This is a difficult time for many of those who believe the game will forever be tainted by the Performance Enhancing Drug era.
I refuse to call it the "Steroid Era" as many of the so-called cheaters never actually took a steroid. If you're going to label something, it may as well be accurate.
I will admit that some of the things MLB players did during this time disgusts me. It's not so much the fact that they cheated, but that they were so smug and arrogant that they thought they could get away with it.
So here we are with Hall of Fame ballots in our hands with blank looks on our faces. How are we supposed to vote? From this point on, how are we supposed to determine which players from this era deserve enshrinement and which deserve to be left outside with their noses pressed against the windows of the Hall of Fame?
In my opinion the players have to be taken on a case by case basis.
It is patently unfair to just take the players from the PED Era and lump them all together in one uniform group. There are some players that have never been linked to a PED, but have had guilt projected upon them nonetheless. I'm in favor of protecting them because they are being hunted as well.
I am going to look at not only PED users, but also those who have been unfairly targeted by some as being guilty by association.
I know this is a passionate subject for many, but passion should not suspend a person's rationality. Unfortunately for many, it does.
Part of the acrimony surrounding Barry Bonds has been of his own doing. He's a prickly human being and has been for a long time. That attitude has often been directed towards members of the media, which is quite foolish since they can control how a player can be viewed by the public. Not only that, but it is the writers that have the vote for the Hall of Fame.
Bonds already had a negative image prior to all the PED accusations, speculation and admissions surrounding him. According to his BALCO Grand Jury testimony, Bonds admitted that Greg Anderson supplied him with both the "cream" and the "clear." Bonds said he believed them to be an arthritis balm and flaxseed oil, not PED's.
This statement in Bonds' testimony makes me chuckle. "I never asked Greg. When he said it was flaxseed oil, I just said, whatever."
99.9% of the rational world can't possibly believe that Bonds didn't know what was he was putting on and in his body.
Does anyone really believe that Anderson, a longtime friend, would give Bonds something that could have potentially harmful side effects without him knowing? I certainly wouldn't call someone like that a friend.
Despite all of that, Bonds had already solidified his grasp on the place in the H.O.F. even prior to any suspected or actual use of PED's.
His records are tainted, but his overall accomplishments still stand.
Pudge Rodriguez is one of the best defensive catchers of our time. He has always been able to hit with the best of them as well.
He's never been a power hitter, so some speculate he had used PED's to recover faster from injuries.
In Jose Canseco's book Juiced, he purports to have enlightened Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez, about steroids while they played together for the Rangers.
Canseco claims to have supplied steroids to all three teammates as well as injecting each one on multiple occasions. He also claims the injections contained a combination of HGH, steroids and testosterone.
The only link Rodriguez has to PED's comes through the words of Canseco. While much of what Canseco has written has proven true, they are in effect only words.
Nevertheless the cloud still lingers.
Great catchers are few and far between these days, so Rodriguez will certainly be given the benefit of the doubt in the court of public opinion.
I have no reason to believe he won't find his way to Cooperstown.
From the beginning of his career, Rogers Clemens dominated hitters and continued to do so until the very end.
He won three of his Cy Young Awards well prior to any hint or speculation about his use of PED's. The majority of his wins and strikeouts also came before the height of the PED era.
If any of his numbers should be considered tainted, they would be much less so than those of others from the same era.
Clemens was named in the Mitchell Report and called out by his former trainer Brian McNamee who said he had injected Clemens on many occasions starting in 1998 with steroids and HGH.
Interestingly enough, Clemens' worst years came with the New York Yankees from 1999-2003 at the height of the PED era and after McNamee allegedly began administering the drugs.
Any way you slice it, Roger Clemens is in.
Alex Rodriguez was not immune to all of the accusations and speculation surrounding PED's. In fact he turned out to be one of the participants in the whole fiasco.
He was first implicated by Jose Canseco in his book Vindicated and again later on as one of the names on the positive list of MLB's 2003 anonymous survey testing.
