Blog Entry

2013 Hall class to raise questions

Posted on: January 9, 2012 2:57 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 3:52 pm
Barry Bonds

By C. Trent Rosecrans

If steroids have clouded the Hall of Fame voting the last few years, a hurricane is coming in 2013. 

While the Hall of Fame is the ultimate honor for a baseball player, we all know there's a difference between the Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays Hall of Famers and the Phil Rizzuto, Andre Dawson, Jim Rice Hall of Famers. While Jeff Bagwell, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro were probably better than the later group, they certainly don't belong with the former. That changes next year.

Hall of Fame coverage

In December, members of the Baseball Writers Association of America that are eligible to vote for the Hall of Fame will receive their ballot and on that ballot will be baseball's career home run leader and perhaps its greatest pitcher. While most voters agonize over their votes and research each and every name in front of them, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens shouldn't take time. In a perfect world, a world where the only considerations are on the page, more time would be spent putting ink to paper than actually breaking down the candidacy of Bonds and Clemens.

This, as we know, is not a perfect world. And the Hall of Fame debate, which has always been hotly contested, takes on a different debate with the class of 2013. For the first time not only will Bonds and Clemens be eligible for the Hall, so too will Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza. While Sosa and Piazza aren't in the same class as Bonds and Clemens, they do have 1,036 homers between them and without allegations of steroid use, they'd be no-doubters as well.

As long as the Hall doesn't have any guidelines for the voting bloc, there will be a mixture of four types of voters when it comes to steroids:

1. Hardline no: These are the folks who don't vote for Bagwell. If there's even a rumor about a player having a zit on their back, these defenders of the Hall will keep a player out.

2. Proof only: Here's where it gets tricky -- some voters want hard evidence before they keep a player out. But what's the line here? Is it a failed test like Palmeiro? Or is it overwhelming evidence such as the cases against Bonds and Clemens? And then what about the Mitchell Report? Is that good enough? And then there's other ties, like Sammy Sosa, who was never suspended and not in the Mitchell Report, but just about everyone suspects he used.

3. Worthy before PEDs: Then there's the "he was a Hall of Famer before steroids." This is the argument you can use to OK Bonds and Clemens, while rejecting the likes of McGwire and Sosa. This, though, assumes you can tell when a player started using steroids just by their head growth or some other assumed symptom.

4. Numbers voters: Finally there are those who say the only thing we know is the results that were on the field. We don't know the extent of steroid use during the so-called steroid era or how much the results were changed by their usage or even who exactly did or did not use them. 

In the end, the results are likely to say more about the voting bloc than the players themselves -- and as many people who get upset about the voting every year will get louder next year as the steroid question will divide almost all baseball fans. Here's a quick look at the new players who will be on the 2013 ballot:

Craig Biggio -- Biggio finished his career with 3,060 hits and nearly 300 home runs (291). The seven-time All-Star put up a career line of .281/.363/.433. He started his career at catcher before moving to second base and was the face of the Astros, playing 20 years in Houston. And despite his close association with Bagwell during their playing days, he hasn't been associated with Bagwell's alleged steroid use. In the end, his squeaky-clean image could do as much to aid his Hall candidacy as his numbers.

Barry BondsBarry Bonds -- And this is where it gets real. Bonds has more home runs (762) in the history of the game, had a career OPS of 1.051. A seven-time MVP, Bonds may be the best hitter in the history of the game. And then there's Game of Shadows and BALCO -- the baggage surrounding Bonds is as big as his batting helmet. The common belief is Bonds didn't start using steroids until seeing the hoopla around Sosa and McGwire in 1998, and by that time he already had three MVPs under his belt. A great player and future Hall of Famer before the 1998 season, he hit 351 home runs from 1999-2007, breaking McGwire's single-season mark with 73 home runs in 2001.

Roger Clemens -- Like Bonds, Clemens had a Hall of Fame career before suspicion of steroids. Clemens had three Cy Young Awards in his first eight seasons, before going on to win four more later in his career. Clemens finished his carer with a 354-184 mark, a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third all-time after Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson.

Steve Finley -- The outfielder had a solid 19-year career, picking up 2,548 hits, 304 home runs and 320 stolen bases, to go along with five Gold Gloves. A fine career, but not a Hall-worthy one.

Julio Franco -- Franco's a better candidate for Ripley's Believe It or Not than the Hall of Fame. Franco played his last game at the reported age of 49 in 2007. In his 23 seasons, he hit .298/.365/.417, collecting 2,586 hits. In addition to his 23 seasons in the big leagues, he had two years in Japan, another in Korea and played his last season in Mexico. A three-time All-Star, he also won a batting title in 1991 with a .341 average. He won't be voted into the Hall, but he had one amazing career.

Roberto Hernandez -- A closer, Hernandez finished his career with 326 saves and a 3.45 ERA. He had a good career, but is unlikely to stay on the ballot more than one year.

