As most of you already know, today marks the first time no player was elected to the MLB Hall of Fame since 1996. Multiple players who have put up phenomenal career and single season statistics failed to come anywhere near the 75% of the vote required for induction. Among the most notable robbed of inclusion are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa.
Yes, you read that right. I said robbed, and I firmly believe that’s the right word to use.
I can only assume those of you reading this at home are currently saying something like this: “But those players used steroids! It isn’t fair that their numbers are compared with those of Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, and everyone else who’s in the Hall!”
While I see where that argument comes from, I have this to say: Who cares?
Why are people so hung up on the purity of our beloved national pastime that they blow things out of proportion and thus make it a much bigger crime against the game than it really is.
Pete Rose still isn’t in the Hall, which is absolutely wrong, and while that’s an issue to bring up in another post, it’s a great example of something being blown way past its appropriate criminal level.
The problem with these players from “the steroid era” is listed right there in the name it’s been given. It was an era. That’s how the game was at that point. Do we penalize pitchers from the dead-ball era for putting up such great numbers since it was unfair for hitters? No. Nor should we.
I realize the analogy between steroids and the dead ball is that PEDs were and are illegal in the game. However, with how prevalent they were in the game at the time, players had no chance of challenging their souped-up competition.
People also seem to forget that pre-steroids the game was dead. Fans were angry about the 1994 strike, and people weren’t showing up to the games. Then suddenly players begin taking down 30-year-old home run records and fans were again packing the parks to see how many times players were going to go yard. It revived the game from its ashes, and built the generation of fans that have kept America’s pastime alive to this day.
Some fans are taking offense that Biggio wasn’t inducted, since he was a player with over 3,000 hits and he didn’t use PEDs. But how do we know that he didn’t use anything? If there was a drug test in 2003 that wasn’t reported until a New York Times article in 2009, how many other hidden results could be floating around and how many players went untested in the 90s? (To be clear, I’m not accusing you of anything, Craig. Just saying we don’t know.)
Paul Lo Duca tweeted something brutally honest, and true to its core. Check out that tweet below.
I took PEDs and I'm not proud of it..but people that think you can take a shot or a pill and play like the legends on that ballot need help.
— Paul Lo Duca (@paulloduca16) January 9, 2013
Paul, you hit it right on the head. What he is saying, and all the Hall of Fame voters and ignorant fans seem so eager to ignore, is that taking PEDs doesn’t automatically make you a great player. I could sit here right now and shoot up steroids for weeks and it isn’t going to turn me from a former mediocre high school player to an MLB Hall of Famer. That’s just not how it works. But don’t take my word for that. I’ve included an excerpt from a very well-written Live Science article below.
Anabolic steroids, or anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), are the synthetic (made in a lab) derivatives of the naturally produced hormone testosterone. They promote the growth of muscle (anabolic effect) and the typical male characteristics of puberty (androgenic effect).
When used by athletes, the goal is to speed up the body’s natural muscle-building process.
When we lift weights heavier than what we’re used to, we create tiny micro-tears in muscle fibers. The body’s natural repair process repairs the tear and then overcompensates by adding bigger cells to build a stronger fiber — this is called muscular hypertrophy. Over time, this repeated process of teardown and re-build will result in muscle growth.
Natural testosterone is the body’s main ingredient for this process, but anabolic steroids can serve as a supplement.
Once ingested, an AAS travels through the blood stream to the muscle tissue. It is drawn into the muscle cell’s receiving dock, called an androgen receptor. Once delivered to the muscle cell, the steroid can interact with the cell’s DNA and stimulate the protein synthesis process that promotes cell growth.
Nowhere in that explanation does it say rub some cream on and suddenly you’ll be able to strike a 93 mph slider solidly with a cylindrical wooden club and send it flying 400+ feet. Yes, I’m against steroids, but it’s time fans came to the realization that it was part of the game at the time, and no matter how many asterisks they put next to those records, and how long they keep the doors of Cooperstown closed to those players, it doesn’t change the fact that is how the game was, and the fans loved it at the time.
While I’ve made it clear that I have a problem with all these players being kept out of the Hall, being born and raised in Chicago, I am especially enraged that Sammy Sosa is going to be kept out. The fact he only got 12.5% of the vote just shows the ignorance and pretentiousness of the writers who were granted the opportunity to cast a ballot.
With all due respect to Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and Billy Williams, Sosa was the most exciting player ever to don the Cubbie Blue, and the most exciting player of the 90s (spare possibly Ken Griffey Jr.) How can a player that put up the numbers Sosa did year after year, 609 career home runs, 1667 career RBIs, be kept out of the hall? Only 7 men in the 100+ year history of the game have hit the ball over the fence more times. 7.
Some voters talk about the Hall of Fame being about more than just numbers, it’s about character. Well who had more character and was better for the game of the “steroid-tainted players” than Sammy Sosa? The guy loved baseball, loved the fans, and pulled a whole generation of Cubs fans through some dreadful years for the franchise. Barry Bonds on the other hand used PEDs and was a jerk. He hated the media, didn’t have any respect for his fans, and went about his business like he didn’t give a damn who was watching. Players like that forget that sports are all about the fans. It’s because of the fans that they have multi-million dollar contracts. Players like Sosa seem to have never forgotten that fact.
I’m probably biased being a kid growing up in Chicago, but I watched ever single game of the 1998 season, with the hopes of watching Sosa do his hop, skip, and jump before circling the bases. A barn outside of town had a huge sign called “The Sosa Scoreboard” that tracked every homer he hit. Few things in the history of the sport are more exciting or did more for the game than Sosa and McGwire chasing down the home run record.
So yes, just in case I haven’t been clear, I have a major problem with all the writers shunning the players from the steroid era, especially Sosa, and if I am granted a vote sometime in the near future, Sammy will definitely be number 1 on my list.