As a result of that information becoming public, he admitted to using a PED from 2001 to 2003 which was procured by his cousin.
As Bonds before him, he admitted the use of the substance, but claimed ignorance as to what it really was. I guess if I had a gazillion dollar contract, I'd have my cousin go to the Dominican Republic and buy some mysterious substance so I could use it to make me a better player as well. Seems fair.
His story is ridiculous, but his talent has always been there. His numbers will dwarf most if not all those of the other hitters in baseball history and he was well on his way to greatness, before stupidity smacked him in the forehead.
Rodriguez will be enshrined in Cooperstown sooner rather than later.
Mike Piazza is the best hitting catcher of my generation. Not only did he hit for power but also for average. Those numbers alone put him with the elite catchers of all time.
While playing in New York, the tabloids enjoyed swirling speculation around Piazza to varying degrees. While his sexual orientation was a hot topic, so was his possible use of PED's.
Reportedly, Piazza admitted using PED's to at least one unnamed reporter. Apparently two former players said they were sure Piazza used steroids.
Okay so he admitted it to a mystery reporter and two nameless players implicated him. That sure sounds like some solid information.
I also can't forget that a former New York Times reporter said Piazza had a bad case of back acne, which is one possible side effect of steroid use. That reporter, Murray Chass, said that in 2004 the acne cleared up when MLB instituted it's first PED testing program with penalties.
I don't know about you, but I think that's an open and shut case. Piazza should have just copped a plea. I mean come on already! Maybe Mr. Chass should have spent more time working and less time staring at a naked man's back in the locker room, but that's just me.
Piazza is a no-brainer barring a revelation that he tortured puppies or something. Can you tell I'm getting a little riled up by this whole thing?
Ah, Mr McGwire—another of MLB's mental giants. He could have made things so much easier on himself.
His refusal to answer questions in front of Congress only made it look like he had something to hide. His insistence on not looking back into the past and only focusing on the future, was a naive stance to take.
He was implicated in possible steroid use all the way back in 1992. I can't forget that Jose Canseco claimed to have personally injected steroids into McGwire as well.
Did PED's make McGwire a better hitter? I'd have to say it's not likely.
As a rookie, he pounded out 49 HRs—that was years before the term PED was even coined. He had natural power in that body of his.
While it's likely both he and Sammy Sosa were "juicing" during that magical summer of 1998, it brought people back to the game and made baseball the No. 1 topic of conversation all summer long.
Whether you like him or not, he deserves to get in.
Crazy, goofy, bizarre, enigmatic, aloof, strange and sometimes just plain stupid.
Those are some of the words that have been used to describe Manny Ramirez's behavior over the years. I think you'd have a hard time disputing any of those descriptors. What Manny has also been is a run producing machine.
Continuing with the theme of "Manny being Manny," he tested positive for HCG in the spring of 2009. HCG is a fertility drug. That is not its only use, however. HCG is also used by athletes between steroid cycles. It was the only thing he tested positive for, but as HGC was a banned substance it led to a 50-game suspension for Ramirez.
The difference between Manny and many of these other players is that he had consequences to actions.
His suspension was significant and did take away from the numbers he would have produced during those games. While that didn't cause a huge statistical correction, he was one of the only ones that actually paid for his indiscretion during his playing career.
Manny manned up and admitted what he did, apologized and took his punishment like a man.
No matter what you personally think of Manny, he's a no doubt Hall-of-Famer.
It was actually comical seeing Sammy Sosa sitting there pretending he was having difficulty understanding the English language in front of Congress.
Anyone who had seen an interview with him prior to that day knew that he understood the language just fine. I guess if you don't want to answer questions, just pull out your, "No hablo ingles" card. I've got to give it a shot sometime, maybe at a party with a lot of boring people.
Everyone loved Sammy. From his sprint to RF and acknowledging the Wrigley faithful, to his HR hop, he was a very likable guy.
The HR race with McGwire transcended all the negative energy surrounding MLB at the time. And then...he was given the label of cheater. He was reportedly on that 2003 MLB list, but no one knows what it was that he tested positive for.
