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Hall of Fame: Players Who Should Have Been Locks but Are Now Question Marks

Brandon McClintockCorrespondent IFebruary 6, 2011

Hall of Fame: Players Who Should Have Been Locks but Are Now Question Marks

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    Pool/Getty Images

    Beginning with Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro we have seen that the Hall of Fame voters are not looking fondly on nominees that have their pasts tied to performance enhancing drugs.

    Looking back to the stars that emerged in the late 1980's and through into the early 2000's, an alarming number of our favorite players were implicated in the steroids scandal.

    Baseball saw some of the most hallowed and revered records in our national past time broken by the games modern athletes. Home run records fell, pitchers seemed ageless, and mediocre players became great.

    Of course the scandal spread well beyond the game's elite. Minor League players were implicated in taking steroids, their motivation to make it to The Show. Fringe players took steroids in hopes of holding onto their roster positions or improving their numbers in hopes of a bigger payday down the road.

    Now that we are seeing these players reach Hall of Fame eligibility for the first times, the baseball voters will decide how these once immortals of the game will be remembered for all time.

    Active players who have ties to the steroid era will have the chance to prove they are able to produce Hall worthy statistics under the assumption that they are now performing clean of any chemical-aid. Will it be enough though? Or will they too find their list of accomplishments not quite good enough when compared to the true immortals of the game.

    After all, in most fans' minds, 73 is not important as 61, nor is 762 as important as 755. 300 Wins does not have the same magical aura to it, nor do the 3000 hit or 500 home run plateaus. 

    At one point these players were all considered locks for induction in Cooperstown, now only history will tell if their accomplishments reside with the best that have ever worn a uniform, the accomplishments we can safely assume were accomplished without any artificial aid.

Gary Sheffield

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Hall of Fame Resume:

    • Nine Time All-Star
    • Five Silver Slugger Awards
    • 1992 NL Batting Champion
    • 24th All Time in MLB history with 509 Career Home Runs

    Pre-Steroid Era Gary Sheffield would have certainly met the criteria for induction into Cooperstown. His 509 career home runs would have made him a virtual lock on their own, but throw in the nine All Star appearances, and his five Silver Slugger Awards and most writers would have found little grounds to keep Sheffield out.

    Joe Torre used to tell reporters that no one hit the ball harder than Sheffield while both were with the Yankees, and a quick look back to those years, I find it hard to argue with Torre's assessment.

    In December of 2003 Sheffield testified in front of a Federal Grand Jury investigating BALCO that he had "unknowingly" used a designer steroid on his knee. He repeated the acknowledgment in an interview with Sports Illustrated one year later.

    Whether knowingly or not, Sheffield unfortunately will forever have his accomplishments tainted by the now undisputed fact that his career was aided by the use of performance enhancers.

    Seasons BA OBP SLG OPS Hits Runs RBI HR
    22 .292 .393 .514 .907 2689 1636 1676 509

Mike Piazza

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Hall of Fame Resume:

    • 1996 NL Rookie of the Year
    • Twelve time All-Star
    • Ten Silver Slugger Awards

    Mike Piazza's numbers as a catcher rank up near the top with the best ever. A twelve time All-Star and ten time Silver Slugger award winner, Piazza is the standard for offensive catchers in the 1990's and early 2000's. Piazza helped heal a city after 9/11, and was a fan favorite everywhere he played throughout his career. A career batting average of .308 with 427 home runs, most of which came while still playing catcher on an every day basis, may be enough to get him into the Hall, but no longer on his first ballot. He benefits from not being thrust into the steroid spotlight, and has never been forced in front of Congress or a Grand Jury.

    Piazza's connection to steroids comes primarily from an excerpt in Jeff Pearlman's book, The Rocket That Fell To Earth.

