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Ken Rosenthal’s eminently reasonable position on Jeff Bagwell and steroids

Dec 30, 2011, 11:55 AM EST

Jeff Bagwell

Not sure why it’s so hard for Hall of Fame voters to get on board with the ideas that (a) it’s not fair to assume someone was on steroids when there is no evidence of it; and (b) Jeff Bagwell, on the merits, posted a Hall of Fame career. But considering it’s highly unlikely he’ll be inducted this year, a healthy number of voters have a hard time with those concepts.

Thank goodness for Ken Rosenthal, then.  I don’t agree with everything he says in his Hall of Fame column — what fun would that be? — but how anyone can disagree with this is beyond me.

When voting, one should only consider the facts at hand. If Bagwell is later revealed to have been a user, maybe I will stop voting for him, if he isn’t already in the Hall. There is little doubt that he is deserving otherwise, unless you’re somehow unimpressed by his .408 on-base percentage and .540 slugging mark, not to mention his baserunning, defense at first base and leadership of the Astros during his 15-year career … For now, all I know is one thing: I’m not withholding votes based on hearsay and innuendo.

Imagine.

  1. steve keane - Dec 30, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    It’s clear rational thinking like that, that will get Rosenthal kicked out of the BBWAA

    • purnellmeagrejr - Dec 30, 2011 at 10:18 PM

      Why does everyone have such a hard time admitting the HOF is subjective? – of course that’s just my (subjective) opinion. Jeff Bagwell has an unbelievably favorable PWsI co-efficient against current or recent players (Bay, Burnitz, Bodine) players – only an idiot would deny that.

  2. drunkenhooliganism - Dec 30, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    They clearly haven’t had enough time to indoctrinate him yet. He actually works hard at his craft and thinks for himself.

    I give him two years before he’s just repeating scoops and not voting for Mariano Rivera because he pitched 60 feet from Alex Rodriguez and had to get some steroid on him.

    • stlouis1baseball - Dec 30, 2011 at 4:20 PM

      Hahaha! Mariano Rivera “had to get some sterioid on him” as a result of pitching 60 feet from Rodriquez.

  3. dwrek5 - Dec 30, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    Now, I’m confused. We’re supposed to use facts? I thought we were using, “I’m pretty sure. I remember thinking that throughout that time, and I don’t believe I was wrong …”.

    • 78mu - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:26 PM

      It’s so much better than when they go with the “I saw him play and to me the HOF was made for guys like Joe Carter and his boatload of RBIs”.

  4. lpd1964 - Dec 30, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    You must have mis-remembered.

  5. mrfloydpink - Dec 30, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    Rosenthal writes:

    “[My friend] said he would vote for players who established their candidacies before baseball initiated mandatory random testing in 2004 (McGwire, Bonds, Roger Clemens, et al) but not players who tested positive under the current system (Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez, et al).”

    I’m not clear that Rosenthal agrees with this point of view (though it seems he does). Certainly it’s a position that a lot of people/writers embrace. And for my part, I think it’s actually kind of silly. Regardless of whether one is bothered by steroids or not, the fact is that baseball has now established rules. The rules are that if you test positive once, you lose 50 games. Twice, 100. Third time, career’s over.

    Nowhere in there do the rules decree that a positive steroid test automatically disqualifies you from the Hall of Fame. MLB (or, more accurately, the Hall of Fame’s board of governors) could certainly include this stipulation if they wished. They did it with gambling, certainly.

    To me, an automatic vote against anyone who tested positive post-2004 is just another example of sportswriters making up their own arbitrary rules, ala “pitchers can’t be MVP” and “I don’t vote for anyone for HoF on the first ballot” or “DHes can’t be in the Hall of Fame.” Frankly, I am surprised more people haven’t been critical of this line of thinking.

    Again, let me be clear that this is not necessarily a criticism of Rosenthal. His column/ballot are very reasonable. It’s not 100% clear he feels this way, and even if he does, he’s far from the only one. This is more a general criticism of a line of thinking that seems to be growing more commonplace, and that writers will likely begin to use in order to make the steroids era easier for them to parse.

    • ireportyoudecide - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:03 PM

      Yes!!!!!!! Pete Rose is banned from baseball the rule is clear he is not eligible becuase he betted on baseball. Someone who fails a steroid test is given a suspension, not a ban, I look at it the same way I would a pitcher who get’s suspended for throwing at someone’s head. They failed a steroid test, they are given their punishment, it should have absolutely nothing to do with the HOF.

      • mtm1321 - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:33 PM

        I disagree.
        PED’s are cheating, as far as I’m concerned. Ruth, Aaron, Mays, Mantle, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Larson, Drysdale, etc. etc. & etc didn’t use them and put up unbelievable numbers. Now years later these guys have to use PED’s to compete. When physical fitness, & nutrition science are better then ever.
        And prior to all the new rules that baseball implemented why did the players have to lie about taking them if it wasn’t illegal prior.

