came clean and admitted that he had used steroids.

    McGwire told Bob Costas that he had a gift for hitting home runs, stating that:

    "I truly believe so," McGwire said. "I believe I was given this gift. The only reason I took steroids was for health purposes."

    Whether you want to believe him or not, I lump McGwire into the Batman argument. He helped to save Major League Baseball. He came out and admitted that he used steroids and has quietly been a fine hitting instructor for the Cardinals ever since.

    In 1987, McGwire won the AL Rookie of the Year Award and also broke the record for home runs hit by a rookie that year, belting 49. In 1999, he won the ML Lou Gehrig Memorial Award. He is a 12-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger recipient (1992, 1996 and 1998), and he won a Gold Glove in 1990.

    Says McGwire:

    I'm sure people will wonder if I could have hit all those home runs had I never taken steroids," McGwire said. "I had good years when I didn't take any, and I had bad years when I didn't take any. I had good years when I took steroids, and I had bad years when I took steroids. But no matter what, I shouldn't have done it and for that I'm truly sorry.

    His career numbers are pretty impressive as well. He posts a .263/.394/.588/.982 batting line with 1,626 career hits, 583 home runs (10th all-time) and 1,414 RBI.

    The question I have about McGwire is: Did the drugs make the man or was the man prolonged by the drugs?

    Chance of Getting In: 20 percent

    Does He Deserve It: This would be an easier decision to make if McGwire had a definable timeline whereby he started to use steroids, but he does not.

    Having said that, I am a man that stands by his convictions. In December, I wrote this piece supporting him, so I won't back away now. Yup, let him in. He never tested positive for steroids during his playing days. He was out of the game when testing began. He admitted his wrongs. The man has come clean. Let him in.  

Barry Bonds, LF, 1986-2007

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    Barry Bonds has never admitted to, nor has he been found guilty of, steroid use.

    We have speculation and rumors, but he has not once been found guilty of using and PED's. He is a 14-time All-Star, seven-time MVP, eight-time Gold Glove Winner and 12-time Silver Slugger Winner.

    He has won the 1990 Sporting News Player of the Year Award, 2001 NL Hank Aaron Award, 2001 Sporting News Player of the Year Award, 2002 NL Hank Aaron Award, 2004 Sporting News Player of the Year Award and the 2004 NL Hank Aaron Award.

    In 2,986 career games played, Bonds recorded 2,227 runs, 2,935 hits, 601 doubles, 77 triples, 762 home runs (most all-time), 1,996 RBI and 2,558 BB (also most all-time).

    His career batting average is .298 with a .444 OBP, .607 SLG and 1.051 OPS with a .181 OPS+, 5976 total bases and 688 intentional walks (once again, most all time).

    Even if you want to ignore the entire body of work and take the Jon Heyman approach, looking at only his numbers from 2000 and earlier, Bonds still would have won three NL MVP awards, won eight Gold Glove awards, hit 448 home runs, made eight All-Star appearances and had the highest WAR in baseball six times. In other words, the man was still a Hall of Fame candidate.

    Bonds was easily the greatest player of his generation. Read my piece on him here for my full explanation.

    Chance of Getting In: 50 percent

    Does He Deserve It: Without a shadow of a doubt, Bonds is a Hall of Fame baseball player. I honestly think that his numbers are too good to not allow him in. While trying to maintain their honor system, the BBWA would look like a farce for keeping such a prolific player out.

Jeff Bagwell, 1B, 1991-2005

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    Jeff Bagwell was one of the most feared batters in the National League before players like Albert Pujols held that title.

    While Bagwell has never appeared on the Mitchell Report, or any other indictment of ball players for PED use, there seems to be rumors that swirl around him. In a 2010 interview with ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, this is what Bagwell had to say on the issue:

    I never used [steroids], and I'll tell you exactly why: If I could hit between 30 and 40 home runs every year and drive in 120 runs, why did I need to do anything else? I was pretty happy with what I was doing, and that's the God's honest truth. All of a sudden guys were starting to hit 60 or 70 home runs and people were like, 'Dude, if you took [PEDs], you could do it too.' And I was like, 'I'm good where I'm at. I just want to do what I can do.

    During the course of his 15-season career, BagPipes was a four-time All-Star and won the 1991 NL Rookie of the Year, 1994 ML Major League Player of the Year and 1994 NL MVP. He also has a Gold Glove and three Silver Slugger Awards on his shelf.  

    Bagwell's career batting line is impressive: .297/.408/.540/.948 with 2,314 hits, 449 home runs and 1,529 RBI while adding 488 doubles.  

    Next year will be Bagwell's third year on the Hall of Fame ballot. This year, he received 56 percent of the vote.  Last year, he received 41.7 percent of the vote. He is witnessing a steady incline in support, and rightfully so. 

    Chance of Getting In: 80 percent

    Does He Deserve It: Absolutely. Bagwell is a clean player for all intents and purposes. What we have witnessed over the past two years is a flawed cautionary approach to voting in any player that played during the steroid era. He should be in as early as the 2013 class.

Mike Piazza, C 1992-2007

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    There have been whispers of Mike Piazza's steroid use, but nothing has ever come to fruition.

    On Feb. 26, 2009, the New York Post's Joel Sherman wrote a piece on Piazza and the alleged steroid use. Here is an excerpt from that article:

    For the record, Piazza says he was a clean player. "Absolutely" is the word he used. He claims he is not on the now infamous list of 104 failed steroid tests from the survey phase in 2003. "No, not that I know," he said. The one-time Mets star offers a lot of explanations to explain his power, from hard work to the addition of forty-something pitchers during the term of his career via four new expansion teams.

    "You can't control what people think," Piazza said.

    There were rumors of physical evidence that Piazza had been a steroid user. During that time, acne breakouts were a supposed sign. Apparently, Piazza's back was marred with bad acne. However, Piazza was never accused, and to this day, remains a clean name on the list.

    During his playing days, Piazza posted a career .308/.377/.545/.922 batting line. He added 2,127 hits, 1,335 RBI and his 427 home runs are the most ever by a catcher.

    He is a 12-time All-Star with 10 Silver Slugger awards to his name and has won the 1993 NL Rookie of the Year and was the 1996 ML All-Star MVP.

    Chance of Getting In: 90 percent

    Does He Deserve It: Piazza is arguably the greatest hitting-catcher of all-time. In 2013's ballot, he's about as close as one can get to a sure thing. That is, providing the BBWA will vote him in on his first ballot.  Absolutely deserving in my mind.

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