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Will things get easier for PED guys in the Hall of Fame voting over time?

Jan 5, 2011, 10:34 AM EDT


I tend to think that as the BBWAA gets younger and as more and more steroid era candidates come on the ballot, the writers will ease up a bit and start letting players associated with PED-use — or merely suspected of it — into the Hall.  Buster Olney writes something this morning, however, that gives me pause:

There is a perception that as time goes on there will be a softening towards the steroid-era candidates — the players suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs. I disagree with that, strongly, because what has been happening in recent years is that voters are setting their personal precedents — from which few will deviate.

Voters change their mind on players quite often, but do they change their minds on these sorts of principles?  I’m somewhat skeptical that they do and I fear that Olney’s words may be prophetic.

  1. BC - Jan 5, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    I think it’s too early to tell. Though I don’t think McGwire has trended upward. In another 4 or 5 years we’ll have more of a trend to look at.
    It’ll be interesting to see what if any PED folks whose numbers are HOF-worthy fall off the ballot. Really curious how Palmiero fares, he may these first of these guys to go.

  2. Jonny 5 - Jan 5, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    OK, I’m sick of the PED issue, and I’m to the point where the HOF is seen as imperfect and unfair to me. But what really burns me up is the possibility of super clean guys getting knocked off the ballot to clear space for guys who did use. Sure we don’t know who they are exactly, besides a few, but it’s going to happen, if it hasn’t already. And I can’t bring myself to accept that. Not that i have a choice.

  3. jkcalhoun - Jan 5, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    I think there’s more drama ahead. In particular, I’d expect one of The Usual Suspects to take the next logical step beyond what Bagwell said recently (“If I ever do get to the Hall of Fame and there are 40 guys sitting behind me thinking, ‘He took steroids,’ then it’s not even worth it to me.”) and what Bonds said when the marred baseball he hit for home run #756 was offered to the Hall (“I won’t go. I won’t be part of it.”) and ask to be removed from the BBWAA ballot entirely, on the grounds that they would rather wait for their careers to be assessed fairly by their peers and other contemporaries on whatever form of Veterans Committee exists at that time, rather than allow the BBWAA to fail to rise to the challenge.

  4. largebill - Jan 5, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    Thing with the HoF have a minimum threshold of 75% for election is it doesn’t matter if a few are open to reassessing their position. All it takes is 25% to dig in their heels. Some voters do change their votes. However, some feel strongly that being open to change is akin to admitting past errors. One only needs to look at Olney’s own ballot to see evidence. There is no conceivable way he is unaware of the massive difference in Blyleven and Morris. Yet, once again this year, he stubbornly voted yes for an average pitcher and said no to a much, much better pitcher. Olney is not some long retired BBWAA member who watched 1991 game seven in a nursing home and is unaware of the rest of the two players careers. Heck, I bet Olney even has high-speed internet tubes that he could use if so inclined.

  5. sdelmonte - Jan 5, 2011 at 11:51 AM

    It will take a long while till things change. And since it seems like there is some sort of lifetime membership for the BBWAA that lets you vote forever, I don’t know if the old school leaves the scene in time to help a lot of the PED players. I also have no idea what the Old Timers Committee will do in 20 years.

    My guess is that some do get in eventually. A-Rod will probably have the advantage of continuing to play at a fairly high level for a long time after his positive test. Bonds and Clemens were great for so long before suspicions arose that some might accept them anyway, though I think the attitudes they have about the press will hurt them. (I can’t see either even admitting a thing. Clemens will go to his grave swearing he’s clean.) Sosa seems to be destined to be lumped in with Palmiero in the “without PEDs, he was nothing” club.

  6. Loren - Jan 5, 2011 at 12:01 PM

    I think Bonds and Clemens will force a reassessment. Their numbers are so good that I think one or both will eventually get in despite the PEDs. Once a confirmed user is in the hall it will get easier for everyone else because no one will be able to pretend they are protecting the purity of the Hall anymore.

  7. CJ - Jan 5, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here:

    Before anyone considers letting those guys in for what they did, let’s get two things straight. Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose need to go in the Hall, period. There is no possible reasonable explanation that someone can give as to why Bonds, McGwire, et al belong in the Hall before those guys. If you want to CONSIDER adding the PED users, I guess I would be ok with that eventually, but only if those two guys get in first, they did their time.

    I’ve never been to the Cooperstown though I’m within reasonable driving distance and have wanted to for years. But I think it’s a sham Shoeless Joe and Pete Rose aren’t in there, and I refuse to make the trip unless and until that is rectified.

    • jkcalhoun - Jan 5, 2011 at 1:12 PM

      Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose are ineligible under Rule 3 of the BBWAA election rules and presumably under a similar rule that governs the choices of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Committee to Consider Managers, Umpires, Executives and Long-Retired Players that I can’t find at the moment.

      Bonds, McGwire, et al are eligible.

      Kind of a huge distinction there.

      • CJ - Jan 5, 2011 at 1:31 PM

        Granted, they’re ineligible, but it’s not like that can’t be changed.

        What’d Jackson do wrong? He was accused of helping throw a series that he batted .400 during. Jackson should’ve been reinstated years ago. As an aside, if that’s the standard, Ryan Howard should then be accused of throwing the NLCS. Just sayin’.

