On Wednesday, January 9, 2013, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) did not elect a soul into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. By doing so, they sent a strong message to steroid users in baseball. One that could not ring any stronger or truer. The message? If any baseball player is suspected of using steroids, they will not have a plaque next to Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Ted Williams. Thank you, BBWAA. Thank you for protecting baseball’s integrity.
By taking steroids, players did nothing short of cheating. Steroids don’t just make one strong–on steroids, someone can recover from injuries and tough workouts unnaturally. This means that a steroid user can work out much more often and harder than someone who is not using steroids and gain otherworldly amounts of muscle. As former pitcher Matt Herges told Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, “[Steroids made me] superhuman…an android basically.” If the BBWAA allowed steroid users such as Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds into the Hall of Fame, they would be endorsing steroid use. How could anyone justify that?
There is no denying that steroids tainted baseball’s most treasured records. Roger Maris’ single season home run record stood for thirty-eight years. Then, in 1998, Sammy Sosa hit 66 homers and Mark McGwire hit 70. Since then, 4 other players have hit more than 61 long balls in a season. All four are connected to steroid use.
Before the “steroid era,” reaching the “500 Club” by hitting 500 or more career home runs was a huge accomplishment that only 15 people in MLB history had ever achieved. From 1998-2010, 10 players achieved this, and all 10 have been linked to steroid use. Of the 10 all-time home run leaders, 4 are involved with steroids.
In Barry Bonds’ first ten years, he averaged twenty-nine home runs a season, his best forty-six when he was twenty-eight. During the next nine years of his career, Bonds should have been regressing naturally with age. Instead, he averaged 46 home runs a year and hit a record 73 home runs when he was 36. Most players are retired or thinking of retiring by the time they turn 36, not hitting crazy amounts of long-balls.
The Baseball Hall of Fame is supposed to be a shrine of baseball. It should reward the best baseball players in history: not the best cheaters in baseball’s history. It isn’t like the Hall of Fame is pretending that this era never happened. They have Barry Bonds’ batting helmet and Mark McGwire’s bat. It is completely fine to have their memorabilia, but it’s not OK to have their plaque next to players who achieved greatness through hard work. In fact, if any steroid users made it to Cooperstown this year, their plaques would be next to Cubs’ great, Ron Santo, a 3rd baseman who played through diabetes.
Some writers voted for steroid users because during the 1990s, there was no MLB rule specifically outlawing steroid use. Although true, it isn’t as if steroids were used openly. Players obviously didn’t think steroids were allowed if they vehemently argued that they were clean. In admitting his steroid use to Verducci, Herges said, “We didn’t have drug testing […] but it was still wrong.” While technically there was no rule, steroid use in baseball was never allowed. As former Minnesota Twin and New York Yankee, Dan Naulty, told George Mitchell, “I was a full blown cheater, and I knew it. You didn’t need a written rule. I was violating clear principals that were laid down within the rules. Whether they were explicitly stated that I shouldn’t use speed or testosterone didn’t need to be stated. I understood I was violating mainly implicit principals.”
The criteria to get into the National Baseball Hall of Fame was decided by Alexander Cleland. Cleland wrote, “Those worthy of Hall of Fame election should be selected from the ranks for ability, character, and their general contribution to baseball in all respects.” The players who cheated on baseball by taking steroids do not possess any of those traits: they only possess an impressive ability to fool the American public for so long.