      • JBerardi - Dec 30, 2011 at 4:08 PM

        Greenies. “Red juice”. Racial segregation. How many times must we go re-hash this?

      • Kevin S. - Dec 30, 2011 at 10:05 PM

        Shiners, which are not only cheating but actually present a danger to hitters. No problems with Perry and Ford, though.

  6. stex52 - Dec 30, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    Here’s to an outbreak of sweet reason in 2012. I have been with the Astros since they were the Colt 45’s, and no one was a better or more enduring face of the franchise. Biggio probably a strong second, but most people didn’t see the leadership Bagwell exerted with young players when his own career was pretty much finished. If that doesn’t counter a lot of the vague accusations, it should.

    • 78mu - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:46 PM

      Bagwell could have been the biggest jerk in the world (he wasn’t) and he still deserves to be in the HOF. The fact that he was a very good citizen while putting up great numbers is icing on the cake.

  7. 18thstreet - Dec 30, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    No, no: the whispering campaign against Mariano is that he played for so long, he must have had chemical assistance. Which, you know … isn’t so crazy. Troy Percival, Rob Nenn, Bob Wickman, Ricky Bottalico, and David Weathers were all born in the same year as Mariano, and they were all finished by 2009.

    If I were reading this, I’d give it thumbs down. But there’s plenty to be suspicious of, given that he shared a clubhouse with A-Rod, Canseco, Giambi, Sheffield, Clemens, and Grimsley.

    • stlouis1baseball - Dec 30, 2011 at 1:24 PM

      I gave you a thumbs down because you are trying to use the ole’ reverse psychology trick. Hahaha!

    • crashdog - Dec 30, 2011 at 1:36 PM

      As a Rays fan, I can tell you without a doubt that Percival’s career was over long before 2009………….

    • bklynbaseball - Jan 6, 2012 at 1:42 PM

      So because those other guys had shorter careers, that’s evidence that Mariano Rivera was cheating?? Really? Or because he shared a clubhouse with guys who cheated, that necessarily means that he did?? Are you even listening to yourself?

  8. Chris Fiorentino - Dec 30, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    If I were a friend of Jeff Bagwell’s I would let him know that the Hall of Fame is not that big of a deal anymore. When he asks me how I could say that, I would point to the myriad of lame reasoning from the BBWAA writers and tell him that no matter what happens, he had a great career and should be proud of it.

    As far as I am concerned, being inducted into the Hall of Fame is not the ultimate honor for a baseball player anymore. Period.

    • ireportyoudecide - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:07 PM

      Agreed, think about next year if Bonds and Clemens don’t get in. The Hall of Fame is losing it’s relevance by making up it’s own rules that are different then the Hall they are supposed to be representing.

      • ireportyoudecide - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:08 PM

        I meant game.

      • mondogarage - Dec 30, 2011 at 4:03 PM

        Bonds did, in fact, test positive for steroids. The test was administered by his own doctor, but there is no dispute at all anymore that he actually used them. His argument is that he claims he did not *knowingly* use them. But it is incontrovetible at this point that he used them, only that the tests were inadmissible in a court of law (iirc, because the test results were improperly obtained).

  9. jeffrp - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:03 PM

    The interesting arguments start next year when the ballot is filled with players to whom there is evidence linking them to steroids. Bagwell is just the warm up act.

  10. mtm1321 - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    My two cents;

    PED’s are cheating, as far as I’m concerned. Ruth, Cobb, Aaron, Mays, Williams, Mantle, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Larson, Drysdale, etc. etc. & etc didn’t use them and put up unbelievable numbers. Now years later these guys have to use PED’s to compete. Physical fitness, & nutrition science are better then ever as opposed to when the above mentioned played. Those greats drank beer & ate tons of fatty food yet were able to perform without steroids.

    Yes I understand the game has changed but using PED’s to get a edge is unacceptable. These guys ruined the game as far as I’m concerned, they disgraced some of the biggest baseball records, some of the biggest sports records all time and lied about it.

    Prior to all the new rules that baseball implemented why did the players have to lie about taking them if it wasn’t illegal prior.

    As far as I’m concerned if a player is on the ballot and he tested positive for PED’s or admitted use of PED’s then as far as I’m concerned he’s out.

    Vote for Bagwell he didn’t admit to it and didn’t test positive for them so as long as he keeps his mouth shut then he has then #’s to get in to the HOF.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 30, 2011 at 4:08 PM

      PED’s are cheating, as far as I’m concerned. Ruth, Cobb, Aaron, Mays, Williams, Mantle, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Larson, Drysdale, etc. etc. & etc didn’t use them and put up unbelievable numbers

      Larson what? Also, you picked some of the best players to ever play the game. That’s what you are going to use a benchmark for players today? If Ruth/Mays/Williams didn’t do something, no one else should? That’s a mighty high pedestal there.

