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Quote of the Day: Buster Olney on steroids and the Hall of fame

Aug 2, 2010, 8:50 AM EDT

It's a long quote of the day, but it's well worth your time. Buster nails it.

Anybody who loves the game hates the fact that steroids became so
pervasive in the sport, but for a 20-year period, I think most of the
elite players were using performance-enhancing drugs, and within the
context of that time — when baseball wasn’t doing anything to stop the
growth of drug use — this was what the sport was. And we don’t know
exactly who did what . . . I think in order to have a consistent standard when considering the
steroid-era players, you either have to vote for no one at all, or set
aside the steroid issue and just vote for the best players of the era.

Buster Olney, explaining why he voted for Mark McGwire for the Hall of Fame and why he will vote for him and for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez when they come on the ballot.

Unless the writers who think differently either (a) explain their clairvoyance in knowing who did and who didn’t do steroids; or (b) admit that they are totally fine with voting for steroid users who managed not to get caught, I can’t see how they can approach the matter any other way.

  1. Professor Longnose - Aug 2, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    It takes clairvoyance to know that McGwire took steroids?
    We know some players did. We have evidence that other players did. Why do we have to ignore that and operate from ignorance? Can’t we use what we know and make the best assumptions we can? We won’t be perfect, but nothing about baseball is perfect, let alone real life.

  2. Old Gator - Aug 2, 2010 at 12:06 PM

    Correct, PL. All other modifications to the game being equal, the oscillations in power numbers as well as pitching numbers would have been more or less in proportion to each other. The steroid was a completely new situation that altered the entire balance of power. Perhaps only the introduction of the (ugh) designated hitter would have had a significant impact on the pitching numbers but even that was dwarfed by the balooning power stats caused by steroids.

  3. JBerardi - Aug 2, 2010 at 12:12 PM

    You’re so right. In 50 years, we’re all gonna be using performance enhancers that are ten times more effective than anything baseball players used in the so called “steroid era” (which is somehow over now, despite the fact that many undetectable PEDs exist today), and no one will remember that this was even a controversy.

  4. Old Gator - Aug 2, 2010 at 12:13 PM

    It isn’t perfect knowledge, it’s a statistical thing. With all due respect to Mark Twain, at some point you have to trust the numbers. There’s no doubt that a relatively sudden increase in sheer strength would do much more for a player like Barry Bonds who was top-notch anyway than it would for some guy who hadn’t figured out how to define his strike zone after seven journeyman years in the bigs. That’s only half the issue, since you can be a dominating ballplayer for a few years but your career stats don’t stand up longterm. But those guys aren’t going to the hall. The problem we’re discussing is precisely with the guys who were good in the first place and started to look “great” with chemicals. Aside from that, Bonds is an admitted user. If you choose to believe that he didn’t know what he was taking or using, I guess that’s your leap of faith. At my age, I’ve seen too much to be able to jump anywhere near that far.

  5. Old Gator - Aug 2, 2010 at 12:14 PM

    You take the drug because it’s faster and more convenient. Amphetamines don’t build muscles and their effect ebbs within hours, not months. Still too big a difference to be anything like apples and apples.

  6. Professor Longnose - Aug 2, 2010 at 12:15 PM

    I agree with your posts above, although at bottom the question of the Hall of Fame is an emotional response. I look at the steroid era and don’t like the resulting baseball and the effect on statistics. Someone else looks at it, likes the players and thought following the game was fun. I imagine most else is rationalizing. The only real question is whether the logic used to rationalize a given point is valid or invalid.

  7. John_Michael - Aug 2, 2010 at 12:18 PM

    Sorry to be sound a dissonant note in this chorus of approbation for Olney, but I think he blew it bigtime
    I disagree. What he said was: ‘ I think in order to have a consistent standard when considering the steroid-era players, you either have to vote for no one at all, or set aside the steroid issue…’
    I find the quote itself to be 100% logical. I think you’re arguing against including potentially tainted players with players from yesteryear that were ‘clean.’ This debate, though, differs from the point of Olney’s statement, which essentially boils down to ‘all or none’ in the HOF. I’m not arguing with your pharmacology influence, because I agree, I’m just making a distinction in the arguments at hand.

