Chicks may still dig the long ball, but baseball’s Hall of Fame voters are obviously confused, bewildered and angry about what PED users did to tear down the importance of the home run.
Of the 26 players in baseball history with 500 or more home runs, 14 were safely inducted into Cooperstown before PEDs became the most divisive topic in baseball history. They include: Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Frank Robinson (586), Harmon Killebrew (573), Reggie Jackson (563), Mike Schmidt (548), Mickey Mantle (536), Jimmie Foxx (534), Willie McCovey (521), Ted Williams (521), Ernie Banks (512), Eddie Matthews (512) and Mel Ott (511).
Eddie Murray (504) was elected into the Hall in 2003 in his first year of eligibility. The last few years Murray’s career came during the Steroid Era, which I regard as 1993-2004, when home runs dramatically spiked. But Murray rose above suspicion.
Frank Thomas (521), another who never was mentioned as a potential performance enhancer, was elected into the HOF last summer.
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The only two active player with 500-plus homers, Alex Rodriguez (654) and Albert Pujols (520), are night and day when it comes to PED allegations. Rodriguez might be the poster boy for illegal substances while Pujols, so far, has avoided the scandal.
Of the three 500-plus players who soon will become eligible for the Hall of Fame – Ken Griffey Jr. (630), Jim Thome (612) and Manny Ramirez (555)– only Ramirez has been connected to PED use.
Gary Sheffield (509), who has denied PED use but was named in the 2007 Mitchell Report of suspected abusers, was eligible for the Hall of Fame this year for the first time. He received only 11.7 percent of the vote (75 percent is required to be in the Hall).
That leaves four sluggers, with a combined 2,523 home runs, trapped under the weight of PEDs with little hope of getting out: Barry Bonds (762), Sammy Sosa (609), Mark McGwire (583) and Rafael Palmeiro (569).
McGwire is the only one of that four to acknowledge his cheating and while he’s probably not getting into the Hall of Fame any time soon, he has managed to have a life in baseball and is currently the hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
If Major League Baseball had its way Bonds, Sosa and Palmeiro would be on some far-away island with no cell phones.
The worst thing about PEDs, even worse than the questionable statistics they produced, is that it’s going to take a long time to work through the fallout.
Baseball has done a good job of cleaning up the game, but it’s been like cleaning up Chernobyl. The yearly Hall of Fame votes are a reminder of just how messy things were.
I’m personally tired of the HOF/PED debate. If I had a Hall of Fame vote, and I don’t, I would not endorse Rodriguez, Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, Palmeiro, Martinez, Sheffield, Roger Clemens or anyone I know or believe used PEDs. If that’s too self-righteous for you, fine.
I resent the way these guys destroyed the statistical foundation of baseball, which values stats more than any other game. And I’m upset that so many of these guys refuse to accept responsibility, admit guilt and get on with their lives. Because we baseball fans would love to get on with ours and move past this ugly era.
If the PED crowd ever gets voted in, it should be with the understanding that their dishonestly will be shared with visitors to Cooperstown. We can look at their plaques and recall their careers, but we should leave the Hall of Fame with a clear understanding of the lengths these players were willing to go to in an effort to achieve results.
Admittedly, there is something seductive about the prospect of Bonds, A-Rod and that ilk getting up in front of the masses in Cooperstown on a warm Sunday afternoon in late July and making acceptance speeches. What would they say? How would they say it? How would the Hall of Famers seated behind them on stage, who presumably did things on the up and up, react?
But my life is swimming along just fine without Bonds, McGwire, Palmeiro, Sheffield and Sosa in the Hall of Fame. I think I’ll continue to survive if A-Rod and Ramirez get left out.
Let’s continue to reward the great players who didn’t cheat, like the four who were elected Monday, and not concern ourselves with the liars and scoundrels who are still on the outside. They made their beds, as they say. If they can’t sleep, it’s their fault.