      Physical fitness, & nutrition science are better then ever as opposed to when the above mentioned played. Those greats drank beer & ate tons of fatty food yet were able to perform without steroids.

      Which is why, collectively, players are better today than yesteryear. The fact that players can research a pitchers every pitcher for the last 5/10/15 years, run SQL queries to find pitch sequencing, find pitch type values, etc makes it so much more difficult than before.

      Yes I understand the game has changed but using PED’s to get a edge is unacceptable. These guys ruined the game as far as I’m concerned, they disgraced some of the biggest baseball records, some of the biggest sports records all time and lied about it.

      Players have been using PEDs since the 50s/60s. Amphetamines, no matter how you slice it, are a PED. They were also rampant in the clubhouse. As Craig noted here*, are you ready to kick Hank Aaron out of the HoF because he admitted taking them?

      *http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/12/28/why-doesnt-anyone-stump-for-aaron-to-be-booted-out-of-cooperstown/

      Prior to all the new rules that baseball implemented why did the players have to lie about taking them if it wasn’t illegal prior.

      Because they may not have been against MLB rules, but they are/were against Federal regulations. But that’s irrelevant either way.

      As far as I’m concerned if a player is on the ballot and he tested positive for PED’s or admitted use of PED’s then as far as I’m concerned he’s out.

      So you agree that Hank Aaron should be kicked out of the HoF?

      • JBerardi - Dec 30, 2011 at 4:11 PM

        The past only seems clean because we’re not living in it. Selective memory can take over.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 30, 2011 at 4:21 PM

        Wish we could have signatures here, because that would come in handy more often than not.

      • mtm1321 - Dec 30, 2011 at 4:41 PM

        I can see your point but I used those greats “bench mark” as an example of the game and how those greats played and the records they made without steroids.
        I don’t consider amphetamines to be a PED.

        Who cares about what players can look up or research! You took the debate in a totally different area! What? Research? What are you talking about, stay on the subject!

        As far as using amphetamines, great Aaron used them and yes they were rampant, and I used them too when I played, they don’t make you any better at playing the game. Your skills don’t improve, you just stay awake. They’re not gonna help you hit the ball any harder or throw it any faster. Please……. And we can’t prove that PED’s were used since the 50’s and 60’s unless you go by word of mouth. So that point is tossed……

        As far as federal regulations go and the rules, you’re talking about a real close time-line. 6 in one hand – half dozen in the other not even relevant for this debate.

        I think your rebuttal sucks but it’s good to see you can read and copy/paste……….My two cents.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 30, 2011 at 6:40 PM

        I think your rebuttal sucks but it’s good to see you can read and copy/paste……….My two cents.

        I wouldn’t do this considering you think Don Larsen is a “great” baseball player.

        I don’t consider amphetamines to be a PED.

        How is it not? If you are tired, and you take something that makes you play better, how is that not enhancing? Steroids by themselves don’t do anything except increase the amount of testosterone in your body. You need to physically work out for them to have an affect.

        Who cares about what players can look up or research! You took the debate in a totally different area! What? Research? What are you talking about, stay on the subject!

        I was on topic. You claimed that these old greats were able to achieve these feats without the help of PEDs (a faulty claim due to greenies, but i digress). I’m stating that it’s harder today to achieve those same lofty heights because the players, as a whole, are better than before.

        Please……. And we can’t prove that PED’s were used since the 50′s and 60′s unless you go by word of mouth. So that point is tossed……

        http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/otl/news/story?id=3866837

        Read on, 1963 trainers were providing the SD Chargers with steroids.

        As far as federal regulations go and the rules, you’re talking about a real close time-line. 6 in one hand – half dozen in the other…

        What does this even mean?

      • JBerardi - Dec 30, 2011 at 9:11 PM

        “As far as using amphetamines, great Aaron used them and yes they were rampant, and I used them too when I played, they don’t make you any better at playing the game. Your skills don’t improve, you just stay awake. They’re not gonna help you hit the ball any harder or throw it any faster.”

        Because staying awake has no effect on your skills.

        I’ll never understand this argument. It’s a drug and it makes you play better than you might have had you not taken it. Otherwise why take it?

    • cur68 - Dec 30, 2011 at 5:00 PM

      mtm: Is this a “disqualify all cheaters” argument? Or is this a “PEDS absolutely confer an advantage so disqualify just the PED users” argument?

      If the latter, do you mean just steroids and not greenies? If so, then I’d suggest you have an incomplete understanding of PEDs. Greenies are amphetamines. Which are illegal. Its a PED. You condone them? Plenty of them in the HOF.

