|Are these guys headed for the Hall despite their baggage? (Getty Images)|
As part of our run-up to the Hall of Fame announcement on Wednesday, we've been categorizing active players in various Cooperstown-related ways.
This time out, we turn our attention to those active (or semi-active) players who have (or will soon have) credible cases for the Hall but who also have been stained by PED use, alleged or confessed.
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What with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens being on the current ballot, the PED discussion vis-à-vis the Hall of Fame is (too much) with us and not going away any time soon. As such, when these players hit the ballot over the course of the next decade (and perhaps beyond), voters will still be tasked with reconciling traditional notions of what makes a Hall-of-Fame player with the solemn moral concerns of the PED era (provided one feels sanctioned to indulge in such concerns). This, then, is a glimpse of what the future might hold for these candidates to come.
Bear in mind that these are not statements of merit. Rather, we're trying to gauge how BBWAA voters will balance the statistical records of these players with the knowledge of their possible or certain PED use.
To the names.
Reason for "asterisk": A 2011 positive test for elevated testosterone levels was thrown out on appeal.
The perception in some quarters is that Braun owes his overturned PED-related suspension to a technicality. That's a loaded and subjective term -- technicality -- but whatever you think of the underlying reasons, the reality is that Braun has never been disciplined for PED use. That might be enough for voters. As well, Braun, at age 29 and under contract through 2020, likely won't have his case evaluated until another generation of voters is in place. That voting body is likely to be less punitive toward players with a PED-marred past.
As for Braun's on-field merits, they're trending very much in the right direction. After all, he's a career .313/.374/.568 hitter and has 202 career homers entering his age-29 season, and Bill James's "favorite toy" formula tabs him for 414 career home runs. What might also augur well for Braun is that in 2012, even after his brush with a suspension, he still managed to finish second in the NL MVP balloting. If the BBWAA is presently inclined to blacklist him, it wasn't evident last year.
Will he get in? If the numbers are there, Braun gets in on first ballot.
Reason for "asterisk": Linked to BALCO investigation in Mitchell Report, testified in BALCO grand jury hearing that he took steroids and HGH, later publicly admitted using PEDs.
Giambi, much like Mark McGwire, is erroneously regarded as a "one-dimensional slugger." In reality, he has no fewer than two dimensions, and those two dimensions -- getting on base and hitting for power -- are the two most important things a hitter can do. If the 42-year-old Giambi is indeed done, then he'll end his career with 429 homers; 1,334 walks and a slash line of .280/.403/.522. In terms of raw value, he's a fringe candidate for the Hall. Throw in his history of PED use, and Giambi has almost no chance of making it. He was a great hitter, but he's not getting a plaque.
Will he get in? No.
Reason for "asterisk": Brian McNamee told Mitchell Report investigators that he injected Pettitte with HGH in 2002, and Pettitte later admitted to using HGH on two occasions as he recovered from an elbow injury and, via affidavit, again on two occasions in 2004.
For whatever reason, Pettitte has escaped the wrath that seems to follow most other confirmed PED users. Perhaps it was his admitting to it with the requisite levels of humility, or perhaps it was that Pettitte claimed he used HGH to recover from injury as opposed to elevating his natural performance baseline (a distinction without a difference, to be sure, but it might matter to some). The point is that the narrative hasn't clung to Pettitte as readily as it has to most other indulgent players. This isn't particularly fair, but it's reality.
On the merits, Pettitte is at best a borderline case. The JAWS system, for instance, rates Pettitte as falling short of established Hall standards in terms of career and peak. With that said, Pettitte remains a popular figure within the media, and his (somewhat undeserved) reputation as a clutch performer will likely win him more support than he should get. The guess here is that Pettitte goes in after a few years on the ballot despite his PED use and despite a less than clear-cut statistical case. Popularity contest and all that.
Will he get in? Yes, but not on the first ballot.
Reason for "asterisk": Suspended 50 games for use of fertility drug and artificial testosterone, also reportedly failed PED test during 2003 survey testing.
Ramirez is almost certainly retired, but he's not officially, so we'll lump him in with these names. The numbers are more than Hall-worthy: 555 homers; 154 OPS+ (26th all-time); 4,826 total bases (also 26th all-time); 4,012 times on base; and 1,122 extra-base hits (14th-most all-time). Simply put, Ramirez is on the short-list of the greatest right-handed hitters in baseball history.
If the story ended there, then he'd breeze in on the first ballot. But his history of PED use, his occasional indifference in the field and alleged history of violence make Ramirez's case more dubious. His reputation seems to be that of a player who repeatedly flouted baseball's attempts to curtail PED use, and that's why -- despite numbers that are plainly worthy -- he'll never be voted in by the BBWAA.
Will he get in? No.
Reason for "asterisk": Name leaked as having failed at least one anonymous survey test in 2003, subsequently admitted to using a banned substance from 2001 to 2003 after previously denying having done so.
To state the painfully obvious, A-Rod is a first-ballot Hall of Famer on the merits. He's an inner-circle guy and one of the 10 greatest players in baseball history. (He has a real shot at surpassing 3,000 hits and 700 home runs). The only unknown, insofar as his Cooperstown dossier is concerned, is to what extent BBWAA voters will ding him for PED use.
On that front, the fates of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will be instructive. Rodriguez is just as worthy as they are, but, unlike them, his career will not end under a persistent cloud of rumor and innuendo. As well, A-Rod, unlike Bonds and Clemens, had his public "truth-telling" moment in which he confessed and detailed his use. That should earn him points with those who demand acts of contrition. Barring further controversy, Rodriguez might have a shot at first-ballot induction, although a one-year "penalty" is certainly in play. Even if A-Rod doesn't play another game, he won't hit the ballot until 2017, and perceptions toward the use of banned substances could be different by then.
Will he get in? Yes, by a narrow margin on the first ballot.
Reason for "asterisk": Named in Mitchell Report by Kirk Radomski, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and sentenced to one year's probation.
Tejada's problem first and foremost is that he doesn't have the veneer of a Hall of Famer. The numbers make a compelling case: 109 OPS+; 2,362 hits; 304 homers; 463 doubles; almost 17,000 innings at shortstop; one AL MVP; eight All-Star appearances. As shortstops go, those numbers merit serious consideration, but Tejada, even if he weren't linked to the PED era, would suffer by comparison to positional contemporaries like Derek Jeter, A-Rod and Nomar Garciaparra. As well, you could argue that his peak was neither long enough nor "peaky" enough. For a number of traditionally minded voters, Tejada probably fails the "eyeball test" in that he doesn't make you bellow "Hall of Famer!" when you survey his life's work.
Throw in his criminal past, and Tejada has almost no chance of passing muster with the BBWAA.
Will he get in? No.
Coming Wednesday: A look at the age-26-and-under crowd and what they need to do to make it to Cooperstown.