Last year not a single living player got into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Most attribute this to the extreme use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) during the 1990s. A player even having his name mentioned in a sentence with a known PED user cost players, like Craig Biggio, to not receive the required 75 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) for induction into the hall at Cooperstown, NY. Even though there still is not one shred of remotely credible evidence against Biggio, besides idle gossip, he was the closest to the hall in 2013 with 68.2 percent of the vote.
There is some dissension among members of the BBWAA, as well as in the individual writers’ heads, about what to do with players who played in the “Steroid Era.” Should they vote on statistics alone? Should these players be judged on whether or not they had “hall of fame careers” before they took allegedly took steroids as in the cases of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens? Do they deserve yet another award when they cheated the legitimacy of the game? Would Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds have hit over 70 home runs in a season without PEDs? Should Barry Bonds get in because he never admitted it when it was clear he did use PEDs? Are they any different from “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, part of the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal, who threw the World Series for money? The questions here are endless.
Some say that BBWAA members are softening. Others, such as MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick, who snubbed every player on the ballot except for pitcher Jack Morris (including this years’ most obvious inductee, Greg Maddux) simply because they played during the what he dubbed the “PED era.” How can entire decades of deserving players be ignored because of the actions of a few? It just can’t. That kind of logic just doesn’t add up. And what about amphetamine use? Amphetamine usage ran rampant beginning in the 1960’s, but is now banned from baseball (without a prescription). Some writers believe that amphetamines are in the same class as steroids; they are classified as such by MLB. Others would call amphetamines a performance “enabler” and in a different class than steroids which most agree are performance “enhancers”. It is a tough issue on which to find a common ground.
Sadly, some players who played clean and played well during this “PED era” may never receive enough votes to get into the hall at Cooperstown. According to today’s voting results, that stigma may still be haunting Craig Biggio. More than likely Biggio never used PEDs. His numbers during his career reflect that conclusion and it is likely he will eventually be voted in to the HOF. However this year he still missed out on being inducted into the 2014 class alongside Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas by a mere .2 percent, earning 74.8 percent of the 75 percent needed. Players on the cusp of the PED debate like Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and more may have to wait a few years to get their HOF nod. Hopefully the BBWAA will come up with a system or a standard of determining what constitutes cheating and what doesn’t. Until there is a consensus, some very HOF caliber players may have to wait a little while longer to be immortalized in Cooperstown.