Steroids aren’t baseball’s first unethical ‘rodeo’Published 12:01am Sunday, January 13, 2013
For only the eighth time since 1936, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America elected no one into the National Baseball Hall of Fame after Wednesday’s vote.
Names like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa — household names to baseball fans who grew up watching in the 1990s — were left on the outside looking in. Fifteen years ago, that would have seemed unfathomable.
But baseball’s black eye, appropriately dubbed the Steroid Era, casts a cloud of suspicion on any and all extraordinary players that stood out during that time period. With most of those players being linked to performance enhancing drugs, the shutout is not surprising, as many of the writers have spoken out and strongly condemned those with ties to PEDs.
Piazza will likely get in eventually, as little suspicion has surrounded him concerning steroid use. For the rest of those guys, two schools of thought prevail among fans of the game.
One faction feels as though these players should be permanently locked out of the hall of fame. They cheated, and much like participants in the infamous Black Sox scandal, they forever deserve to be shut out from baseball’s most glorious shrine.
The other faction feels that, despite whatever boost in performance steroids may have given these players, it still doesn’t make sense to leave some of the best players in baseball history, statistically speaking, out of the hall.
There are a couple of glaring flaws in singling out players from the Steroid Era, the first of which is the idea that this era is now over. Sure, drug testing has improved considerably, but this only naturally leads to escalation: You develop a test for Drug A, the drug companies develop Drug B that cannot be tested for. Then when you develop a test for Drug B, drug companies develop Drug C, and so on and so forth. I firmly believe that a great many players in today’s Major League Baseball climate are still using PEDs, or have at some point, even if they didn’t play during the 1990s.
Furthermore, how is this any different than the use of amphetamines that were rampant in baseball during the 1960s? Hank Aaron, the “true home run king,” has admitted to using amphetamines. Why does he get a free pass for this, while Bonds is met with almost universal disdain?
I often chuckle when former players speak out so strongly against those who used steroids. These players act as if they can say, with 100 percent certainty, that they wouldn’t have used PEDs themselves had the drugs been available when they played. Such claims ignore how deeply rooted steroids were in the culture of baseball during the Steroid Era, the peer pressure of “trying to keep up” with the other players and overall loose nature regarding PEDS at the time.
Had the technology for instant replay been available when professional baseball first started being played, I have no doubt it would have been implemented. Likewise, I have little doubt the majority of players from earlier eras would have used PEDs had they been available. The amphetamine culture of the 1960s testifies to this.
So what do we do about players from the Steroid Era? It’s simple: If they were good enough for the hall of fame without steroids, let them in and state that they were linked to PEDs. That means Bonds, Clemens, Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez should get in. McGuire and Sosa, not so much.
It’s time to take off the blinders and accept the cold, hard reality. The Steroid Era happened, and is likely still happening to a degree. It’s also not the first time players ever tried to do something unethical to gain a competitive advantage, and it won’t be the last. Singling out certain players that played in the ’90s and early 2000s makes no sense.