  8. Kiwicricket - Aug 2, 2010 at 12:18 PM

    Take away 3 massive steroid fueled seasons from McGwire and what’s he left with??? 400HR and hitting .250 for his career? Bonds, Clemens, ARod are in a totally different class. They were the elite of their era regardless of the PED’s. I agree in principal to Olney’s thinking, but you just have to be more strict on who is considered. To the moron who includes Canseco….Character is something in the criteria. Also something to remember considering the above all lied their ass off before being caught.

  9. Kevin S. - Aug 2, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    When you say “take away,” do you mean Mark McGwire wouldn’t have even played those seasons without steroids? How many HR did roids add each year for him? If you take away Mac’s roid use, he’s a lot closer to 500 than 400, if not still in the 500 HR club.

  10. Jack Marshall - Aug 2, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    Nails it? What? Olney’s argument is that because you can’t penalize all the cheaters, it’s unfair to penalize any of them. Ridiculous. That’s going to be Charlie Rangel’s defense too. It is not only ethically illogical, it is unfair in that it presumes misconduct by everyone, including the innocent.
    I would have no problem at all voting for a player from the era who has no credible evidence showing that he cheated. Or tossing him out later, if evidence surfaced.

  11. Craig Calcaterra - Aug 2, 2010 at 12:57 PM

    Jack — the scattershot manner in which the details of players steroid use has come to light, the term “credible evidence” has way less meaning in this context than it does in the legal context. As of now, credible evidence exists for most of the players who have been implicated based on (a) who their dealer was; and (b) whether they knew Jose Canseco. The fact that other players have not been implicated in no way suggests that they are clean and thus worthy of a voter’s benefit of the doubt.
    All of which is fine, as long as you admit that in declining to support players who have been implicated and supporting players who have not, you are almost certainly supporting players who have used PEDs.

  12. Detroit Michael - Aug 2, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    Those darned facts get in the way again!

  13. Kiwicricket - Aug 2, 2010 at 1:13 PM

    Take away as in -out of the utterly retarded bracket. You have a good point, it is impossible to calculate exactly. Just common sense tells me a 35yr old man hitting 70HR’s is not possible without PED’s. High 40s perhaps? I just don’t know. Bonds was probably the best player of his generation, then transformed himself into one of the best ever to play the game. He added a good 25-30HR’s to his season, and ramped his average up 30+points. Again, impossible to know, but you look at it from a stale view and it makes for some interesting analysis.
    Would Brett Boone ever of hit anywhere near 35HR’s in a season? Perhaps 20?
    Giles 40? Goodness me…Greg Vaughn well into his 30’s hit 50??
    My point is, is that McGwire has little else but HR’s.

  14. Kiwicricket - Aug 2, 2010 at 1:25 PM

    Serious question for the day….Why is Henderson considered clean? Did Rickey say Rickey was clean or spoken out against it? (not that it matters, I just wanted to write something like that) I feel like a dirty negative cynic, but an ultra competitive elite athlete in that baseball era??? Playing until he was 40 odd? The guy was a physical specimen yes, but aided in any particular way?
    One of the games greats, but it’s interesting to note everyone seems to focus on the sluggers in this discussion.

  15. Calir - Aug 2, 2010 at 4:14 PM

    Sounds like the typical ESPN baseball guys answer. It’s become more and more obvious that the drugs changed the game during the steriod era. Let’s not cry for the guys who shouldn’t be going into the hall, they made plenty of money because of their “Steriod” enhanced contracts.

  16. Largebill - Aug 3, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    In 1991 McGwire’s BA was .201. In 1993 and 1994 he hit just 9 homers each year. It is not much of a stretch to say he was well on the way to being done well short of HoF standards. No, with his final numbers he is not a Dave Kingman match, but his total package also is not Ruthian. Much closer to matching Killebrew. Killebrew took four or five times on the HoF ballot. Whether we agree with the idea or not, some voters will attempt to “discount” stats for players they believe juiced. Discount Bonds 20% and he is still a clear no doubt HoF’r. Same with A-Rod. Do the same drill to McGwire and he is a much weaker candidate.

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