As we all know by now, no player was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. Whether you agree or disagree with the BBWAA’s decision, it was a pretty bold statement made by the writers. I am not going to argue for or against any one player that was on the ballot this year, or tell you if the writers made the right decision; what I am going to do is tell you how I would approach the next two decades worth of ballots, which will undoubtedly be the most difficult in Major League Baseball History.
I am twenty-four years old. That means that I grew up watching Baseball during the height of the Steroid-era (1995 to 2005). Those ten years were the darkest, dirtiest, and most riveting ten years in my Baseball-viewing lifetime. It was highlighted by power-arms, power-bats, power-records, and overgrown heads. And you know what? I loved it. Yes, looking back on the numbers, they are a joke. But that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be documented. And if I were a voting member of the BBWAA, that is the mentality I would have.
Baseball, more than any other sport, is a numbers game. Batting Average, Slugging Percentage, Hits, ERA, WHIP, Wins, Losses, Saves, (the list goes on)… are all dissected when voting on a player’s candidacy into the HOF. Unfortunately, the Steroid-era has devalued the “numbers” in Baseball’s history. I mean, how legitimate are Sammy Sosa’s 609 career Home Runs? Or Rafael Palmeiro being one of four members of the 500/3000 club (Does his name really belong next to Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Eddie Murray?) So for me, I have to almost entirely remove numbers when evaluating players during this era. Instead, I use the eye test: Who dominated the game? Who was the best player of his generation—a generation full of steroid users? For me, guys like Clemens, Bonds, Piazza, Maddux—the best of the best—are the Hall of Famers of the Steroid-era. If you evaluate on the numbers then you start to bring the Sosa’s and Palmeiro’s of the world into a Hall of Fame they are simply not worthy of.
Acceptance is the price of freedom; I believe is how the saying goes. I have accepted that steroids were rampant in Baseball during the 90’s and 2000’s. The Baseball Hall of Fame is a museum; it documents the history of Baseball. And part of that history is steroids. It is not the place of the voter to individually decide who did or did not do steroids based on speculation, a spike in numbers, or the size of their bicep. The only legitimate approach, in my opinion, is to either eliminate steroids from the equation or vote nobody in from that era. Any middle ground is not genuine.