Right fielder Lance Berkman is well on his way to an impressive bounce-back season for the St. Louis Cardinals. After an awful 2010 season, which included a devastating left knee injury, he is hitting .357 in 2011 with 10 home runs and a league-leading 32 RBI.
Berkman has very impressive career numbers, but his chances of being inducted into the Hall of Fame are far from guaranteed.
Had Berkman played the bulk of his career during a different era, he may very well have looked at as a slam dunk Hall of Famer. Unfortunately for Berkman, his numbers don't jump out at you when compared to other hitters from the last 15-20 years, particularly the steroid era.
The steroid era is often referred to as the MLB seasons from 1996-2006.
During that time, we saw an incredible sudden increase in home runs. To give you an idea, there were just 18 players that hit at least 40 home runs in a season between 1989 and 1995, an average of 2.6 per year. By contrast, 128 players hit 40 or more home runs from 1996-2006, an average of 11.6 per season.
It was an exciting time for the game when television ratings increased, attendance went up and several of the most impressive offensive seasons in major league history took place. However, while we may have raved about certain power hitters back at the time, it is now evident that many of them were using illegal Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED's).
As a result, voting for the Hall of Fame has become an unsolvable puzzle. Voters are now pressured to gather information as far as which players used PED's and which players did not, prior to making a decision.
Guys like Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell, Mo Vaughn and Andres Galarraga, all of whom would have been sure in Hall of Famers or borderline inductees at the worst, have already been overlooked by voters completely and may never get into the Hall of Fame because of allegations that they may have used PED's.
But if you punish guys because they took steroids, doesn't that mean that guys that you should reward guys that did not used PED's? There are a number of guys who appear to have been clean during the era and seemingly would have been voted into the Hall of Fame had they come out of a different era, but whose numbers pale in comparison to their competition.
Assuming that Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey Jr. will all get into the Hall of Fame because they have done enough on the field without PED's, there are still at least ten more allegedly clean power hitters that should join them in Cooperstown.