Updated: Dec 21, 2020
With the Hall of Fame voting opening today. Let's talk about one of the most controversial topics, Players who did or did not use Steroids and if they should be in the Hall of Fame or not.
Side Note: Combining two pieces into one
Okay, let's jump right into this topic. It is always a pretty big topic of discussion early in the season right around Hall of Fame elections. I want to talk first about what I think of steroids in the HOF. I am all for the game's integrity and keeping baseball clean and as natural with talent as possible. BUT when you think of what other guys have done to cheat the game: Pete Rose cheating, Black Sox scandal, Astros Sign Stealing and Steriods. There has been a lot of different fraud that has impacted the game.
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Some of the storylines we will discuss in these two pieces will be as follows: Pete Rose is still on the ineligible list and will probably never see himself in the Hall of Fame. The Blacksox were also punished similarly to Pete Rose for a crime worse than Petes. The Astros/Red Sox GOT let off with a slap on the wrist for worse things than Pete Rose and on par with the Black Sox scandal. We have seen plenty of suspensions for steroids. Barry Bonds gets his HR title stripped, and these guys who had great careers and HOF worthy careers probably not get in for their choices.
But I also want to play devil's advocate first. Look at the 1990s and early 2000s, ALOT of players used steroids and Human Growth Hormones. There are the guys like Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Andy Pettitte, Gary Sheffield, Rodger Clemens, and Barry Bonds as the most known names. But what about guys like Jose Canseco, Jason Giambi, Eric Gagne, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, Paul Lo Duca, Bret Boone, Chuck Knobloch, Ken Caminiti, Matt Williams, Miguel Tejado, Neifi Perez, Steve Finley, John Rocker, Bobby Estalella, Jeremy Giambi, Benito Santiago, Wally Joyner, Rafael Palmeiro, Jim Leyritz, Paxton Crawford, Jason Grimsley, Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon. I've listed so many names to prove there were many players and more beyond the list I just gave you using steroids. This point is to prove the playing field was more balanced than we think from what we have been told.
Keep this in mind because if so many were doing it and had elevated performance beyond what we know, how accurate are the stats from the steroid era. This tells me it was normalized among players at that time what was happening. Hitters knew they were going against others who were better, and they had to elevate their game to match it. The hitters that did, Same for the pitchers they took the mound and had to execute their pitches better. Not only did these guys have excellent skills, they just did it all the better than their peers who even tried to do the same. Which for this argument says these guys should be equally considered. A guy like Edgar Martinez, who carved out of the best DH careers of all time during this era, barely got in on his last year of eligibility. Goes to show those who did it without juicing were genuinely great; the guys that did both well were also great because they made their name against players who were doing the same. Overall, from this perspective, I think they should be considered as usual.
Then we can look at it from the perspective of cheating is cheating. None of these guys had a successful career post steroids, and that's not surprising. You can ask the question if ARod still would have been on the path the greatness he was before PED's we don't know. I think yes because, after the PED suspensions, he still had excellent statistical seasons. But we will never know, and we have not to consider that. Another example we have of this perspective but as we have seen with the Astros. Manfred doesn't care if you cheat and steal wins and a World Series title, which should say that PED and Steroid use should be thrown out of the window because of the light punishment the Astros and Red Sox received. Pete Rose got put into turmoil for the sentence he got. Bonds got the great accomplishment of the HR king taken from him. The overall message he is cheating is not just cheating in baseball, with punishments being inconsistent, as we see now.
There should be a big difference in arguments against those used during 1991-2004. Those who got caught using after 2005 policies went into effect. In other sports, PED's aren't seen in the same light as baseball has seen them. Also, Bud Selig, former MLB commissioner, can be in the HOF despite the poor handling. Then why can't the players?
Lastly, I will do another piece on players who dominated this era, strong HOF cases. Still, the HOF voters are urged to consider the following "record, playing ability, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played." It says to view the player's personality, character, and the intangibles they had on the field and what they did off the field like a man.
Now it's time to break down some players who use PEDS, who should probably be considered based on their stats alone. We will also talk about some players and their conduct regarding how that affects their case.
Let's talk about guys who should not be considered for the HOF.
Jose Conseco: This guy wrote a book on PED usage. He did some good things for baseball when it came to PED usage in baseball. But he did get the first EVER 40HR and 40SB season in MLB history. He played between 1985-2001. He had 462HR, career WAR of 42.5. This doesn't scream HOF, in my opinion, because it just doesn't feel like he should be in the HOF regardless of PED use. Overall, his career ended with 1877H, a 266BA, 200 SB, 1407RBI. He also earned 1 MVP award, 6x All-Star, 4x Silver Slugger, 2x World Series Champ, and what I think is interesting is a ROY award. Which makes me think was he using PED then, or was it just natural skills at that point. We can only imagine. Overall an outstanding career, but his career slash line of .266/.353/.515 is not Hall of fame worthy to me as each of those stats is considered below average.