    "As the hundreds of major league ballplayers who turned to performance-enhancing drugs throughout the 1990s did their absolute best to keep the media at arm's length, Piazza took the opposite approach. According to several sources, when the subject of performance enhancing was broached with reporters he especially trusted, Piazza fessed up. "Sure, I use," he told one. "But in limited doses, and not all that often." (Piazza has denied using performance-enhancing drugs, but there has always been speculation.) Whether or not it was Piazza's intent, the tactic was brilliant: By letting the media know, of the record, Piazza made the information that much harder to report. Writers saw his bulging muscles, his acne-covered back. They certainly heard the under-the-breath comments from other major league players, some who considered Piazza's success to be 100 percent chemically delivered."
    Seasons BA OBP SLG OPS Hits Runs RBI HR
    16 .308 .377 .545 .922 2127 1048 1335 427

Rafael Palmeiro

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    Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    Hall of Fame Resume:

    • Four time All-Star
    • Three Gold Glove awards
    • Two Silver Slugger awards
    • 24th All Time in MLB history with 3020 hits
    • 12th All Time in MLB history with 569 home runs
    • 15th All Time in MLB history with 1835 RBI

    One of only four players in MLB history with over 3000 career hits and 500 home runs, Palmeiro does not look to ever stand a chance of induction into the Hall of Fame. Palmeiro famously sat before Congress, testified defiantly that he had never used performance enhancing drugs, and then wagged his finger to make his point all the more strong. Unfortunately later that very same season he tested positive for steroid use and was suspended by commissioner Bud Selig for ten games. Palmeiro still to this day blames the positive test on a tainted B-12 injection, and claims that he played his entire 20 year career free of the use of any performance enhancers.

    To quote Palmeiro's former teammate Will Clark though, "You got caught partner". It's going to be very hard for the baseball writers to look past this incident.

    Seasons BA OBP SLG OPS Hits Runs RBI HR
    20 .288 .371 .515 .885 3020 1663 1835 569

Sammy Sosa

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Hall of Fame Resume:

    • 1998 NL MVP
    • Seven time All-Star
    • Six Silver Slugger Awards
    • Won two National League Home Run titles
    • 7th All Time in MLB history with 609 Home Runs

    Seventh on the all-time home run list will not be enough for voters or baseball fans to forget how Sammy Sosa forgot how to speak English during a congressional hearing on steroid use. Tied to the fact that Sosa was caught using a corked bat during a game and suspended, a pattern of cheating has been established that will forever cast a shadow of doubt on Sosa's otherwise impressive numbers.

    Sammy was part of the magical summer of 1998, chasing down the magical single season home run record along with Mark McGwire. Sosa wound up finishing behind McGwire's 70 home runs that season, but he eclipsed the 60 home run mark three times in his career to wind up seventh all time with 609 career home runs.

    Unfortunately for Sammy the only place his numbers will ever be immortalized are on the back of his baseball cards which all plummeted in value the minute it became obvious that he his numbers were as hollow as that bat would have been had the cork been removed.

    Seasons BA OBP SLG OPS Hits Runs RBI HR
    18 .273 .344 .534 .878 2408 1475 1667 609

Mark McGwire

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Hall of Fame Resume:

    • 1987 Rookie of the Year
    • 1990 Gold Glove Award
    • Twelve time All-Star
    • Three Silver Slugger Awards
    • Four Home Run titles
    • Tenth All Time in MLB history with 583 home runs
    • Set Single Season Home Run Record in 1998 (70 Home Runs)

    No speculation for McGwire, he finally admitted his past steroid use. While he denies that they helped to boost his production at all, his name will forever be intertwined with the steroid era, and it will be a total shock to me to ever see his name enshrined in Cooperstown.  

    McGwire began taking steroids as a way of recovering from injuries and prolonging his career. While he fails to see that steroids aided his numbers, his own explanation proves that they produced some of the most important numbers of his career. Giving him the benefit of doubt, which he does not deserve, we'll say that every home run he hit was on his own and would have been a home run even without the steroids. The problem though is that he would have retired years earlier due to injuries and never would have had the 70 home run record breaking season, nor would he have reached the 500 home run plateau. If you remove those accomplishments from his resume, he is not a Hall of Fame worthy candidate.

    McGwire helped save the game of baseball with his record breaking summer of 1998, but his accomplishments will live on in stories only. They will not be enshrined in Cooperstown.

