Hall of Fame voting discussions aren't very fun anymore. Instead of us having lively debates over the candidacy of great players we have turned the process into retroactively judging the characters of past players and trying to guess who did and did not use performance enhancing drugs. The problem is we will never 100 percent know who was using. Odds are there are PED users already in the Hall. Odds are there will be PED users, who never got caught cheating, who get voted in. We like to think that now that the steroid era is over that we have the definitive list of who was using. But we don't.
Speaking of the era that's the best way to look at it. It was an era. There have been many other eras of baseball. Games used to used to be played with just one game ball, African Americans weren't allowed to play, the mound was higher. It's a constantly changing game. The best way to measure whether a player, steroid user or not, is a Hall of Fame player is to judge how they compared to the rest of their era. Did steroids help Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens become better? Sure, but there are countless names we have never heard of that steroids too and didn't become as good as those guys.
That's because PEDs aren't some magical pill that gives you Superman-esque abilities. They help keep your body fresh late in the season and act as a supplement to your workouts. Anybody who thinks Bonds and Clemens weren't Hall of Fame players before using steroids must wonder why every other user didn't become an all time legend. Bonds and Clemens dominated their era in a way few have ever before. If that's not enough of a reason to vote them in here are three more:
1. Baseball Did Nothing To Stop The Steroid Era
Put yourself in the shoes of a Major League Baseball Player in the 1990s. What if you found out that taking PEDs would improve your personal statistics, help your team win, grow your celebrity, and make you more money? And what if you found out that it wasn't even against the rules? MLB didn't drug test until 2004 and it didn't get serious about that testing for a couple more years. That's because everyone associated with the game was too busy making money of steroid users.
Following the 1994 strike that cancelled the World Series interest in baseball was on the decline. Fans were pissed and there were just two events that brought the game back. One was Cal Ripken Jr.'s consecutive games played streak. The other was the 1998 home run race. Anyone who was around during the summer of '98 can tell you how much fun it was to be a baseball fan at that time. Some of these steroid users had a direct role in bringing baseball back at a time when revenues were growing at an all time pace. So why are these players being the only ones punished now?
Teams aren't forfeiting championships that were won with steroid users on the team. Owners aren't giving back the money these players helped them make. Sportswriters aren't either. There's a reason no baseball commissioner has banned steroid users from Hall of Fame voting the way Pete Rose is banned. Up until 2004 there was no penalty for using steroids in Major League Baseball. Why then are we penalizing guys for using?
2. The Amphetamine Era
Why does nobody ever talk about the Amphetamine era? Until they were officially banned from MLB in 2006 amphetamines were as common in clubhouses as sunflower seeds. Mike Schmidt said in his autobiography they were easily available in every clubhouse. Tony Gwynn guessed that during his playing days 50% of players were popping greenies. The Amphetamine era produced just as many statistical anomalies as the steroid era that never get talked about.
Per Joe Sheehan since 1901 there have been 23 seasons where somebody stole 80 bases. 18 of those came from 1962 through 1988. It could be argued that amphetamine usage helped players steal bases during this era. In the 30 year span from 1931-1960 there were 40 instances where a pitcher threw 300 innings. In the 10 year span from 1971-1980 there were 37 alone and has not been one since. Of course the game of baseball was different back then but it's ignorant to think amphetamines didn't affect player statistics the way steroids did. Amphetamine users are in the Hall of Fame, so why is it so wrong to exclude other types of PED users?
3. Ty Cobb Is In The Hall of Fame
Hall of Fame voters love to throw out the term "character" as a reason for not voting for steroid users. Their theory is that steroid users are bad people who did a bad thing even thought taking PEDs was not against the rules until 2004 and that players took other PEDs, such as amphetamines, for decades without punishment. Bonds and Clemens may not have been the kindest players of their era but the unfortunate truth is that there are much worse people already in Cooperstown.
Former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey actively worked to keep baseball segregated. Mickey Mantle was a drunk womanizer. Gaylord Perry doctored the ball while on the mound. However, none were as bad as Cobb, who was a flaming racist with stories ranging from sharpening his cleats to injure opposing players to jumping into the stands mid game to fight fans. The fact that any sportswriter would not vote for Bonds and Clemens and cites "character issues" yet is fine with Cobb being in the Hall is a joke.