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To vote or not to vote, that is the questionPosted Wednesday, December 28, 2011, at 9:40 AM
This morning as I sat down going through many of the columns and blogs that hit the Internet overnight I read one that really caught my eye and encouraged me to share my thoughts.
The column was by Ken Davidoff of Newsday and is entitled, "Why even an illegal PED confession shouldn't be relevant to the Hall of Fame."
I won't re-hash what he said, but I do recommend hunting it down to read. However, the majority of it centered around how he didn't vote for Mark McGwire his first three years of eligibility.
First I want to explain how the voting process works. New players on the ballot have to have been out of baseball for at least five years. Also on the ballot are individuals from last year who received at least five-percent of the vote.
This is where the dreadful subject of PEDs comes into play. There are at least 5 individuals on the ballot, each of whom, statistically speaking, "should" make the ballot. They are Mark McGwire, Jeff Bagwell, Larry Walker, Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez. The problem is, that each one of these players has a troubling similarity. They have either been accused, found or believed to be tied to performance enhancing drugs.
There are several schools of thought on the issue. One has to do with illegality or the idea that regardless of their performance, anyone committing illegal activity should not be allowed in the Hall of Fame.
The third school of thought says that a player should be judged solely on his contribution to the game and performance on the field.
While I generally subscribe to the last one, it does come with it's issues.
1. Open the floodgates - Once of these guys makes it into the hall, you'll have to accept them all. You can't bring in McGwire and not expect to welcome Barry Bonds. The only possible argument there is that Bonds was convicted.
2. Is there a limit? - When taking this into consideration we also have to look at why they are believed to have used PEDs. Was it a confession, was he mentioned by Jose Canseco in Juiced or is it just a hunch. Davidoff pointed out that the problem is we will never know. McGwire confessed. We know he did it. What about guys who have not and likely never will confess? Do we know they did anything wrong at all? Is a hunch a reasonable reason to bar them from Cooperstown (See Bagwell)?
3. To what extent did they use? - Was their use something that went on for the majority of their career or a couple seasons?
4. How did it affect their career? - Mark McGwire pointed out once that steroids and other PEDs don't affect how you see the ball. While it might help you work out, mass yourself up and maybe add a few feet to your balls, that doesn't mean you can hit the ball. In McGwire's case, whether it's a 500' bomb or a 405' lob over centerfield it's still a homerun. Remember, there is a reason they names Big Mac Land for McGwire. How many other people have you seen hit homeruns up there...regularly? Even if you shave 30' off of his bombs, they're still, in most cases bombs (of course, number 62 in 1998 just barely cleared the fence, but where would baseball be without that moment.)
5. What was their contribution to the game? - McGwire and Sosa, regardless of their involvement in the dark part of the game, played an important role in the revival of baseball. After the strike of 1994-5, baseball still hadn't recovered. Attendance was low and so were television ratings. The fans were mad.
The Homerun race of 1998 changed all of that. The magic of that season brought back numerous fans including many who had never watched a game in their life. McDonalds gave out baseballs, every gas station and department store in the country had all sorts of goodies with their faces on them and even soccer moms were spitting out baseball statistics like they had memorized the Baseball Almanac. Those two men, regardless of other factors, saved the game of baseball. They brought me, an at that time 18-year-old young man, back to the game. For that, I am eternally grateful.
While that alone is not enough to earn induction, I feel that the hall ignoring it is a travesty.
6. One last point - Drugs have been in the game for many, many years. The use of marijuana to ease pain after a game or cocaine for energy has been in the game as far back as anyone can remember. There's a reason we don't know if any of the biggest players in the history of the game used drugs: they were never tested. Neither was Bagwell, but thanks to "rumors" he may never make the cut.
It's important to put these things into perspective and understand that the 1980s and 1990s were not the only period in baseball history that players "did whatever necessary" to improve their game. I won't deny that it was likely worse in that period, but the drive to be better has always been present and sadly always will. To literally demonize a generation of players is not the answer.
I'm not in any way condoning the use of these drugs and I hope this doesn't come off that way. I am, however, just asking people to be realistic. I hate writing about this subject, but at least once a year I feel drawn to make my case.
I'd like to end this with a question: Will those who wouldn't vote for McGwire turn around and vote for Alex Rodriguez who also confessed to using PEDs?
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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.
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