So here we are. In or out?
Does the good Sammy outweigh the bad? I say it does.
I think both he and McGwire should go in at the same time to eliminate the distraction that would accompany their inductions with other non-PED player(s). It's just a thought.
If you are looking for someone who is the anti-PED poster child, it's McGriff.
The problem is that many people don't believe his numbers justify his selection. On the other side, his numbers weren't tainted by using PED's. He's in the ultimate Catch-22.
If he had used PED's, the odds are he easily would have surpassed the magical 500 HR threshold.
Are you making your votes strictly on numbers or are you considering his numbers relative to those of the "cheaters"?
If it's the latter, he deserves the votes. If it's the former, he's on the outside looking in. Pick your poison.
If you look at all his numbers from top to bottom, he deserves to get in. In my estimation, you can't say 493 HR is not enough but then vote in a player linked to PED's who has 520 HR.
If you're one of those that feels like punishing or excluding PED players, it would make a statement to elect McGriff as an example of what the other players should have done, and how they should have acted.
Some people look at his size and immediately scream STEROIDS!
Those nimrods fail to recall that he played tight end in college for a season.
Last time I checked tight ends aren't skinny wimpy dudes. They are built like Frank. The other thing those people seem to forget is that Thomas may have had one of the best eyes at the plate this side of Tony Gwynn.
Thomas walked regularly, swung at strikes, hit for a high average and pounded out doubles as well as home runs. He has all the requisite numbers and a natural physique for his size.
The only argument one can make is that he was a DH, but that doesn't hold water as he played the majority of his career at 1B.
He should be in no questions asked, and I don't want to hear anyone mutter PED's and the Big Hurt in the same sentence.
Jeff Bagwell is in position to get totally screwed by both the era he played in and the people he played with.
He never tested positive for anything at any point, and was never named in the Mitchell Report or any other investigation. Yet people will continue speculate because he played with Ken Caminiti and in an organization that seemingly turned a blind eye to the use of PED's by its players.
There has even been speculation about Craig Biggio by some. Those people need to find another place for their lunacy.
Some of the skeptics will point to Bagwell's change in physique following his retirement. How many professional athletes continue their strict nutrition and workout regimens after retirement? You see it all the time, especially with NFL players at all positions such as Howie Long, Daryl Johnston, Merrill Hoge and others.
Bagwell's numbers clearly put him in the Hall.
Pure speculation should not keep him out. That would make the voting process an even bigger mockery than it already is.
Bagwell missed out on his first ballot, but I expect his selection by ballot number three.
I don't know if anyone noticed, but this has been an irritating subject to write about.
That's not because I don't love baseball or the Hall of Fame and its standards. I get irritated thinking about the massive biases and convoluted rationale many people display when it comes to the PED era.
People are always looking for a way to exclude certain people from certain places by rationalizing their own thought processes. More often than not, it is that thought process that is the flawed piece of the equation.
Bert Blyleven was excluded for years even though his numbers screamed "vote" for me. It wasn't because he didn't do enough on the field. It was because some people are just plain irrational and closed minded.
One person that REALLY irritates me is Jose Canseco.
Based on the Mitchell report, his books and other various outlets, he is responsible for educating, supplying or administering PED's to his teammates and many other players around the league. THEN he has the gall to rat them out.
He's a coward plain and simple. Here—let me get you involved in something illegal and then turn you in.
Personally I would delete all of his statistics and completely erase his existence from MLB as if he never played the game. Now I would think that might deter future amoral cretins from significantly corrupting the game.
I don't condone using PED's. I never have and I never will. On the same point, I don't condone arbitrarily excluding players from the Hall based on what they may or may not have done.
The only one of the players on my list that tested positive for anything after 2003 is Manny Ramirez. Speculation is easy, but voting players into Cooperstown should be based on fact not supposition.
If you exclude someone from Cooperstown because they had back acne or because they played with someone who was on steroids, you may as well just close the doors on the Hall because, them, there is no one that is worthy.