Jason Giambi: In 2004, Giambi did admit to using HGH in the early 2000s, and he did apologize later for his actions. He was a 50.5 WAR, 2010H, 440HR, 277BA, 1366BB, 1441RBI. Overall while he played from 1995-2014 and playing into his 40s. He had terrific seasons between 1998-2008. Come 2009, at age 38, he just existed. Even if he didn't have ties to the steroid era, his resume doesn't get him close to the HOF, despite a career .399OBP, which is pretty good. His ties to how much Steroids helped his game is kind of sad. Fun fact, Giambi and Conseco were teammates in 1997 in Oakland, and Giambi went from a 20HR to 27-33-43 the next three seasons.
Eric Gagne- He was a little harder to put on this side of the list. But after his career, he admitted to HGH use during four years of his 10-year career. Eighty-four straight saves between 2003-2004 and his 2003 CY Young award are incredible feats. His career 3.47ERA, 718SO, 643IP only 187SV, and only a career 11.7WAR ultimately make him fall short of the HOF, which has a high standard for relievers. As I said, this one was harsh, but his career doesn't place him among the all-time greats with or without steroids. He also was a 3x All-Star, 2007 World Series Ring, and 2x Rolaids Relief. Like I said, overall sound, but not great.
Manny Ramirez- "Manny being Manny," says a lot about him as a person. I remember hearing this as a kid on ESPN when he was talked about. Also, his two failed PED tests, one in 2009 and the next in 2011 when he retired. Now, he is trying to make a comeback overseas. Regardless, he had a video game cover, one of the better MVP baseball games, one of my personal favorites. He is one of only 4 MLB players over 9000PA that has a line of .300/.400/.500. He has 555HR plus a postseason record of 29HR. However, he was a terrible defender, which brought him to only a 69.3WAR for his career. He was a 12x All-Star, 2x World Series Champ, 9x Silver Slugger, WS MVP, and won 1 Batting Title. The numbers are there for me. In all honesty, what kills it is three positive tests and not wanting to serve his 100 games in 2011, and just retiring kind of is a pathetic thing to do, which puts him just short of HOF. He has gotten up to 28.2% on the ballot, which is encouraging.
We will be looking at some of the most iconic names to use steroids to enhance their game. This is an in my opinion piece, so this is who I think should make it into the Hall of Fame regardless of their PED actions. I will be looking at stats and career accolades.
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Alex Rodriguez, aka A-Rod. Over a 22 year career. He carries a 117.5 WAR, 696HR(4th all-time),295BA,3115H, 2086RBI. 3x MVP winner, 14x All-Star, 2009WS, he carried the Yankees too. 2x Gold Glove, 10x Silver Slugger, 1x batting title, 3x ML PoY. Also, to me, he has one of the best swings I have ever seen. Even as he got older, his swing was always fantastic to view. Also, in 2015 was a huge part of my first fantasy baseball championship. He did admit to using PED between 2001-2003 and was suspended for 2014 due to the Biogenesis scandal. I am on the side that his stats and how he has paid his due. He is a changed person. He had an incredible career and should once be eligible in 2022, more than likely to get in during his eligibility.
I honestly think Mark McGwire was snubbed out of the HOF after 2016 and wasn't given a fair shot. Arguably one of THE best power hitters set a record for HR in a season with 70 in 1998. Alone by 62.2WAR is month top 12 1B of all TIME. Add 1626H, 583HR, 1414RBI, ROY award, 12x All-Star, 1989WS ring, 1 Gold Glove, and 3x Silver Slugger. All over 16 years. Now I think he would have made it into the HOF had to not said that PEDs were only a feature of his game, which was played between 1986 and 2001. I think if he had been more honest and confessed. We would see in Cooperstown where he deserves to be.
Sammy Sosa- one of my favorite players in baseball video games as a kid. It's harder for Sosa because of ties to McGwire, and his support level shows that he is only getting 13.9% of the vote after eight years on the ballot. Sosa still denies ever using PEDs. His HR numbers are his biggest accomplishment, having had 3 60+ HR seasons in a row. He is the only player to do so. Between 1998 and 2002, he has 292HR. He is also a member of the 600HR club that only features nine players. The rest of his career accolades are among the top 20 RF in terms of WAR at 58.6. He has one MVP, 7x All-Star, 6x Silver and Slugger, and an ML PoY award. Overall between 93-04, he hit at least 25HR a season. That long run among the best power hitters in baseball shows me that he was one of the best to do it. I think he deserves to get into the HOF.
Rafael Palmeiro is the next player. Palmeiro was first on the ballots in 2001. In 2004, he lost his spot due to not getting 5% of the vote to stay on. He was implicated by Conseco in Feb of 2005 and denied his usage. Then he tested positive in August of that year and was suspended. In 2017 Palermeiro went back on the record, saying that he had three negative tests during an arbitration hearing. His positive test caught him off guard. Palmeiro was one of those guys in his 20-year career that was consistently good but never great. He is one of 6 players ever with 3000H and 500HR, and his 71.9 Career WAR ranks 8th among 1B all time. Palmeiro was a 4x All=Star, 3x Gold Glove, 2x Silver Slugger, and an ML PoY award. Overall, Palmeiro, when he was on the ballot, was terrible timing. If he was on the ballot today, I think he is in the HOF by now. I believe in his career, and he should be there.
