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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. MdEagle - Aug 2, 2010 at 9:21 AM

    Buster has a point, even the the average to bad players who will never sniff the HOF were taking ‘roids too.

  2. Ari Collins - Aug 2, 2010 at 9:33 AM

    Thank you, Buster, for saying more succinctly what I’ve been trying to say long-windedly.

  3. Largebill - Aug 2, 2010 at 9:43 AM

    Olney is one of the more level headed guys in his profession. In time I suspect (hope?) he will convince some to come off their high horse. Now, I will say you can not completely ignore steroid use and each player’s career will have to examined individually. I can understand someone voting for Bonds and not for McGwire. Bonds was clearly a great player regardless. One could argue that McGwire was purely a product of chemical enhancement as his career was nearly over in the early 90′s.

  4. TheOne1 - Aug 2, 2010 at 9:46 AM

    What a good point. Buster hit the nail on the head.

  5. Jonny5 - Aug 2, 2010 at 9:48 AM

    Yup. You just have to say screw it and vote. They should call the section of the HOF with these players as “steroid era hall”. Maybe have a mascot that’s a huge hypodermic needle give a tour of the area?? Wouldn’t that be just awesome?? But yeah joking aside No one will ever know who did, and who didn’t do it so there isn’t much choice but to include everyone that was the best of their time.

  6. JMMack718 - Aug 2, 2010 at 9:49 AM

    I’m glad someone is actually speaking that real shi……..

  7. Adam - Aug 2, 2010 at 9:53 AM

    I wonder how many Hall of Fame voters are using performance enhancing drugs for their TV appearances or nightly bedroom romps…

  8. AirlineGuy - Aug 2, 2010 at 9:56 AM

    I’m guessing Canseco has no shot at the HOF since he admitted to using steroids…even though we all KNOW everyone else was as well? Canseco was the games first 40-40 man and one of the most dangerous hitters for a while. I mean how can you keep a guy out who needs Tommy John surgery after pitching, and then returns to head the ball over the fence for a HR? Jose needs to be in the HOF. If nothing else at least he made everyone finally get their heads out of the sand and address the juicing problem that we all knew was going on.

  9. Bull Durham - Aug 2, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    As someone who loves the game, I’ve never been so much concerned with how steroids affects the HOF as I am about what it did to the record book. The HOF was always a subjective distinction and arguments about who did or did not deserve admission have been around long before steroids. But the record book was sanctified and, outside of a switch from 154 to 162 games, it was amazingly consistent across history. Mostly so in the homerun category. Since the Babe redefined the game in the 20′s, we’ve used the same numbers to measure the game’s most heroic records. In the last 20 years, we’ve flushed that down the toilet and there’s no getting it back.

  10. Ditto65 - Aug 2, 2010 at 10:10 AM

    Maybe Juicy Juice could sponsor the “steroid era hall”.

  11. Old Gator - Aug 2, 2010 at 10:13 AM

    Sorry to be sound a dissonant note in this chorus of approbation for Olney, but I think he blew it bigtime. It isn’t merely a matter of comparing the careers of the guys who played during the chemical days to each other and sorting out the “great” ones. When you elect guys to the hall you are also comparing them with the guys who played clean and established their greatness before the pharmacologist became the key figure in the game. When you display Bonds’ fraudulent career numbers next to Hank Aaron’s, your establishing a skewed hierarchy no less onerous in its own way than, say, the empty spaces where all the great Negro League players should have been. Whether or not the Hammer defers with infinitely more grace than ever displayed by the obnoxious Bonds, the inclusion of Mr. Better Living Through Chemistry dishonors Aaron’s achievement. By voting for guys you know, or even know in your heart were juiced, effectively, you’re lying to yourself for convenience’s sake. And you’re not only displaying a dismissive attitude towards the great ballplayers of the past; you’re setting a totally unfair and already disadvantageous standard by which the clean players of the future will have to be judged. I can’t buy into this. It’s the morally facile way out.
    Johnny5, if anyone “nailed it,” you did. I’ve been a happy advocate of a Hall of Steroids section for some time now.

  12. Kevin S. - Aug 2, 2010 at 10:18 AM

    What’s so sacred about the record book? That the first forty-six years of the modern era was just a “good-old boys” club? That for the past forty-fifty years, players have been hopped up on greenies? That players were lauded for doctoring baseballs and firing 90 m.p.h. weapons at batters’ heads? Performances have been affected by different things in different eras, but nothing makes one era purer than the numbers. Take the numbers of each era for what they are, and simply understand the context at any given time.

  13. Kevin S. - Aug 2, 2010 at 10:19 AM

    Hank Aaron juiced, too. Why are greenie-enhanced homers any purer than those aided by the cream and the clear?

