Last week, I did a rant headlined Bad Boys and that rant caused Rich, a long-term reader, to pose this question as a comment:
“Speaking of bad boys, my beautiful wife Mary has just found a poster we picked up at a home run hitting extravaganza here in Las Vegas’ Cashman Field in year 2000. Depicted on the poster are the following notables: Rafael Palmiero, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco, Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez, who collectively have a few thousand home runs to their discredit. Also included are some players who have not sullied their own reputations with PED’s: Ken Griffey Jr., Shawn Green, Nomar Garciaparra, Mike Piazza and Chipper Jones. I am wondering which of these players, some with astounding careers, would in your opinion gain entrance to the Baseball Hall of Fame?”
Before answering that question directly as I will eventually, I need to state what I think the Baseball Hall of Fame ought to be. In the past, I have made it clear that some inducted members of the Hall of Fame should not have been so honored; they belong in my opinion in a “Hall Of Very Good Players” but not the Hall of Fame. I shall not belabor that point here. The reason I bring it up is that I believe that the Baseball Hall of Fame should honor those players who were truly “The Best” of their times in the game. At the same time, the Hall of Fame is not the “Hall of Great Human Beings”; it is a merely place to recognize great baseball players some of whom were only slightly removed from the primordial slime on the evolutionary scale.
Given my definition of what the membership of the Hall of Fame ought to be, there would be no exclusions for ne’er-do-wells before or after the fact of their retirement. Pete Rose would be in the Hall of Fame AND there would be as a permanent part of his repose there an explanation of his admitted betting on baseball games. Joe Jackson would also be in the Hall of Fame AND there would be as a permanent part of his repose there an explanation that he was part of the Black Sox team in 1919 but that he and others were exonerated at trial for fixing World Series games. Please do not tell me that such a thing would “demean baseball accomplishments” in some way. Remember, baseball is the game that allowed its commissioner to put an asterisk on Roger Maris’ 61 home run season in 1961.
By the way, just to be complete, I would add to the existing Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker memorials that there is some reason to believe that both of them fixed at least one game and wagered on its outcome. That allegation has never been proven of course – just as Joe Jackson’s participation in the Black Sox scandal has never been proven.
Even with that focus, the question here poses a conundrum. More than a few of the folks on Rich’s list have prodigious home run totals and batting accomplishments that would put them squarely in “Hall of Fame territory”. The thing that has to be considered is that some of them used PEDs to amass those statistics; therefore, to what degree might one “discount” some of the numbers?
I believe that as time goes on, the players of the steroid era will be seen in a less harsh light than they are today and that future voters for Hall of Fame induction will be less inclined to use the Hall of Fame ballot as a form of retribution. What follows is how I would vote for the players that Rich named in his question and why:
Rafael Palmiero: I would vote NO. His home run total is more an achievement of time and not of greatness.
Barry Bonds: Eventually, I would vote YES. Before the time when he went through his rapid “bulking up” he was a great player; I personally believe he was a prodigious user of PEDs but even discounting the effect they had on his stats, I believe he was one of the great baseball players ever.
Mark McGwire: I am really on the fence with this one. His career batting average is only .263 but his career OPS (enhanced to be sure by his slugging numbers) is .982. He was an All-Star 13 times but was never voted MVP. Probably, I would vote NO.
Sammy Sosa: I would vote NO. He had a few years with prodigious home run totals but I never saw him as one of the dominant players of his time.
José Canseco: I would vote NO. I just do not see him as one of the best players of his time in MLB.
Manny Ramirez: Eventually, I would vote YES. Ramirez’ lifetime batting average is .312 over a career that spanned 19 years; in 17 of those seasons he hit .290 or better.
A-Rod: Eventually, I would vote YES. Even before there were any allegations of his use of PEDs, A-Rod was one of the best players in MLB.
Ken Griffey Jr.: Clearly, he should be voted in on the first ballot and I would vote YES if I had a vote.
Shawn Green: I would vote NO. He does not come close to my mental construct of what a Hall of Fame player ought to be. In 13 full seasons in MLB, he only made the All-Star team twice.
Nomar Garciaparra: I would vote YES. With a career batting average of .313, I could put him in the Hall of Fame – - but just because they were contemporaries, I would have him wait until after Derek Jeter was in the Hall.
Mike Piazza: Interestingly, Rich has him in the “no PEDs category” while there are some who are “convinced” that he was a user. Obviously, I do not know the facts here. His numbers as a catcher are most impressive (career BA .313; career OPS .922 and 427 home runs). Whether or not he was a “user”, he was one of the dominant catchers in the game during his run in MLB. I would vote YES.
Chipper Jones: I would vote Yes. I am not sure which of his stats might fall short of the yardstick set by other Hall of Fame members where Jones falls short.
Rich did not have Roger Clemens in his listing so let me answer that one. I am convinced that Roger Clemens was a PED user; nonetheless, I believe that his stats make him a player worthy of induction into the Hall of Fame.
Finally, speaking of Hall of Fame players, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“April 11 marked the 101st anniversary of the Yankees trademark pinstripes.
“Or 93 years since Babe Ruth first asked, ‘Does this uniform make my hips look too big?’ ”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………