Yankees Fan Analysis: The HOF Should Never Admit Known Steroid Users


Yankees fans have noted the recently concluded Hall of Fame voting and the Great Debate is on-going: to vote or not to vote for steroid users. The arguments for letting the cheaters in, however, have been built on convenience and our ever-sliding values. It is time to make a better choice.

What is the Hall of Fame? That seems to be the question at the heart of the discussion about admitting PED users. Is the HOF hallowed ground reserved for the greatest players and best men to ever play the game or merely a record of the accomplishments of the era? Those who see it as a record want to make sure it includes the players with the best numbers, no matter how those numbers were arrived at.

But what they fail to see is that the Hall of Fame does not, and does not need to, serve that pedantic role. That is for the record books. Barry Bonds’ home runs and former Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens’ wins are well noted by the Elias Sports Bureau. If anyone wants to know who hit the most home runs in a season, or had the most strike-outs, during the era, that information is recorded for posterity. Mission Accomplished.

No, the title makes it clear: Hall of FAME. Clearly, the implication is that your significant accomplishments on the field make you worthy of consideration to be famous. Before we celebrate you and display your image and career forever, we want to make sure you arrived at your numbers fairly. We want to make sure you are worthy of being pointed to and say, “Look at him. Do what he did.”

That is why the character clause is in the guidelines. The idea is that your on-field numbers are the starting point for consideration, not the ending. When you cheat the game to win, you are doing exactly the opposite of what it means to be a role model, and we should never encourage anyone to be like you.

Sins of the Fathers

Students of the game might be thinking of one name right now as a solid rebuttal to my argument: Ty Cobb. He might be the worst person in the Hall of Fame. He played to injure people, got into a fight with a fan in the stands, and killed someone. But he is in the Hall so why not someone who took steroids?

First, if he played today, I think his actions outside of the game would disqualify him. Think of Curt Schilling.

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But even if his life should disqualify Cobb from the Hall of Fame we should apply good basic morality: two wrongs don’t make a right. There is no reason to let in more bad people just because one or more is already inside. Also, while his sins were worse, they were not directed at baseball.

Let’s compare to another sport: marathon running. What would you say if you knew, or had very strong evidence, that a runner had cheated? The runner checked in, got a number, and then got in a car and drove to within a half-mile of the finish line. The person gets out and crosses the line with the best time in the history of the sport.

Would you vote this person into the Marathon Hall of Fame? It seems as if some writers would say yes, that no matter how you get a number, we consider it valid and worthy of promoting.

Common Sense

Some would say they will not vote only if they have direct and definitive proof. Again, think of our runner again. One year before he finished in the middle of the best group, was declining in ability, and past his prime.

What reasons do the writers see this historic jump and record? How did this very good to great runner suddenly, in the middle of his career, become the greatest of all time?

Clearly, there had to be a reason. That jump should make them suspicious. Instead, they seem to shrug and say they cannot say for sure how this happened so there can be no punishment. But as soon as you decide they must have cheated the game to accomplish their goals, they are disqualified from the Hall of Fame.

History Matters

In the history of the sport for 100 years, until the 1990’s, there were exactly two 60-plus home run seasons: former Yankees greats, Babe Ruth hit 60 (27) and Roger Maris hit 61 (61). That’s it. Jimmie

Roger Maris as he belts record-breaking home run #61, passing Babe Ruth on the single-season list. (Photo courtest SportsThenAndNow.com) /

Foxx never did it. Yankees Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle never did it. Willie Mays never did it. Hank Greenberg never did it. And the two who did do it did so almost 30 years apart from each other. It is hard and rare.

And yet Barry Bonds did it. Mark McGwire did it twice. Sammy Sosa did it three times. Coincidentally, they all did at the same time, 1998-2001. Now I wonder why this happened? Not seeing the reason should make me more suspicious, not less. And once you conclude that Sammy Sosa must have cheated and you will not vote for him, why would you vote for Bonds or Clemens?

One particular note here about Bonds. I am tired of hearing writers, and talk show hosts lump him in with those against whom there is no evidence. Read Game of Shadows. It has the same kind of evidence in the Dowd Report, and these same writers and talk show hosts believe that document.

One special note about the sizes of ballparks. That is another reason often given about home runs in the steroid era. The thinking is that ballparks got smaller and so there were more home runs. But the vast majority of ballparks from the 90’s still exist. Why have the home run totals returned to normal? And Sosa hit his homers in Wrigley. That park has not changed since before the Harding administration but Sosa did something Ernie Banks never did. Why?

This is the Court of Public Opinion

People cheated to get the best numbers, and now certain writers seek to say that no matter how you accomplished your goals, you get to be famous for it. I disagree. This is not the Hall of Infamy.

The next argument is that steroid users are already in the Hall of Fame. Or that the writers do not definitively know who did or did not take PED’s. And since we cannot catch all of them, we should not punish any of them. This is a complete recapitulation of their moral responsibilities and betrays their moral values.