  14. Detroit Michael - Aug 2, 2010 at 10:37 AM

    That’s impractical. The Hall of Fame is a museum that wants to encourage attendance. I doubt that the museum believes that having a hypodermic needle mascot give tours of the place is going to boost attendance. It certainly will discourage the modern stars from attending induction weekend events.

  15. Old Gator - Aug 2, 2010 at 10:38 AM

    Greenies aren’t even remotely in the same category. They’re just a temporary stimulant and don’t add enormous amounts of muscle mass. You could accomplish the same thing by drinking too much coffee.

  16. Ken - Aug 2, 2010 at 10:39 AM

    The biggest problem with this is quote is that even if you decide to vote for any and all players, McGwire STILL doesn’t belong. He’s little more than Dave Kingman, who clearly was not a Hall of Famer. Of course this is unsurprising since Olney seems to know next to nothing about baseball. It’s a shame he has a vote.

  17. Old Gator - Aug 2, 2010 at 10:48 AM

    If Canseco had one single solitary dram of repentance, remorse or idealism in his hulking frame someplace I might agree with you, but he turned around and screwed everyone over out of sheer spite and opportunistic greed. He could have done us all the same service if he’d rolled his car during one of his insane forays to push his ex-wife’s car off the Palmetto Expressway in west Macondo and been found with a trunkfull of packages of steroids hand addressed to all his so-called pals. What a slug.

  18. Old Gator - Aug 2, 2010 at 10:54 AM

    Nonsense. The steroid era wasn’t some kind of natural evolution of the conditions of the game; it was a massive aberration of illegal activity, cheating and abuse that happened to be winked at by the players and owners alike in the name of outsized profits, and the differences in the power numbers weren’t just the usual year-to-year or even multi-year trends, they were exponential to the point of absurdity.

  19. Simon DelMonte - Aug 2, 2010 at 11:02 AM

    I love the game and I don’t hate the steroid era at all. I admit that steroids are, for whatever reason, illegal. But I still maintain that “better living through chemistry” is just the next step in medical evolution. And just wait till we see gene therapy. Or cybernetics. There is, to my mind, no reason any of these things should be against the rules (or illegal) anymore than using advanced training techniques, new sneakers and gloves, or Tommy John surgery are. Things change.
    Never mind that it was not against the rules. From where I sit, most of the players who have been accused never cheated. Broke the law, yes. Cheated, no.

  20. aleskel - Aug 2, 2010 at 11:03 AM

    but Gator, isn’t that assuming that we have some kind of perfect knowledge about how steroids make you a better baseball player? Yes, it leads to increased muscle mass, but there’s no guarantee that it adds life to your fastball or makes you more likely to connect on a hard slider. The scores of mediocre-to-lousy players who were likely on steroids should be testiment enough to the fact that we have no way of quantifying the advantages of steroids in a universal way (and for the record, I would put amphetamines in the same category).

  21. Kevin S. - Aug 2, 2010 at 11:14 AM

    And anabolic steroids are a temporary muscle-building aid. Just like greenies, the effect goes away after you stop taking them.
    Also, if drinking a lot of coffee gave you the same effect amphetamines did, why would players choose to take the illegal drug? There are questions as to how well the increased muscle mass translates into increased performance on the field. There is no question that greenies help get guys into games they wouldn’t have played in, or make them more alert than they would have normally been. How many home runs did Hank Aaron hit in day games after night games that he couldn’t have played in if not for his illegal drugs?

  22. Kevin S. - Aug 2, 2010 at 11:18 AM

    And that exponential growth occurred because only power hitters took steroids, not pitchers or light hitters, and baseball did not in any way twice dilute the talent base, shrink the size of the ballparks, see improvements in equipment, nutrition and (legal) training programs, shrink the strike zone or introduce tightly wound balls.

  23. Kevin S. - Aug 2, 2010 at 11:20 AM

    Dave Kingman: .236/.302/.478 – 115 OPS+
    Mark McGwire: .263/.394/.588 – 162 OPS+
    You’re right, he’s little more than Kingman.

  24. Jonny5 - Aug 2, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    It is painful to compare Bonds to Aaron, you’re right. And it is a shame to include the guys who cheated knowingly in such a way with others who could have done it and set the bar even higher, but they didn’t. I have always been a big fan of a complete overhaul of the HOF to break the HOF into sections that cover certain time periods. The best of “such and such era” so to speak. I mean I’m sure many would agree that the Marlins of today would more than likely stomp on the 1936 Yankees, now wouldn’t they? Yet they are fair to middlin’ in today’s game. So, it probably wouldn’t be such a bad idea from jump street to break the HOF into “era’s”. Just a thought.

  25. Professor Longnose - Aug 2, 2010 at 11:53 AM

    No, it occurred because steroids affected power hitters more than the other things affected anything.

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