Why, Despite Cheating, Sosa and Others Should Be in Hall of Fame
Not that this came as a big surprise, but a report has surfaced that Slammin’ Sammy Sosa tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003. Now that Sosa has been implicated, every single player that has topped Maris’ mark of 61 home runs has either tested positive for, has allegedly tested positive for, or won’t deny using some form of performance-enhancing drugs or steroids.
Remember the 2005 hearing before a congressional committee, where Sammy’s lawyer read a statement on behalf of Sosa? “To be clear, I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs…. I have been tested as recently as 2004, and I am clean.” The alleged failed test in 2003 now opens the door to perjury charges similar to those in the Bonds faces.
That magical summer of 1998 seems like a distant nightmare now. Both McGwire and Sosa have been linked to performance-enhancing drugs, and neither seems willing to explain what exactly happened. Maybe we all should have suspected something was afoul when a record that stood for 37 years was broken by two different sluggers of mammoth body proportions in the same season. We certainly should have suspected something when Bonds broke the record only a meager three years later.
The word from the experts is that the players who have been implicated will not be voted into the Hall of Fame. Mark McGwire has seen himself get between 21% and 24% of the vote on his three Hall of Fame ballots, far short of the 75% needed for entry. Sosa, Clemens, Palmeiro, and Bonds will be joining Big Mac on the Hall of Fame ballots in the next couple years. One has to wonder if their appearances will help or hurt McGwire. Perhaps the voters will start voting on the players based on their statistics and not the speculations as to how much performance-enhancing drugs or steroids aided those statistics. Only time will tell.
I remember going to Cooperstown as a young boy with my dad. He is a baseball enthusiast, and I grew up a Pirate fan because that was his team. In Cooperstown, I asked him to show me who his favorite players were when he was a young boy himself. He took me immediately to Roberto Clemente’s plaque and said, “This guy is the greatest player I ever saw play. He had the best arm in baseball and often would overthrow home from deep right field. But what made him the best player was his character.” My dad went on to explain to me how Clemente died tragically in an airplane crash, trying to deliver relief to the people of Nicaragua. Clemente reached the plateau of 3,000 career hits less than three months before the crash. That was the day when my dad taught me that, while a player might be adored by the fans for what he does on the field, it’s what he does off the field that matters most.
I sit and wonder what will happen many years down the road when I take my kids or grandkids to Cooperstown. What will I say to them when they ask the same question of me? Will Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, etc. even be in the Hall of Fame? Will I have to explain to them that the greatest players in my era are not enshrined here because they cheated? Will that be the moment where I teach my children and grandchildren that cheaters never win?
What I hope happens is that MLB and the Hall of Fame erects a special wing for the players of the Steroid Era. The voters can then elect the players based on their normal criteria and ignore any suspicions of the players cheating. This will be unfair to the guys like Craig Biggio or Ken Griffey Jr. that have never been associated with performance-enhancing drugs, but it’s really the only way to do it. On the plaques of the players who have tested positive, a brief explanation will be written stating what tests were failed and the years they failed them.
|The Most Home Runs Hit Since 1980 (Through June 20, 2009)|
|* Implicated/proven to use PEDs1 active in 2009|
As much as we all hate to admit it, the Steroid Era is as much a part of baseball history as Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and all the other great players that played the game. The Hall of Fame is a museum. The mission statement of the Hall reads as follows: “The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is a not-for-profit educational institution dedicated to fostering an appreciation of the historical development of the game and its impact on our culture by collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting its collections for a global audience, as well as honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to our National Pastime.” The mission statement goes on to say that it is committed to several things, including “honoring, by enshrinement, those individuals who had exceptional careers, and recognizing others for their significant achievements.”
Looking at the numbers of the players of that have been caught enhancing their performance, one can’t help but admit that the players in question have had “exceptional careers.” Nowhere in its mission statement does the Hall mention anything about not allowing entrance to players that have cheated. I understand that many feel that leaving out the cheaters would preserve the purity and integrity of the sport. One of the many forseeable problems with this mindset is that there might not be any proof for some players, just high suspicions. Technically, Mark McGwire has never tested positive for a banned substance, but we suspect that he used steroids based on his body size and his refusal to talk about the subject. Putting McGwire aside, can we afford the possibility of leaving out a clean, deserving player on just a hunch?
Let’s not kid ourselves; more of the 104 names that failed the 2003 “anonymous” test will be leaked. Another superstar’s image will be forever tarnished when it surfaces. As a fan, I can only hope that Ken Griffey Jr., my favorite player of the era, never turns up as one of the players on this list. Like many other baseball fans though, I have become increasingly skeptical of every player that played in the era. I remember laughing at the notion that 50% of players were using performance-enhancing drugs in 1996 when Caminiti made that estimation. Now, I’m starting to think that Caminiti was on to something and the number might have ballooned even higher in the eight years up to 2004.
Major League Baseball needs to be applauded for the steps they have taken to end the Steroid Era. Sure, it’s easy to take a shot or two at them for taking their good old time, and even promoting steroid use with ads like Chicks Dig the Long Ball. But MLB has stepped up their testing policies and now they have one of the toughest of the major American sports. The cheaters will always try to be one step ahead of the testing with new masking agents being produced constantly, but MLB has finally done what they needed to do in terms of setting a deterrence standard for players.
One can only hope that the Hall of Fame does what is best for the sport, whatever it is they decide, and that baseball can be celebrated, both good times and bad, for many generations to come. Baseball will always be known as America’s pastime… let’s just hope there is a bright future for the game so many love.
Published 6/28/2009 by Chris Capcara
Tiny URL for this post: