The BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot for 2018 has been released and that means the time for Cooperstown debates is nigh. Getting an early start on things is Hall of Famer Joe Morgan. Morgan is in the conversation for the greatest second baseman of all time, and he went into the Hall on the first ballot in 1990.
Anyhow, it seems Morgan has emailed Hall voters in the Baseball Writers Association of America and asked them not to support those candidates linked to steroids. Writer Howard Bryant published Morgan's letter on Twitter ...
Teams lobby us to get their players into the HOF. This email from Joe Morgan arrived this AM to keep steroid users out... pic.twitter.com/BkLPJ8NUTK— Full Dissident (@hbryant42) November 21, 2017
And here's the text of the letter in full ...
The Hall of Fame is Special - A Letter from Joe Morgan
Over the years, I have been approached by many Hall of Fame members telling me we needed to do
something to speak out about the possibility of steroid users entering the Hall of Fame. This issue
has been bubbling below the surface for quite a while.
I hope you don't mind if I bring to your attention what I'm hearing.
Please keep in mind I don't speak for every single member of the Hall of Fame. I don't know how
everyone feels, but I do know how many of the Hall of Famers feel.
I, along with other Hall of Fame Baseball players, have the deepest respect for you and all the writers who vote to decide who enters Baseball's most hallowed shrine, the National Baseball Hall of Fame. For some 80 years, the men and women of the BBWAA have cast ballots that have made the Hall into the wonderful place it is.
I think the Hall of Fame is special. There is a sanctity to being elected to the Hall. It is revered. It is
the hardest Hall of Fame to enter, of any sport in America.
But times change, and a day we all knew was coming has now arrived. Players who played during
the steroid era have become eligible for entry into the Hall of Fame.
The more we Hall of Famers talk about this - and we talk about it a lot - we realize we can no longer
sit silent. Many of us have come to think that silence will be considered complicity. Or that fans
might think we are ok if the standards of election to the Hall of Fame are relaxed, at least relaxed
enough for steroid users to enter and become members of the most sacred place in Baseball. We
don't want fans ever to think that.
We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame. They
cheated. Steroid users don't belong here.
Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League
Baseball's investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in. Those
are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.
Now, I recognize there are players identified as users on the Mitchell Report who deny they were
users. That's why this is a tricky issue. Not everything is black and white - there are shades of gray
here. It's why your job as a voter is and has always been a difficult and important job. I have faith in
your judgment and know that ultimately, this is your call.
But it still occurs to me that anyone who took body-altering chemicals in a deliberate effort to cheat
the game we love, not to mention they cheated current and former players, and fans too, doesn't
belong in the Hall of Fame. By cheating, they put up huge numbers, and they made great players
who didn't cheat look smaller by comparison, taking away from their achievements and consideration for the Hall of Fame. That's not right.
And that's why I, and other Hall of Famers, feel so strongly about this.
It's gotten to the point where Hall of Famers are saying that if steroid users get in, they'll no longer
come to Cooperstown for Induction Ceremonies or other events. Some feel they can't share a stage
with players who did steroids. The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame
too. The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will
divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn't bear.
Section 5 of the Rules for Election states, "Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing
ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player
I care about how good a player was or what kind of numbers he put up; but if a player did steroids,
his integrity is suspect; he lacks sportsmanship; his character is flawed; and, whatever contribution
he made to his team is now dwarfed by his selfishness.
Steroid use put Baseball through a tainted era where records were shattered. "It was a steroidal
farce," wrote Michael Powell in the New York Times. It is no accident that those records held up for
decades until the steroid era began, and they haven't been broken since the steroid era ended.
Sadly, steroids worked.
Dan Naulty was a journeyman pitcher in the late 1990s who admitted he took steroids, noting that his fastball went from 87 to 96. He told Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci in 2012, "I was a full-blown
cheater, and I knew it. You didn't need a written rule. I was violating clear principles that were laid
down within the rules. I understood I was violating implicit principles."
The Hall of Fame has always had its share of colorful characters, some of whom broke or bent
society's rules in their era. By today's standards, some might not have gotten in. Times change and
society improves. What once was accepted no longer is.
But steroid users don't belong here. What they did shouldn't be accepted. Times shouldn't change
for the worse.
Steroid users knew they were taking a drug that physically improved how they played. Taking
steroids is a decision. It's the deliberate act of using chemistry to change how hard you hit and throw by changing what your body is made of.
I and other Hall of Famers played hard all our lives to achieve what we did. I love this game and am
proud of it. I hope the Hall of Fame's standards won't be lowered with the passage of time.
For over eighty years, the Hall of Fame has been a place to look up to, where the hallowed halls
honor those who played the game hard and right. I hope it will always remain that way.
Not much ambiguity there, as Morgan calls for players who have failed PED tests, admitted to using banned substances or been named in the Mitchell Report to be kept out of the Hall. With regard to this year's ballot, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield were named in the Mitchell Report; Manny Ramirez tested positive for banned substances on multiple occasions; and Sammy Sosa, who's often lumped with this group, checks off none of Morgan's boxes.
In any event, Morgan invoking the "hallowed" status of the Hall is a bit curious for a couple of reasons. One, he has time and again stumped for Pete Rose's admission to the Hall. Regardless of how you feel about that, Rose's gambling is at least as much of a blight upon baseball as anyone else's PED use. Second, the era in which Morgan played was rife with amphetamine use, and amphetamines are of course now banned substances. That's because they're of particular use in maintaining focus and by extension skill level over baseball's interminable season. Of course, PED users are already in the Hall of Fame. Also, survey the list of those named on the Mitchell Report, and you'll find a number of utterly forgettable big-leaguers. The idea that using PEDs yields greatness is a drastic oversimplification.
Despite Morgan's claims, there's nothing "hallowed" about the Hall. It houses baseball greatness (and not even that, in some cases), but there's some overlap with unsavory elements on a number of levels. It's a museum that should tell the story of the game, not a gallery of saints. To pretend it's the latter for purposes of excluding those who used PEDs different from your generation's preferred substances is ... convenient in the extreme.