Baseball Hall of Fame 2013 in the shadow of the steroid debate

Will the question of steroids become an annual controversy at the Baseball Hall of Fame? Photo: Good, old days: Two boys in 1941 admire Lou Gehrig's plague at Baseball Hall of Fame AP

CHARLOTTE, January 10, 2013 – What if they held a National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony and nobody came? Well, almost nobody. Three committee choices will be honored, none of whom will create traffic jams in Cooperstown.

Some are calling it a shutout, but a no-hitter might be more appropriate. For the first time since 1996, not a single player was inducted.  

As every baseball fan knows this is the first year a group of the biggest names among the accused “steroid boys” has been on the ballot. That means the debate will, at the very least, be an annual controversy that will probably never find a completely satisfying solution. Perhaps it would be best to analyze each player individually with a stipulation or two and one caveat.

Sammy Sosa slams a 3-run homer, August 4, 2004 AP

First, is that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were never going to win any Dale Carnegie awards for their off-the-field personalities. It is a given that some of the voters took that into consideration while casting their ballots.

Another thing every fan knows is that baseball is a game of statistics. No other sport can delve into statistical minutia like baseball. But the truth is, regardless of how obnoxious a player may be, his personality has nothing to do with the numbers he creates in a career.

Steroids, on the other hand, DID affect statistics and therein lies the controversy.

Second, this debate is about players who were denied induction because of their association with steroids and does not focus on other players who did not make it this year.

As for the caveat, even though the issue is not steroid related, Pete Rose must be included in a discussion about the Hall of Fame

Three “suspects” were on the ballot for the first time in 2013; Roger Clemens was acquitted of charges, Barry Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice for lying to
Congress about knowingly using steroids, and Sammy Sosa supposedly tested positive, but the results have been lost. Rafael Palmeiro, who had a positive test result, made the list for the third time, and it was the seventh appearance for Mark McGuire.

Roger Clemens fires a pitch against Royals, July 23, 2007 AP

Initially, McGuire admitted using androstenedione, which was an over-the-counter drug that was not illegal when he used it. McGuire later confessed that he had been using illegal steroids for a decade.

Palmeiro’s vote total dropped to 8.8% this year. It takes 5% or better to be eligible. If his numbers continue to fall, Palmeiro could become the first player in history with more than 500 home runs and 3,000 hits to be denied Hall of Fame status.

After hitting 70 home runs in 1998 to break Roger Maris’ long-standing record of 61 dingers in a season, Mark McGuire would have been a lock for Cooperstown. His career average of hitting a long ball every 10.61 times to the plate is the best in baseball history.

McGuire’s biggest rival in ’98 was Sammy Sosa, who also surpassed Maris, but finished second with 66 homers. Sosa is the only player ever to hit more than 60 homeruns in a season three times, but the cloud of steroids leaves many believing his numbers were enhanced.

Though Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens live under the same stigma as Palmeiro, McGuire and Sosa, their status is different. Both were legitimate superstars before steroids came into vogue. As a result, the stats they put up through most of their careers were strong enough for induction despite the steroid question.

Barry Bonds knocks in a 3 run homer, July 19, 2007 AP

 

True, the numbers were improve and both became considerably richer, but the pertinent question is whether that should nullify Hall of Fame performances that already existed.

One could argue that Bonds would not have hit as many homers without using steroids. It could also be contended, however, that Roger Maris, a left-handed hitter, might have hit more than 61 had he played in the Yankee Stadium of today, where flies to right field are equivalent to hitting in a Little League park

Ironically, when discussing McGuire and Sosa, it may have been the use of steroids that saved baseball. After a strike in 1994 cancelled the last third of the season and the playoffs, attendance dropped dramatically with no amount of public relations gimmicks able to help.

Cal Ripken was in the midst of breaking the all-time record for playing the most consecutive games in history at 2,632, but putting your name on a line-up card hardly carries the same magic for fans as the 1998 homerun derby between McGuire and Sosa. The reality is that homer race of ’98 almost certainly reinvigorated the game’s popularity.

Though that may not be Hall of Fame worthy, it is a part of baseball history that cannot be refuted.

Finally, there is Pete Rose whose issue was gambling rather than drugs. There is no dispute that neither can be condoned within the framework of any sport, not just baseball. Rose, like Clemens and Bonds, was hardly Mr. Nice Guy away from the ballpark.

But, as with McGuire and Sosa, Rose’s legacy is undeniable as the all-time hits leader with 4,256. Only one other player, Ty Cobb, also an unsavory character, has more than 4,000 hits. True, Rose was gambling, but he was not throwing games and his statistics prove that beyond any doubt.

Perhaps Cooperstown should establish a “Rogues Gallery” in which the sins of players who have harmed the game are emphasized, but whose talents are also recognized for their contributions to its legacy.

Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in Charlotte, NCTaylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club, which creates, and escorts customized tours to SwitzerlandFrance and Italy for groups of 12 or more.

Inquiries for groups can be made at Peabod@aol.com Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others.

As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 71 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries. He also played professional baseball for four years and was a sportscaster for 14 years at WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte.


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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.

 

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