Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Steroid Era And Baseball's Grand Shrine

So yesterday the Baseball Hall Of Fame announced that they will be enshrining two new members this coming July to their home in Cooperstown, NY.
"The Greatest Leadoff Hitter In History" Ricky Henderson

and long time Boston Red Sox Jim Rice

Henderson was voted in as a first ballot hall of famer for good reason. He is the all time leader in stolen bases, add on an MVP award in 1990 as well the all time leading run scorer with a career on base % of .401. Henderson for sure is a first ballot type of canidate.

Rice on the other hand had to wait quite a while. He joins a club with Red Ruffing and Ralph Kiner as the only 3 players to be voted into the hall in their final year of eligibility. Rice with a career average of .298 finished with 382 career home runs and over 1450 RBI's in 16 seasons all with the Bo Sox. Rice on the other hand of course some will say shouldn't be in, and some say he should.

Instead of focusing on who got snubbed, or how to fix the voting and other random topics that are repeated year after year after year.....I wanted to focus on "The Steroid Era" and if anyone from that time should be voted in.

We'll say for the sake of argument that the steroid era is in between the years of 1988-2006 and since 2006 in only 3 years history....we'll mainly focus on the 90's to see who baseball should put in it's hall of fame.

Frank Thomas - Why not start with a local flavor. The Big Hurt career #'s (.301/521/1704) plus 2 MVP's, 5 time all star and 4 silver slugger awards (best offensive player at one position). A member of the original steroid hearings and the only player to not attend the hearings rather giving a statement via satellite. Now, some may say that Frank is a DH and shouldn't even be considered for the hall of fame based on not playing the field. Others may say cause of his size and how he developed in body mass over time that he was on the juice. Frank may be the only one considered on this list to be "truly clean" but then again....isn't everyone a suspect.

Barry Bonds - Some consider Bonds to be the greatest player to ever play the game (.298/762/1996). A 7-time MVP and 14 time all star....Barry Bonds is also a 10 time gold glover and the all time leader in walks. One word however has become forever attached to his legacy....BALCO. Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative headed by Victor Conte allegedly supplied Bonds and others with steroid and growth hormones and according to Bonds...he used them unknowingly and therefore is forever linked to using steroids for personal use. Now "The Greatest Player To Ever Live" is going to court in March to fight an obstruction of justice charge relating to his BALCO testimony. I think it's safe to say possibly the greatest player of my lifetime is a fraud and will never see the hall.

Jeff Bagwell - One of the "Killer B's" (.297/449/1529), Bagwell was part of one of the greatest tandems in professional sports. A Houston Astro for life...Bagwell played 15 seasons but some may say he is not hall of fame material. Only one MVP award, one gold glove in 15 years, and a 4 time all star. Yes, he did hit 449 home runs in his career, but he couldn't get to the magical number of 500. Then again some people are saying that the magical number isn't 500 anymore, it's 600. Bagwell was never thought of to be using steroids of any kind but then again he played during the heart of the steroid era where apparently everyone is a suspect.....right?

Mike Piazza - People sorta seem to forget how good Mike Piazza was back in the 1990's. Granted his career started in 1992 and winning the rookie of the year award when he batted .318/35/112. Piazza's career numbers are pretty outstanding for a guy who loved playing in those big markets of LA and NY (.308/427/1335) career numbers. So, if you're a voter for the hall of fame, based on those career numbers plus not winning a world series, no MVP's, but a 12 time all Piazza a hall of famer?? He could be the best hitting catcher of all time. I would say yes in a heartbeat. Plus....he loves BLS.

Ken Griffey Jr. - "The Kid" guy that you look overall at his career and you wonder "what if he was healthy those years in Cincinnati?" Career numbers (.288/611/1772) an MVP, 13 time all star, 10 gold gloves and one of 6 players to hit over 600+ HR's in their career. 3 years in a row from 2002-2004 he played under 85 games each year, and you have to wonder to yourself if he the all time HR king? Some however say that Griffey became brittle at the age of 32 and broke down possibly because he might have been on the juice. Here again is one player that you have to ask yourself if he played during the era (which he did) he a suspect too?

Some great players of the 90's also include:
Juan Gonzalez - .295/434/1404...2 MVP's...3 time all star....Named in the Mitchell Report.
Albert Belle - .295/381/1239....NO MVP's....5 time all star....known widely as one of the biggest a******s in the league but no rumors of steroid use.
Roberto Alomar - .300/210/1134....12 time all star....2 world series rings....spit in the face of an umpire but no rumors of steroid use.

Here's my point....."The Steroid Era" has already shown it's effect on the voting process when Mark McGwire (a sure-fire first ballot hall of famer in my world) lost support percentage wise for votes to be elected from year to year. Meaning between the 2 times he's been eligible...he went from getting 23.5 % to now 21.9% for induction into the hall of fame. McGwire a career .263 hitter to go with 583 home runs and 1414 rbi for sure based on the stats is a no doubt first ballot hall of famer. One day in front of a congressional panel phased an entire nation of what this man refusing to answer questions about his past, McGwire in turn ruined his future and legacy in one simple moment where he said:

"I'm not here to talk about the past. I'm here to be positive about this subject."

Keep in mind, McGwire admitted to taking steroid-precursor androstenedione, an over-the-counter muscle enhancement product. Rumors surfaced later that McGwire admitted to the use of androstenedione to throw off the scent of the steroids he was allegedly using. While legal at the time under U.S. law and for use in MLB, Andro had already been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, the NFL and the IOC.

So, why is McGwire paying the penalty of not being allowed in the hall of fame NOW when baseball was slow to act like the IOC and the NFL on these substances? Is it possible that McGwire was taking Andro (over the counter until 2004) for body building purposes rather than a masking agent? Is it possible alot of baseball players did the exact same thing, but since McGwire spent a day in Congress on national TV and said he doesn't want to talk about the past rather than talk about the future and what baseball can do to stop steroid use in the game....THAT MAKES HIM GUILTY?? Wasn't that the point of the steroid hearings anyway??? So baseball can get going on a steroid policy where the game's integrity doesn't suffer and kids don't get the wrong message?

And in turn, when Big Frank, Piazza, Griffey, Bagwell, and others I mentioned plus hundreds more that played in "The Steroid Era" are up for the hall of fame....what if they were called to testify? Why would you vote them in and not McGwire?

If writers don't feel McGwire is fit for the hall of fame, how can you vote anyone in from "the steroid era" without questioning them like they have questioned McGwire?

I feel sad for Mark McGwire because he did nothing wrong that we know of and yet he is being punished like he was convicted of a crime. It'll be a sad day for baseball when we can't celebrate one day in July and share in the history of the game with the greats of my generation.


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