The steroid era seems to be dark cloud that will just not pass over Major League Baseball.
While this era has somewhat ended in terms of the widespread use of banned substances within the game, it clearly has not been completely eliminated.
And now, the steroid era is beginning to rain one of baseball’s most prized and revered institutions: The Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Baseball Hall of Fame has always been a sacred place, reserved only for those who have achieved at a level head and shoulders above the rest.
A trip to Cooperstown, NY is near the top of every baseball fan’s bucket list and has always been the perfect destination for families who love the game.
But with the dark cloud of the steroid era still hovering over baseball, a big question remains: what will become of the Baseball Hall of Fame?
In 2013, not a single player will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, despite the fact that—statistically speaking—some of the best players of all time were on the ballot.
The Baseball Writers’ Association has made it abundantly clear that they intend to keep everyone and anyone associated with steroids out of the Baseball Hall of Fame in order to keep the integrity of the institution intact, which is in many ways a noble action.
However, this is also the equivalent of swinging blindly in the dark. The baseball writers have not created anything that remotely resembles a formal criterion through which to evaluate players from the steroid era.
As of now, it appears that the writers are literally excluding anyone that is ever been accused of using steroids, no matter how thin or unfounded those accusations may be.
In one group you have guys like Sammy Sosa, who is said to have tested positive for steroids, and Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGuire, who admitted to using steroids during their playing days. Many fans would agree that these red-handed players should never be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
But what about guys like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens?
Based solely on their numbers, they are two of the greatest baseball players of all time. Both have been accused of using steroids, and some argue that there is a compelling amount of evidence that points to their use of PEDs.
But, and this is a big but, these allegations have never been proven.
With Bonds and Clemens, we are still talking about nothing more than accusations and circumstantial evidence.
Then we drop down to players such as Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell. Both players are deserving of a spot in the Hall of Fame based on their career statistics. However, there is some suspicion surrounding each man regarding the possible use of PEDs during their playing days.
The suspicion surrounding players such as Piazza and Bagwell are at best comprised of rumors or so-called witnesses. There is nothing that remotely resembles hard evidence suggesting that either of these men used PEDs during their careers, yet they too seem to have made their way onto the Hall of Fame blacklist.
The underlying question now becomes: When does the blacklisting of players end?
Is every player who has ever been even accused of using PEDs now automatically excluded from the Hall of Fame?
And if so, what constitutes a legitimate accusation?
If a player simply doesn’t like another player and comes out and says he saw player X do steroids back in 1999, is that it? Is player X now permanently excluded from the Hall of Fame?
If a blogger accuses Derek Jeter of using steroids and the story blows up into national headlines, and Jeter is forced to hold a press conference denying these accusations which were made on the back of no evidence whatsoever, then is that it? Is that all it would take to exclude a player like Jeter from the Hall of Fame? An online rumor?
This is the fine line the Hall of Fame voters are treading, a fine line between preserving the integrity of the institution and turning the whole thing into one big joke.
Most baseball fans would agree that players who cheated by using PEDs during their career should not be elected into the Hall of Fame, but most Americans would also agree that players, like citizens, are innocent until proven guilty.
The Hall of Fame voters need to come together and create a legitimate criterion for what actions constitute exclusion from the Hall of Fame, particularly on the subject of PEDs, because they are clearly starting to lose control of the situation. And as a result of not knowing what else to do, they have decided that anyone every accused of involvement with PEDs, no matter how flimsy the evidence may be, is going to be excluded from the Hall of Fame.
Baseball has already marginalized an entire era due to PEDs, and if the Baseball Writers’ Association is not careful, they are going to be responsible for the marginalization of the oldest, purest and most revered institution in the entire game—the Baseball Hall of Fame.