      Doesn’t matter either way. The HOF is full of guys who did either 1 or both types of things. Planning to stump for the removal of Gaylord Perry (Mr. Spitball)? Altering the ball is absolutely against the rules. Cheating, IOW. Spitting on the ball confers a much greater advantage to the pitcher (who already as the odds substantially on his favour) than steroids do for a batter.

      There just seems to be no sense of fairness, balance, or a level playing field when it comes HOF voting.

      • mtm1321 - Dec 30, 2011 at 6:35 PM

        I agree. But I am totally against the use of steroids. I could really care less about amphetamines I just don’t see them as an advantage since I have experience in using them while I played. I’m not saying that their use is ok but I don’t see them as a skill enhancer. Actually over the long term they are more of a detriment to performance.

        As far as spitballs thats just nonsense, saliva, oil, scraping the ball, pine-tar etc now were just swinging at the fences.

        Steroids enhance the physical performance of a player, not just everyday players take them (Clemens). They make you run faster, throw harder & farther, rejuvenate quicker over the long haul and give you quicker eye hand coordination and overall power. So I’m sorry I just can’t see letting in players who used steroids to play, especially those that broke epic records like Bonds, Maguire, & Clemens. I believed they tarnished the game.

        I understand every player tries to get an advantage while playing, steroids and whatever else gets it done, but it doesn’t mean it’s ok.

        Your right there is no balance in the HOF voting but I’m sorry I think “we” have to draw a line somewhere. There are so many great players that never used anything and put up insane numbers. The steroid era of the 90’s and 2000’s really hurt baseball. I think were going to start putting in more players like Jim RIce, Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly because those numbers are more realistic then the inflated numbers of the players in the 90’s.

  11. offseasonblues - Dec 30, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    1) I remember reading some baseball writers saying they would need some time to figure out how to handle steroid users, whether proven or suspected. Some time has passed and I have to say that my thinking about this has changed a bit from royally pissed off at everyone, to realizing that baseball eras are what they are.

    2) All players are suspects. Good, bad, never had a cup of coffee. stats leaders, replacement players (whatever they are). As Craig has written, there is absolutely no upside to admitting anything.

    3) I think Roger Maris belongs in the Hall of Fame, and I don’t care that his career numbers are lacking. For 40 years he held the single season HR title, and if that’s not HOF worthy then I don’t get the concept of the HOF.

    4) Since I endorse remarkable accomplishment as well as career numbers as HOF election criteria, perhaps I have to say that the current title holder had a remarkable career and leave it at that. I hope the HOF provides education on the dangers of steroids to those entering so that visitors understand why some of us care about the trickle down to high school athletes, The pressure to gain an edge will always be with us and all of us need to deal with it constructively going forward.

    5) Cooperstown needs to fix this. Take out the character clause, and be explicit about behaviors that keep you out no matter what: child abuse, murder, betting on games when you have some input into their outcome, intentionally poor play, spreading computer viruses (yeah, I know, it’s not a likely alternate career for a baseball player, but it’s my list and I’m including it).

    6) Based on what I’ve read, I think steroid use can be harmful; it isn’t remotely the same as spitting on a baseball or stealing signs – things you can get caught at on the field. I do think steroids can help you hit for more power and recover from physical stress during a 162 game season. They may lengthen careers.If I’m wrong and steroids are safe for children as well as adults, and they don’t help anyone perform better or longer then I take it all back and want to know why sports leagues bother testing for steroid use.

    7) regarding item 6), I think this sucks for those who miss the cut because they played clean. But since those players can’t prove they were clean, we can’t do much about it. The enablers – Selig and his procrastination on testing, Fehr for not looking out for the players true best interests, owners and GM’s who could have posted and enforced some team rules – are all as guilty as the players, probably more so.

    8) Regarding item 7) I guess I’m still at least a little pissed off, and I could even say that I’ve just stopped caring who’s in the HOF … except that’s not quite true. Let Maris in!

    9) Bagwell too.

  12. offseasonblues - Dec 30, 2011 at 7:07 PM

    That smiley face should be an eight and a right paren. I believe I’m not alone here in wishing there were an edit function.

    • cur68 - Dec 30, 2011 at 7:36 PM

      Well, s’not like we’re going to get our wish for the HOF voters to make any flippin’ sense, now is it? Look on the bright side: now a lot of people know how to make a smiley-face-with-sunglasses emoticon. 8) thanks

      • offseasonblues - Dec 30, 2011 at 10:06 PM

        You’re welcome 8)

  13. bbk1000 - Dec 31, 2011 at 7:05 AM

    Wasn’t Caminiti his teammate for a number of years, both early on then towards the end of his career?

    Perhaps guilty by association?

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