Kenny Lofton -- Because Lofton played in the steroid era, his talents may be under-appreciated. A leadoff man, Lofton finished with a .299/.372/.423 line, stole 622 bases and had 2,428 hits. He also had 130 homers, winning four Gold Gloves and appearing in six All-Star Games. A premier defensive player, Lofton has a better case than you'd think at first glance.

Jose Mesa -- Mesa's numbers are just a tick below Hernandez's, finishing with 321 saves and a 4.36 ERA.

Mike PiazzaMike Piazza -- If there are whispers, but no proof, that Bagwell used steroids, there are shouts that Piazza did, despite the same lack of hard evidence. The best offensive catcher of the modern era, Piazza had 427 home runs and hit .308/.377/.545 in his 16 seasons. He wasn't considered a good catcher, but that was beside the point -- Piazza was a middle of the order presence. Without steroids involved in the discussion, there's no discussion of whether he's in or not. But that's not the world we live in.

Curt Schilling -- Jack Morris' candidacy has been built largely on his postseason exploits -- and with all due respect to Morris, he can't hold a candle to Schilling's postseason accomplishments. Morris was 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA in 13 postseason starts. Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 in 19 postseason starts, winning four of his seven World Series starts. In 20 years in the big leagues, Schilling was 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA, but that was done in a much better offensive era than Morris' 3.90 ERA. Injuries throughout his career kept his career numbers down, but his candidacy will be heavily debated from both sides -- and in a rarity, it may be an old-fashioned baseball debate, not one about steroids.

Sammy Sosa -- Sosa will likely be remembered as much for his sudden inability to speak English when facing Congress as his 609 home runs. He's the only player to hit 60 or more home runs in three different seasons, but he didn't lead the league in homers in any of those three seasons. He reportedly tested positive during the 2003 PED survey test. On sheer numbers, he's tough to pass up, but with the steroid question, he's unlikely to get in.

David Wells -- Wells no doubt got bigger throughout his career, but the belief is he did it the old fashioned way -- by eating. Never small, Wells went 239-157 for nine different teams in parts of 21 seasons, but his 4.13 ERA will make him easy to keep out of the Hall of Fame. He was 10-5 with a 3.17 ERA in 27 postseason games and 17 starts.

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Since: Mar 21, 2008
Posted on: January 11, 2012 12:35 pm

2013 Hall class to raise questions

Thanks, it looks like we were thinking along the same lines.  Equally well put!

Since: Mar 29, 2007
Posted on: January 11, 2012 12:22 pm

2013 Hall class to raise questions

Well said, Fred! THAT should have been the article.

Since: Mar 21, 2008
Posted on: January 11, 2012 11:08 am

What the Hall means to each of us...

I think that the controversy starts with the fundamental difference we all have for the purpose of the Hall of Fame.

If you feel that the Hall is to honor players, then you don't want cheaters in it.  And that's fair, logical, and justifiable.

If you fell that the Hall is meant to be a record of the game, then you want anyone who's accomplishments are worthy in there.  Equally justifiable, logical, and fair.

In the end, I think that we all grew up looking at the Hall as a collection of heroes; men who were bigger than life accomplishing things over periods of time that were longer than our lives.  When I was a kid at Cooperstown, I walked around with a reverance I had previously reserved for time in church.  I learned about men who had lived and died before I was born that made the game what it was.  Then I grew up.

I learned that Ty Cobb was a racist, Babe Ruth was a womanizer and possibly alcoholic, that Joe DiMaggio was jealous and probably hated Mickey Mantle, himself an alcoholic.  And I was thankful that I had known the greatness of these men while I was still naive enough to appreciate it.

We're all human, and before I'm raked over the coals, I completely recognize that there are different degrees of offenses and poor choices.  Alcohol, womanizing, sandpaper, spit balls, vaseline, greenies, cocaine, andro, the Clear, the Cream.  I'm glad that I didn't have to learn about these until I was an adult, because how then could any kid ever have a hero?  If you dig down far enough for just about anyone, you'll find some flaw or question at to whether that individual is worthy enough to be a hero to a child.

The thing is, when you were a kid, did you need perfection?  Is that what inspired you in the first place?  Or did you just want to be able to hit and run like the Mick?  Did you practice Sammy Sosa's home run trot, or how he shot himself full of juice?

I'm not saying that Bonds, McGwire, Palmeiro, Sosa, Clemens, or anyone else needs to be in.  I will say live and let live, let everyone have their own opinion about being worthy of the Hall.  And if they get in, and you disagree, teach your kids the whole story.  Let them know about how these great man who accomplished so much were never able to enjoy what they did with their life's efforts because of the choices they made.  That success without honor is empty.  These men can still teach our kids, and may be more powerful lessons in the eyes of a child than any of us can ever fully appreciate.