    Seasons BA OBP SLG OPS Hits Runs RBI HR
    16 .263 .394 .588 .982 1626 1167 1414 583

Ivan Rodriguez

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Hall of Fame Resume:

    • 14 Time All-Star
    • 1999 AL MVP
    • Thirteen Gold Glove Awards
    • Seven Silver Slugger Awards
    • All Time Leader Putouts as a Catcher: 14,619
    • Second All Time Caught Stealing Percentage: 44.5%

    "Only God knows" was the best answer Pudge could muster when asked if his name would be present on a list of approximately 100+ baseball players who had reportedly tested positive for steroids in 2003. Rodriguez also had his steroid use detailed in Jose Canseco's book Juiced. Canseco claims to have educated Rodriguez on steroid use, purchased steroids for him, and personally injected him. Unfortunately for Rodriguez, Canseco has not been caught in many lies regarding the steroid use of players he has since aired out in his books and interviews.

    Ivan Rodriguez has widely been considered the greatest catcher ever, and his thirteen Gold Gloves while putting up impressive offensive numbers leave little to argue about his place in the game amongst not only the greatest catchers, but the all time greats of the game. Add to his thirteen Gold Glove awards, his seven Silver Slugger awards, his 1999 MVP award, and his fourteen all-star selections and there is no arguing that Pudge was a dominant player throughout his still active career.

    Without the steroid implications Ivan Rodriguez is a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee. He will have to pray his defensive accomplishments are enough to earn him consideration, because his offensive accomplishments surely will go overlooked. Not sure even that will get him in, as steroids definitely prolonged his career behind the plate without forcing him to move to another position, inflating his defensive statistics as well.

    Seasons BA OBP SLG OPS Hits Runs RBI HR
    20+ (Active) .298 .334 .466 .800 2817 1340 1313 309

Manny Ramirez

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Hall of Fame Resume:

    • Twelve time All-Star
    • Nine Silver Slugger Awards
    • 14th All Time in MLB History with 555 home runs
    • 18th All Time in MLB History with 1830 RBI

    Apparently a side effect of steroid use is the unexplained quirkiness called "Manny being Manny."

    Ramirez is one of the premier hitters of the last two decades, and his 555 career home runs and 1830 RBI's are proof of his dominance. Ramirez has been an all-star twelve times and has won nine Silver Slugger awards.

    He has also had his name featured on a 2003 report of MLB players who have tested positive for steroids. He was later suspended 50 games by MLB for failing a drug test in which he tested positive for HCG.

    Manny can fight off an 0-2 count on the field, but when it comes to steroid use, it appears to be one strike and you're out with the voters. Good luck knocking this one out of the park Manny.

    Ramirez is one of a few interesting cases of active players with Hall of Fame worthy numbers though, so he has time to prove he was capable of the numbers he posted without steroids, and he will add to his already impressive career totals.

    Unfortunately, for many people, he will only be further cheapening the record books with each new accomplishment he reaches.

    Seasons BA OBP SLG OPS Hits Runs RBI HR
    18+ (Active) .313 .411 .586 .998 2573 1544 1830 555

Alex Rodriguez

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    Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    Hall of Fame Resume:

    • Thirteen Time All Star
    • Three Time MVP
    • Two Gold Glove Awards
    • Ten Silver Slugger Awards
    • 65th All Time Hits: 2672
    • 6th All Time Home Runs: 613
    • 17th All Time RBI: 1831

    First ballot Hall of Famer? Greatest of All Time? These are questions that will be pondered over the next few seasons as Alex Rodriguez continues his historic career and climbs the all-time lists into possibly the greatest career of all time.

    One thing that does not need to be pondered though, Alex Rodriguez cheated to accomplish at least a portion of his career statistics. ARod's name appeared in a 2003 list of players who tested positive for steroid use. Rather than denying the allegations, Rodriguez came clean in what appeared to be a damage control interview.

    For the record, Rodriguez was also implicated in Canseco's second book, Vindicated, in which Canseco claims to have introduced Rodriguez to a steroid dealer.