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Andy Pettitte is the next case. Pettitte was implicated in the Mitchell Report in 2007 and did admit to using HGH in 2002. Part of his confession was that he only used HGH for two days to heal an elbow injury. He did own up to it and said it was an "error in judgment." Information like this does make me think, is there a line between performance-enhancing and performance allowing? Pettitte's real thing is for 18 years in the MLB; he was never the best pitcher in baseball. He never won a CY Young and was only a 3x All-Star. When you look at his postseason stats alone, that's where his case for the HOF shines brightest. The ALL_TIME leader for playoff wins and innings and won 5/8 World Series he pitched in. 60.7 career WAR, which is 12th all-time among LHP. His career was stable 256-153 record, 3.85ERA, 3316 IP, and 1 ALCS MVP. Only two years on the ballot so far, only getting to 11.3% of the vote. This guy deserves more love than that, and by the end of his eligibility, I sure do hope he makes it into the HOF.
Gary Sheffield is up next to bat. In 2004 he admitted to using a PED known as "the cream" while training Barry Bonds during the 01-02 offseason. However, he did go the route of "I didn't know what it was when I used it," then says he was upset when he found out. I give the benefit of the doubt in these situations. BUT, the more significant blemish on his HOF resume is his awful defensive numbers. He does, however, have a great resume with his bat alone. He has more care WAR at 60.5 than fellow RF Vladimir Guerrero, who has a 59.5 career WAR who got in the ballot in 2018 to the HOF. Is also part of the 500HR club with 21 other players. Overall in his career, he had 2689H, 509HR, 292BA, 1676RBI, 9x All-Star, one WS title, 5x Silver Slugger, 1 Batting Title, and 1 ML PoY. After six years on the ballot, e got 30.5# of the vote. I think he will get into the HOF when it's all said and done. He deserves to get in.
David Ortiz, aka Big Papi, only connected to PED, was a failed test in 2003. But he did play about 70% of his career post-2005 era of testing and punishments. He was not ever left alone, though. Bob Nightengale of USA Today said in 2019, "Let me tell you, there's not one player in baseball, not one player, that has been drug-tested more than David Ortiz. I guarantee you that." Ortiz is a legend for so many reasons. His comments after the Boston Bombing are iconic. He then carried the Red Sox to a WS that year. He is one of those guys that was just incredible off the field. To look back at some of his career stats to support his case over 20 years 541HR, 17 postseason HR, his .455BA in 3 world series, he won incredible. He did all this from being a DH as he has the record for most games at 2027. 10x All-Star, 7x Silver Slugger, WS MVP, ALCS MVP. 286 BA, 55.3WAR, 1768RBI. When he gets on the ballot in 2022, it will be his first and last.
Roger Clemens, aka The Rocket alone on his career numbers, is probably the greatest pitcher of All-Time. 24 season between 1984-2007 4916.2IP, 4672SO(3rd on the time list), 138.7WAR. 11x All-Star, SEVEN CY Young awards, and 2 WS rings, two 20K games. Clemens's name was mainly on the Mitchel Report though he never tested positive and was acquitted in 2012. At this same time, even Conseco was skeptical that Clemens ever used. His career stats, only PED or not, are HOF worthy and should have gotten him in 8 years ago. To add to his stats, 354-184 record, 3.12ERA, 2x Triple Crown, 7x ERA Title, All-Star game MVP. How he has only gotten 61% of the vote after eight years is beyond me. It probably will be the most unfair vote to happen if Clemens doesn't end up in the HOF. But I think it is bound to happen. The Rocket deserves his spot in the HOF.
Lastly, the guy we all think of when we start this conversation of PEDs and HOF. Barry Bonds himself. Take the context of the situation out of the discussion. Bonds in the GOAT. 7x MVP, single-season HR record with 73, career HR record of 762, all-time walks leader with 2558, the time leader in intentional walks with 688. his 182oPS+ is 3rd to only Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, yet NO one can even think to compete with his 162.8WAR. Let's add in his 2935H, career 298BA, 1996RBI, 514SB, 14x All-Star, 8x Gold Glove, 12x Silver Slugger, 2x Batting Title just an incredible career. Bonds did admit in 2004 using steroids provided by his trainer Greg Anderson and took the route of ignorance. Bonds also realized he wasn't the best character in the clubhouse and dugout, saying, "I'm to blame for the way I was[portrayed] because I was a dumba**." Never testing positive after 2005 or failing a test. After eight years on the ballot getting up to 60.7% of the vote. He and Clemens are two of the best we have and will ever see that their respective positions. Getting to 75% over the next two years is a big jump, but he deserves it. His records will never be broken, at least in my lifetime.
Thank you for your time today, and I hope you enjoyed it. Head on over to the forums at
theballboyblog.com/forums, and let's talk about your opinion on PED's and the HoF.