I would like to ask those writers, in what other areas of life would you apply this thinking? Would you tell your kids that is okay to cheat because other kids cheat and do not get caught? I doubt it. Do your kids not have to listen to you because some kids do not listen to their parents? If your home was broken into and you and your spouse were physically assaulted, in any way, would you not press charges because some criminals are never caught?

For some reason, they will not apply the rules and logic from their lives to their professional considerations.


The writers should try to focus on simple values, like consequences for actions. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens may have been on their ways to the Hall of Fame without steroids.

Then they decided to cheat the game.

Now, they are barred from being a part of that august group. That is a philosophy that can be applied everywhere in their lives uniformly. That is how you know you have arrived at a good philosophy to live by: you can apply it to how you live your life.

Although there are many strong arguments against allowing cheaters into the Hall of Fame, I will only go into one more in this article: the history of the game. One of the beautiful aspects of Baseball is that the game has not changed much since 1900.

There were several significant differences before the modern era but not many since then. There are now night games, teams in new cities and the sizes of ballparks has gone up and down, for example. Interesting and impactful, but nothing that fundamentally changed the game. Meanwhile, basketball and football have changed quite a bit since 1950 and comparisons are difficult.

Let’s Play Two

Not so in baseball. In fact, you can still go to games and see players on the same fields that legends played on. The Cubbies won the series on the same exact field that Ernie Banks enjoyed double-dipping on and the Red Sux did the same on the field that Ted Williams once hit .406 on. Talk about a direct comparison.

And all of this is relatively true throughout baseball. Because the rules and the equipment have remained mostly static, comparing players from the 40’s to the 80’s is valid. Yes, there have been dead and live ball eras. And some parks are and have been easier to hit in. Wille Mays is already in the conversation of second-best player of all time; it would have been interesting to see how many home runs he might have hit in a hitters park.

So when I watch players today, I can appreciate how hard it was for Hank Aaron (in my mind the leading candidate for second-best player of all time) to hit at least 30 home runs for 15 years. I can marvel at The Splendid Splinter hitting over .400 and that Tony Gwynn put himself in position

Jul 14, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; (From left to right)
Jul 14, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; (From left to right) /

To do the same thing 40 years later. I watched Yankees immortal Derek Jeter get all of his 3,000 hits, and I now know how hard that daily grind is over the course of a 20-year career.

Say Hey, Kid

But how can I compare those records with those of PED users? The number one help a player gets from steroids is quicker recovery time. That one aspect, the ability to get back on the field and overcome injuries faster, makes a joke of the hard-won accomplishments of these great players. It mocks their pain and sacrifices.

And that is at the heart of the greatness of baseball. If you want to be great you have to be consistent. You want to hit .400 in even a single season? Or collect over 3,000 hits in a career? How about smacking over 60 home runs in a season or 500 in a career? Then you have to go out with a variety of injuries—every day, every month, every year—and play as if you did not have a twisted ankle and deeply bruised thigh.

You better just not think about getting hit in the forearm by an errant pitch yesterday because today you have to produce at the same level. Finished a twelve-inning game at three in the morning, got on a bus or plane for a few hours and now have to play a double header? Too bad. Time to go 4-for-8 with a home run and a double because the HOF does not study travel schedules.

That’s hard to do, man.

Hall Of Fame Should be hard to get Into

But not if you take steroids. No, then you get to get over those endless nagging injuries and play like you just got an extra day of rest. That makes it so much easier to hit more home runs and steal more bases and hit for a better average. The same is true for pitchers. They get arm injuries regularly. If Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka took steroids, he would be the best pitcher in the game because he would be ready on regular rest. But how would that be fair to Yankees Hall of Famer Whitey Ford or Bob Gibson?

The players know this. They wanted to cheat the game and those already in the Hall of Fame. They were successful. And now the writers want to reward that cheating. Or they do not have the stones to make moral decisions. Either way, voters who vote players they either know or have very strong evidence of PED use are wrong.

Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Yankees All-Star Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte, Sammy Sosa and David Ortiz should never be allowed in except as visitors; I am sure there are others as well that I forget right now.

However, players such as Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell should be in because the evidence seems so slight. Rumors and innuendo are not enough. There was not a huge change in numbers or body-types for these players. They never failed a test. Maybe they cheated, but I cannot take away a lifetime of work and effort because of that kind of uncertainty.

Try to Measure Up

Writers seem confused about what the HOF is. It is, to many, simply a museum that displays the players with the best numbers from each era. Such a place does not need to have its integrity protected. What they fail to see is that a person needs to be worthy of being famous.

The records are written down already. The HOF, therefore, should be more selective than a recording device.

But don’t do it for me. Do it for Hank and Mickey and the Babe. For Christy Mathewson and Yankees Mr. October, Reggie Jackson, and Dizzy Dean. Honor all those players who had to produce at the highest level with bodies bedraggled by injury and exhaustion. And for all the guys who played both ends of a doubleheader with bodies bruised and beaten.

You get to decide which modern players are worthy of literally being put up on a pedestal for all to see and emulate. It is only by actual comparison that we gain the measure of these men.

Next: What Brian Cashman Backed Away From The Chris Sale Sweepstakes

And by your vote, we will gain the measure of you.