My first baseball game I ever went to was at Dodger Stadium where the Dodgers hosted the visiting Giants. I distinctly remember the game: Paul Lo Duca hit a homerun to dead center and Barry Bonds was walked and loudly booed more than once during the game. What young me didn’t understand was that the two things from the game I do remember are forever shadowed in what was the darkest time in baseball. This is because both Paul Lo Duca and Barry Bonds are known as steroid users. Even with Major League Baseball’s greatest attempts to rid itself of these banned substances, they manage to return to the forefront. Not because players are actively using them, but because now the stars of baseball during the Steroid Era can now be in the Hall of Fame. The Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the class of 2013 will be unlike any ballot before. For the first time, we will see the likes of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens available to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. These three names represent the people that were prominent during the height of the steroid era in Major League Baseball. This presents voters with a very difficult decision. Do voters allow these players into the Hall of Fame, even though they have indeed used steroids? Or do voters not allow them in, effectively disregarding any accomplishments these players have done?
So should Bonds, Sosa, and Clemens be let into the Hall of Fame? The answer is yes. Regardless of steroids or not, these men accomplished great feats. Barry Bonds, for example, was a force to be reckoned with; he leads MLB in both career homeruns and single season homeruns. Everyone remembers the great homerun race to break the major league record pitting Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa against each other in 1998. In 1986, Roger Clements won the American League Cy Young Award, the AL Most Valuable Player Award, and the All-Star Game MVP Award. That season he also struck out 20 batters in one game.
One major reason we should allow players who have taken steroids into the Baseball Hall of Fame is because steroids wasn’t banned in Major League Baseball until 1991. In the case of Roger Clemens, when he did win three awards in 1986, the use of steroids was permitted in Major League Baseball. During that season, he did nothing wrong in the eyes of Major League Baseball’s rules. If he did use steroids, it was morally questionable, but again fair play in regards to the rules.
The biggest reason we should allow these players into the Hall of Fame is because everybody during the Steroid Era. Well, not everybody, but you know what I mean; there were a good amount of players that used steroids. According to baseballssteroidera.com, there were 129 players that were known to use performance enhancing drugs. The reason why we should let these players in is because these players were the best of their time: a time where baseball was soaked in PEDs. Barry Bonds still is both the single season and career homerun leader when `128 others were also using steroids.
To make this concept a bit easier to swallow, replace steroids mentioned above with metal bats. If Barry Bonds hits 70 home runs with a metal bat, and the rest of the league is also using metal bats, should we discredit Bonds’ feat because he used a metal bat? Of course not. Why should it be any different with steroids?
The problem with Baseball’s Steroid Era stars being inducted into the Hall of Fame was also recently discussed on ESPN’s Outside the Lines program. For purposes of concision, the show mentioned two distinct requirements of being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. First, it is required that players must demonstrate an exceptional performance of the sport of baseball. There is no question that the three above mentioned players, as well as many other players from the Steroid Era, demonstrated exceptional play. The second part required that inducted players exhibit a hard work ethic and high moral standing. Players that did take steroids still did exhibit a hard work ethic. You just don’t take steroids and hit 70 plus homeruns; in order to become as great as Bonds, Sosa, or Clemens, they still had to work hard at strength and mechanics. It is not fair to question their work ethic just because they took steroids.
The issue at hand with the players being inducted is the last portion: players must exhibit a high moral standing. Let’s not beat around the bush here, these players did cheat. Even if 128 other players used steroids, Barry Bonds still cheated by using steroids. It was wrong for them to cheat, but let’s not be naive. Questionable behavior happens, even in 2012 (see: Jose Valverde spitball, Bryce Harper pine tar). It has, it does, and always will. It would also be naïve to think that no player ever inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame cheated. But the question is: if steroid use is cheating, is it to a degree that would warrant a player to be excluded from the Hall of Fame?
There really is no right answer. Very good and compelling arguments could made either way. It’s a good thing I don’t have to vote on it. These players should be let into the Baseball Hall of Fame because of their accomplishments, but we need to remember that they did cheat. We cannot leave them out of the Hall of Fame because they used steroids; we can forgive but we should not forget. Let them into the Hall of Fame, but let’s create its own section. The Steroid Era of baseball cannot be ignored. In terms of play, it could be argued to be one of the greatest eras of baseball. But it also carried significant weight. In the Steroid Era section is where we include the players that were known steroid users. Let’s also let them into the record books, but let’s not forget the asterisk by their names.