Since: Mar 29, 2007
Posted on: January 11, 2012 10:54 am

2013 Hall class to raise questions

Im really happy I took the time to read all of the responses to this article. Delighted to see that I'm not the only one who realizes that "worshipping" the players of the past is a naive load of garbage. This just in- they were flawed! Sports figures throughout time have been less than perfect, just like everyone else. Nobody knows or will ever know all the "cheating" that has gone on. Thank you 27outs and others, for your well thought-out and well expressed opinions. While I love the history of the game, I have no dillusions, because I'm not a 12-year-old anymore. The people who I have the most frustration with are the writers. A bigger group of hypocrites does not exist. 90% made their names, $$$ and jobs off of MacGwire and Sosa, all the while knowing exactly what was going on, and now act like they're disgusted with them. Put the guys in the HOF who deserve to be there. Don't worry about special "wings" or "asterics". Everybody knows what happened and it will be discussed by fathers and sons, just like the Black Sox and Pete Rose. Put them all in- even if it's bad, it's part of the game and part of our history. This isn't a storybook-it's real life. And getting in the HOF isn't for the recipient. Of course they like it, but it's for us, not them. It's not a reward, it's for history of the game. As for our kids, if you really believe a PED user getting or not getting into the HOF will be the difference maker, then you don't understand kids at all. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that there is testing now, and I agree with the punishments for current players. But don't punish the past- learn from it.

Since: Oct 28, 2009
Posted on: January 11, 2012 10:48 am

2013 Hall class to raise questions

I also feel that any player that used steroids during the steroid era should be allowed to enter the hall. These players were responsible for the revival baseball has had the past decade. These guys risked their lives taking substances to improve their stats for themselves but also us, the fans. The fans didnt care that McGwire, Sammy and Barry were juicing. We all enjoyed the impressive bombs they hit and it made baseball enjoyable again. Its not cheating if the rules allow it! Now there are stricter rules that dont allow steroid and performance enhancing use, but to punish the guys playing and using during the steroid eraa would be a shame, especially when the majority of voters (MLB's current players, retired players and media's) pockets got fatter and fatter during the statistical boom.

Since: May 16, 2011
Posted on: January 11, 2012 10:45 am

2013 Hall class to raise questions

As the article states, Lofton has a better case for the HOF than you may realize. He is 15th all-time in stolen bases and the all-time leader in postseason stolen bases. Career ave. just below .300, almost 2500 hits and over 100 HRs, which is very good for a speed leadoff guy. Six AS games and finihsed 4th in MVP voting in 1994. Four gold gloves and was voted one of the 10 best outfielders of the 1990s at a time when speed and defense was unervalued in favour of roided up goons. He may be one of those guys who stays on the ballot for ten years and like Allan Trammel considered just slighly less than HOF worthy but he will definitely be in the conversation. If Tim Raines gets in then I think Lofton has a pretty good chance as well eventually.

Since: Mar 13, 2008
Posted on: January 11, 2012 10:40 am

2013 Hall class to raise questions

    If you would only STOP trying to make excuses for the Druggies I think we would all agree who belongs in the HOF....That is to say that no one who was juiced up should bew now or never......

Since: Nov 25, 2008
Posted on: January 11, 2012 10:11 am

2013 Hall class to raise questions

I couldn't have said it better myself.  I think the majority of people who say induct these grotesque cheaters have only seen steroid era baseball.  The stats and records are what makes baseball great.  To have lost that has litterally ruined the game for eternity.  Certainly more damaging than Pete Rose. 

Since: Feb 25, 2009
Posted on: January 11, 2012 10:07 am

2013 Hall class to raise questions

There is nothing more insufferable than a bunch of pious, sanctimonious Hall of Fame Baseball writers. A steroid user that performed like a hall of famer is a hall of famer- Bonds especially. Steroids were not even banned in the collective bargaining agreeement until after this whole mess exploded. Owners encouraged offensive production by bringing in the fences and providing an incentive to use by rewarding steroid users with bloated contracts for hitting all those home runs-Plus repeated expansion diluted the pitchers... Who wouldn't use steroids with all those potential millions out there and the fact that the union and the owners tacitly encouraged the players? BONDS is a first ballot Hall of Famer. PERIOD.
Can't say it any better. Cheating is as old as baseball. Nobody knows how many really used PEDs, as they were virtually encouraged by owners and commish. If it was much more commonplace (say over 50%) was it still cheating, or just keeping yourself competitive ? 

Baseball screwed it but putting head into sand for so many years. It is not player's fault. Selig and owners are who are to be blamed. Well, Selig should be banned for life.

Since: Nov 25, 2008
Posted on: January 11, 2012 10:06 am

2013 Hall class to raise questions

I couldn't agree with you more.  HArold Baines belongs in the Hall of Fame and in my opinion should have been inducted long ago.

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