I know that any talk about performance-enhancing drugs will be controversial. I know that people have very strong feelings as to whether or not they believe that athletes who have used performance-enhancing drugs should be allowed into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
My own personal belief is that performance-enhancing drug use is not within the spirit of competition. These substances create an unfair advantage on the playing field, and I do not believe that confirmed users should be permitted to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. I believe that the playing field should absolutely be level.
If only it were that cut and dry.
What do we do about rumors?
Jeff Bagwell arguably should have been inducted into the Baseball Hall Of Fame this season if we only look at his career statistics. He was one of the best of the 1990s. Yes, he had a ton of power as he crushed 449 home runs over his career, but he was also a complete hitter as he still managed to hit .297 throughout his career. He produced runs (1,529 RBI), ran the bases well (202 stolen bases) and even won a Gold Glove in 1994.
He was one of the most complete first basemen in recent history. However, he was also rumored to be a performance-enhancing drug user. Even though nothing had ever been proven, simply the fact that he played in the 1990s and hit a lot of home runs seems to be enough for several voters not to vote for him.
If you think I'm exaggerating, check out this article from The Platoon Advantage. This article essentially summarizes the reasons that several voters have used to justify not voting for Bagwell.
Should Bagwell be elected into the Hall of Fame?
However, I need to question the logic used by many of these journalists.
The overall tone makes me feel like this is simply a case of guilt by association. Simply because he hit a lot of home runs in the 1990s, he must have used steroids. I do not think that this is necessarily what I would call logic.
For example, if I went to a restaurant and ordered a meal that turned out to be bad, would it be logical for me to assume that every other meal served at that restaurant during that same time frame was also bad? Of course it wouldn't be. It's definitely possible that every meal might have been bad, but it would not be responsible for me to assume that without a doubt every meal was bad.
If I had proof, such as sampling every meal, I could make that claim, but based on my one independent meal, I cannot make any assumptions about the overall quality of the other meals at that restaurant. My one meal might have been an outlier.
That's exactly what's happening here. Without proof, many people assume that Jeff Bagwell must have used steroids because he was essentially in the wrong sport, having the wrong type of success, at the wrong time. His situation is independent from Rafael Palmeiro or any other admitted performance-enhancing drug user. Considering them as a homogeneous group is simply illogical.
I understand the concept of "protecting the Hall." I understand and respect the fact that journalists do not want to allow athletes into the Hall of Fame who might turn out to actually be performance-enhancing drug users. However, speculation rarely turns out to be productive.
Rumors are very difficult. Speculation in the "Information Age," especially, may or may not be productive. I know this will probably be controversial, but I believe that, unless solid contrary proof comes out, Bagwell deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.