The softening stance on steroids in the Baseball Hall of Fame continues to grow legs as players who admittedly took some sort of supplement or were connected to the PED scandal in any way are paving their way to Cooperstown. There are many opinions out there as to why, but it could simply be that people are changing their attitudes when pressed about MLB’s ‘Juiced Era.’
I, for one, was always on the side of let them in since there were too many unknowns to keep them out. “Does it make them stronger? Does it help them hit the ball better? What about hand-eye coordination?” “How about the pitchers throwing the ball?” “If they both are users, doesn’t it make it an invalid argument?” I know the last one may be a stretch, but it definitely deserves some consideration.
We all remember vividly when the baseball writers decided to put an X over all eligibility in 2013 to deliver a clear message to the “Steroid Era.” It was a defining moment in baseball and one that will probably never be recreated. However, here we are in 2017, and the writers are beginning to fold.
Three names synonymous with steroid allegations – though never been proven – have been voted into the Hall of Fame. Mike Piazza, voted in last year, always carried rumors along with him and Ivan Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell saw their achievements tarnished by the suspicions that they were users. For example, Bagwell acknowledged taking androstenedione, a dietary supplement and steroid precursor, during his career, something Piazza also admitted to. This still didn’t stop them from being selected.
Now, let’s move to possibly the greatest hitter and the greatest pitcher of all-time [I can already feel the heat coming], Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Yes, both were indicted on charges for their alleged steroid use, but they still gave us memories that will never be recreated. In regards to Bonds, we are not talking about Sammy Sosa and I, for one, take great offense to anyone who lumps him into the same category. Just being an avid MLB fan gives me enough knowledge to know the two players do not even come close when we are discussing individual talents. Was Bonds wrong? Sure, he was. However, how is it right for guys that have fielded these same accusations to have their names in fame, including Bud Selig, the former commissioner who decided to do nothing about this issue while it was on his watch? Why are Bonds and Clemens bigger than the issue itself? It looks like I may not be the only one with these questions.
Both of the marquee athletes of yesterday received a majority of votes for the first time in the five years since their names appeared on the ballot. In 2013, Bonds received 36.2 percent of the vote. Last year, he received 44.3 percent, while receiving 53.8 percent in 2017. Clemens saw his numbers rise from 45.2 percent last year to 54.1 percent this year. [Numbers courtesy of baseball-reference.com]
Some believe the selections of Piazza and Selig actually led many sports writers to reconsider their stances on “Steroid Era” players. While that could very well be true, I think it has more to do with the changeover in the voting process than anything.
Over the last several years, the demographics of the baseball writers has shifted drastically with many of its newest voting members not being an integral part of the press generated from the “Steroid Era.” It seems this shift was magnified 18 months ago when the Baseball Hall of Fame restructured its voting requirements to phase out older members who haven’t covered the sport regularly within the past 10 years. [via the Washington Post] This unprecedented move wiped 200 [mainly veteran] writers right off the map. The doors were now realigned with a younger vote and the changeover is evident.
If you read some reports floating around, some feel the voting results reveal how the younger society views drug use and illegal substance abuse among modern day athletes. This could also very well be true, but I think this speaks more towards ignorance than actual understanding. We all know the athletes of our favorite pastime had their obvious flaws and bouts with addiction. Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb are two names that first come to mind. Do you think if social media was born back in their time, Facebook Live videos and Instagram posts would have them in hot water with the public, too?
I think this is a very valid statement that needs to be carefully considered. We constantly look and speak on “Eras” in sports, but never look at the whole picture. Hell, if cell phones were prominent during the years of the Bash Brothers, we would probably have concrete evidence of dates and time when injections were taking place.
At the end of that day, the statistics of guys like Bonds and Clemens should not be forgotten. Their accolades should live on in Major League Baseball and continue to be pushed for their ticket to Cooperstown. Times have changed and people need to get on board because their moment is coming, like it or not!
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For fantasy purposes, all my articles are predicated upon a PPR-based system.