As all of us grow older, the players we grew up enjoying, emulating and idolizing, have since retired leaving us nostalgic for days gone by. I remember the first time I read the back of a baseball card and found a player born the year I entered high school. Age had finally caught up to me. Sure I wasn’t ready for shuffle board at The Villages or for dinner at 3, nonetheless it hit me.
The Baseball Writers Association of America comprised of over 700 active members of the media working for newspapers, magazines and web sites, last week elected Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar to the Hall of Fame. Along with Blyleven and Alomar, former General Manager Pat Gillick, elected by the Veterans Committee, will be representing the class of 2011 for the Hall of Fame.
Over the next few years Major League Baseball will come to a crossroads where players from the “steroid era” will become eligible for the Hall. With Mark McGwire barely skimming 20% of votes, down from 22% last year, players who ended their careers clouded with accusations, insinuations and downright admissions of steroid use are making life for Hall voters less than simple.
Jayson Stark in a recent article illustrated his concern over being what he refers to as the “morality police” , when voting for the Hall.
I can understand where Stark is coming from. With the exception of actual courtroom Judges, most of us find the act of judging others to be a difficult proposition that we would do anything to avoid, yet here we are mouthing off and judging in places like this every day; ironic I know. Maybe that’s a good thing that most of us are wary of casting judgement on others. The last thing I would want is for someone to have some deep, burning, life long desire to become a judge. To me it’s a position best appointed to and not sought after.
The core of the issue is two-fold, do players who have accumulated Hall of Fame type statistics over the span of their careers have to prove themselves innocent of PED use in the minds of the BBWAA voters? Second, to what extent do PED’s have on physically enhancing the skills of a Major League Baseball player?
In the United States we are considered innocent until proven guilty, Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, and the burden of proof is on the accuser. While it is not strictly stated in our Constitution, it is however embodied in the 5th Amendment.
Now there have been those who have admitted to PED use such as McGwire and there have been others who have not but have been targets of Federal investigations involving PED distribution and lying under oath such as Bonds and Clemens.
The best way for MLB to come up with a fair and workable approach to this issue, especially when it comes to Hall of Fame voting, would be to assemble the brightest minds in Medicine – commissioned by Bud Selig – to determine to what extent PED’s have on the already existing skills of a Major League Baseball player.
While we all have speculated that steroids makes an average player good, a good player great and so on, we really haven’t had a definitive, medically supported and dissected view of this, at least not one sanctioned by MLB. The point being, not all players who have taken steroids have become Hall of Famers and not all Hall of Famers have taken steroids.
The BBWAA writers clearly would rather not be placed in a postion to judge players on issues indirectly connected to baseball. Taking drugs – whether they are PED’s or not being one of the issues. If a study can give them a somewhat difinitive answer on what effects steroids and other PED’s can have on a professional baseball player’s skill level, perhaps then the writers can vote not so much with a clear conscience but at least with the facts on their side. It’s an idea that should be explored. Unfortunately it seems like MLB has had it’s share of PED discussion and deems the current standards of player testing to be the answer to just about every question posed to them.
Here lies the great problem with that. Over the next few years we’re going to see many players become eligible for the Hall of Fame who have the PED stigma attached to them, rightly or wrongly. And like Stark mentioned in his article unless the public and the people who run the Hall of Fame are willing to accept empty podiums (i.e. empty wallets as well) then the course of action is to do nothing.
While many of us are tired of the steroid, PED talk, the fact remains that this issue isn’t going away and to remain ignorant to it or wish it away won’t change the storm that’s clearly on the horizon.