        As for Rose, we all know what he did and that he’s ineligible. We all know he was a great player, and THAT’s who should go into the Hall. Rose the player. There’s no proof he threw any games as a manager who bet on baseball, and really, if he did does anyone honestly think his possbile throwing of games could’ve impacted a greater outcome of games than the collective using of Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, McGwire and whoever else you’d like to throw in there for good measure?

      • BC - Jan 5, 2011 at 1:38 PM

        I believe all eight guys supposedly in on it were found not guilty in court, but were banned from baseball anyway.

      • jkcalhoun - Jan 5, 2011 at 2:10 PM

        OK, fine. You either want to change the eligibility rules of the Hall of Fame, or you want Major League Baseball to reinstate Jackson and Rose. That’s fine, and you’re definitely not alone one way or the other.

        But considering the cases of already eligible players prior to these much more far-reaching considerations is definitely not “getting ahead of ourselves here”.

  8. CJ - Jan 5, 2011 at 2:20 PM

    But look at it this way, if those guys that have used have impacted the outcome of games and benefitted from their questionable decisions more than Jackson and/or Rose and yet still eligible, then isn’t there a problem with that picture? Not at all?

    I guess just because someone said Rose and Jackson aren’t allowed in for stupid reasons, but the PED users still are, some are willing to accept that at face value. Personally I don’t, I think it’s asinine.

    I know I’m pounding sand here. I’m asking a clueless, spineless Commish to reverse decisions that were made by his predecessors. Decisions that he could catch some flak for and therefore won’t do it. So he’s content to sit back and watch as this generation’s real cheaters are allowed to get voted into the hall, because again, of his unwillingness to take any action he might take some flak for.*

    *Of course, that doesn’t mean they will, but they’re at least eligible, more than Jackson/Rose can say. And of course, the Commish does catch flak for some decision he’s made, but those are mostly decisions that he’s forced to make one way or another. This isn’t one of those, so he’ll be happy to just ignore it, as in the case of Jackson has been the case the better part of a century.

    • jkcalhoun - Jan 5, 2011 at 2:36 PM

      But look at it this way, if those guys that have used have impacted the outcome of games and benefitted from their questionable decisions more than Jackson and/or Rose and yet still eligible, then isn’t there a problem with that picture?

      Fair question, and here’s MLB’s current answer: guys who do that stuff and fail drug tests are subject to increasing terms of suspension, until they get to their third violation, at which point their eligibility is permanently suspended.

      Prior to the current testing regime, MLB’s answer was: no penalty, as there was no prevailing assessment at that time, as you frame it, that that kind of activity “impacted [or could impact] the outcomes of games”.

      So, I’m sure you’re glad that MLB has moved more toward your view of it. Do you want permanent ineligibility on a first positive test? That’s kind of harsh, given that false positives are documented as a significantly common occurrence.

      Now, that’s not my answer. That’s MLB’s answer. So take it up with them.

      I guess just because someone said Rose and Jackson aren’t allowed in for stupid reasons

      Baseball’s stringent response to gambling is not stupid. Gambling and associated fraud nearly destroyed the game in the early 20th Century, and since then MLB has put penalties in place regarding betting etc. in order to ensure that the problems of that era are not repeated. Bravo, MLB.

  9. CJ - Jan 5, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    All fair points. My take is that they’ve paid their price. Gambling in the game can not be ignored and msut be addressed. A ban for decades (or in Jackson’s case, over a century) is long enough IMO. The burden of proof is certainly there for guys such as Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, and Sosa, far beyond one test. I’m not saying kick them out of the game. Let them play if you want, particularly becuase your point about where to draw the line is a fair one, and expulsion after 3 positives is certainly reasonable. To clarify, no, of course I don’t think expulsion from playing after one positive test is reasonable.

    But for these fringe players that had a lot of their success before testing was introduced, I believe cheated the game. Clearly, in my view, more than Jackson ever did. Arguably, in my view, more than Rose did.

    Rose’s accomplishments as a player deserve recognition in the Hall, IMO without question. As a manager, certainly not. But players who later delve into management or front office work have their playing and post-playing careers differentiated when being considered for the Hall, as it should be. Rose deserves reinstated and enshirement based on his playing career and his playing career alone. It wasn’t Pete Rose the player who gambled, it was Pete Rose the manager. If the HOF wants to judge the morals of everyone in the HOF before giving them admittance then I’m fine with that, but then they have a lot of work to do. I find it quite silly that some cheaters are kicked out of the game altogether and others are allowed admittance into the Hall.

    • jkcalhoun - Jan 5, 2011 at 4:48 PM

      A ban for decades (or in Jackson’s case, over a century) is long enough IMO.

      I concede that it’s a little weird for Major League Baseball to carry deceased persons on their ineligible list. I for one am confident they can do little additional harm to the integrity of the game after death. And how can a plaque in a museum harm anyone or anything, for those whose careers were sufficiently outstanding before they were banned? If some commissioner of the future should decide to moderate baseball’s position on these guys, allowing them to be considered for the Hall of Fame, I’d have no qualms about it.

      About Rose: under the terms of his agreement, he can apply for reinstatement every year. He hasn’t succeeded yet, but why give up now? I’m sure he’ll apply again after the next commissioner takes office.

      The burden of proof is certainly there for guys such as Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, and Sosa, far beyond one test.

      Really? What have we got on Bonds, to name one at random, that meets that burden?

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