    Rodriguez's eventual Hall of Fame candidacy is the biggest question mark in this group in my mind. His continued dominance since Major League Baseball put stronger steroid testing and punishment policies in place definitely works in his favor. The fact that he has a history of cheating, and there is still no test for HGH leaves some doubt that his recent accomplishments are completely untainted.

    Alex Rodriguez likely will ascend to the top of the Home Run record books before his career is over, but that may not be enough to get him a plaque and enshrinement. Time will tell if the stance softens enough before we reach his eligibility to get him in or not. He will not be a first ballot inductee though.

    Seasons BA OBP SLG OPS Hits Runs RBI HR
    17+ (Active) .303 .387 .571 .958 2672 1757 1831 613

Roger Clemens

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Hall of Fame Resume:

    • Eleven Time All Star
    • 1986 AL MVP
    • Seven Time Cy Young Winner
    • 9th All Time Wins: 354
    • 3rd All Time Strike Outs: 4672

    Seven Cy Young awards, an MVP, and eleven trips to the All Star game will not be enough for anyone to forget the circus that has surrounded Roger Clemens since his name was brought into the steroid discussion.

    Clemens was initially implemented by the Jason Grimsley affidavit. In the affidavit, Grimsley told investigators he obtained amphetamines, anabolic steroids and HGH from a person recommended to him by, Brian McNamee strength and conditioning coach of Clemens and Andy Pettitte. McNamee has detailed Clemens steroid use, and now the Supreme Court is pursuing perjury charges against Clemens for his earlier testimony that he had not ever used performance enhancing drugs.

    Ninth all time with 354 wins and third all time with 4672 strike outs, Clemens is only getting into the Hall of Fame if he purchases a ticket and takes a tour.

    The greatest pitcher of the last two decades accomplished his impressive career by cheating, and will not be rewarded by the baseball writers when they cast their votes.

    Seasons Wins Losses ERA SHO SO BB
    24 354 184 3.12 46 4672 1580

Barry Bonds

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    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Hall of Fame Resume:

    • Seven Time MVP
    • Eight Time Gold Glove
    • Twelve Time Silver Slugger
    • Fourteen Time All Star
    • All Time Home Run Leader (762)
    • All Time BB Leader (2558)
    • All Time IBB Leader (688)
    • Single Season Home Run Leader (73)
    • Two Batting Titles
    • Led the League in OBP Ten Times
    • Led the League in SLG Seven Times
    • Led the League in OPS Nine Times
    • Led the League in Home Runs Two Times

    Was there ever a more worthy candidate of induction on the first ballot? Barry Bonds is a seven time MVP, eight time Gold Glove winner, twelve time Silver Slugger winner and a fourteen time All Star. He is the single season home run champion, and the all time home run champion. He holds the records for most base on balls, and most intentional base on balls. He has also won two batting titles.

    He also is the most infamous customer of BALCO, and the poster child of the designer steroids "The Creme" and "The Clear". Bonds has acknowledged that he took steroids, although he maintains that his use was unknowing.

    If you removed the years that we know Bonds used steroids, and only evaluated his career up to that point, he would still have Hall of Fame worthy numbers. Unfortunately I don't think the voters, or fans will look past his steroid use and award him baseball's greatest honor.

    He was a controversial personality during his playing career, and will maintain a controversial discussion point up through the expiration of his five year waiting period, and well into his eligibility.

    I could be wrong, but I do believe that Bonds will eventually be granted enshrinement into the Hall of Fame. Baseball's career home run leader needs to be represented in the Hall of Fame, but then again, the all time hits leader has never even been deemed eligible for induction.

    The true magic numbers are still 61 and 755, sorry but 73 and 762 simply don't matter to me, and while I do think eventually they will be represented on Barry's induction plaque, I don't think it will be until well into his eligibility, if ever.

    Seasons BA OBP SLG OPS Hits Runs RBI SB BB HR
    22 .298 .444 .607 1.051 2935 2227 1996 514 2558 762

     

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