Tell us: Should steroid users be allowed in Hall?

Why couldn't every Hall of Fame-worthy player be as easy a decision as Hank Aaron was?

Henry Aaron threw me for a loop Sunday.

When I spoke to him by phone Sunday morning about his comments that all players with Hall of Fame credentials should go into Cooperstown with an asterisk, I never expected he would take his feelings to the next level. In our conversation, Aaron said he believed that any player who was proven to have taken performance-enhancing drugs should be banned from the Hall of Fame. He said there was “no room for cheaters.” He said all 104 Major League players who tested positive in baseball’s confidential drug-testing program six years ago should be exposed for all of us to see.

So much for that speak softly and carry a big stick thing — at least the speak softly part.

Of course, I was happy. It made for an easy column. But it also made me change my position on matters involving steroid use in baseball. I know. Many of you have grown weary of this topic. But Aaron’s remarkably candid comments adds new perspective for me. I believe his words are a general reflection of previous inductees. As a result, I’m changing my position on Hall eligibility.

What are your Hall of Fame standards?

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My previous opinion, as a Hall voter, was sort of Switzerland-like: no absolute yes or no. If I believed a player would have had Hall of Fame credentials regardless of steroid use — Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens being the strongest example of that, in my mind — then I was going to vote them in. However, if I believed the player’s body of work was largely inflated by drug use — Mark McGwire being an example — then I wouldn’t vote him in.

But because of Aaron, I’ve hardened my stance. It’s simple: His opinion carries more weight than mine. Therefore in the future,  nobody proven to have used performance-enhancing drugs gets in on my ballot, regardless of their credentials before drug use. I’m going to reserve judgment on Bonds and Clemens now until I see the extent of the circumstantial evidence before the become Hall eligible. But I know which way I’m leaning — against. Aaron’s right — there’s no room in the Hall for cheaters. Records are another matter. Statistics are difficult to vacate.

But here’s my question for you: I’ve received several emails and comments from readers who seem divided on the Hall issue. So for the first time, I’m setting up a poll. You get only four choices: 1) Everybody gets in, regardless of drug use; 2) proof of drugs, you’re out; 3) proof or strong circumstantial evidence of drugs, you’re out; 4) proof you’re out, but circumstantial evidence you’re in.

So weigh in with comments and the poll and tell me what you think.

And let’s all pray that several years from now, we aren’t addressing this issue with Albert Pujols.

105 comments Add your comment

MightyQuinn

July 27th, 2009
7:06 am

How many of us would drive faster than the posted speed limit if we knew there was no one enforcing the speed limit and we could make more money in our professions if we sped? Thats kind of the dilemma baseball players were facing with PED’s. However, I would chose the “proof and you’re out” choice. Just because there’s no one enforcing the law doesn’t mean you haven’t broken the law.

rhynster

July 27th, 2009
7:19 am

Can we have an option where we just block Barry Bonds ’cause he’s an @hole?

Michael Smith

July 27th, 2009
7:29 am

What, in principle, is the difference between taking “performance enhancing drugs” like steroids versus taking protein supplements to enhance muscle growth?

Why is it acceptable to “enhance” one’s performance by optimizing one’s diet, supplementing it with vitamins and minerals and then using state-of-the art weight training equipment — but NOT acceptable to take steroids?

Versus a mere 20 years ago, today’s athletes are across-the-board bigger, stronger and faster — due primarily to advances in training methods, training equipment, diet optimization and supplements. Why are all of these “performance enhancements” acceptable and desirable — but an arbitrarily chosen selection of “drugs” forbidden?

MightyQuinn

July 27th, 2009
7:34 am

Michael Smith: Vitamins, diet and exercise are natural and LEGAL methods of enhancing performance. Steroids and HGH and the like are UN-natural and ILLEGAL without a doctor’s prescription.

Coach (2010 or Bust)

July 27th, 2009
7:40 am

The question is a moot point as I firmly believe there is at least one player already in Cooperstown who used steroids during his career.

Barry Hardy

July 27th, 2009
7:41 am

No way! If Pete Rose can’t get in, why should those bums?

Max

July 27th, 2009
7:44 am

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is a not-for-profit educational institution dedicated to fostering an appreciation of the historical development of the game and its impact on our culture by collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting its collections for a global audience, as well as honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to our National Pastime.
Through its mission, the Museum is committed to:

Honoring, by enshrinement, those individuals who had exceptional careers, and recognizing others for their significant achievements.

In reading the mission statement of the NBHOF, I would make the claim that Bonds, McGwire et al., deserve hall enshrinement. Their careers were incredible, and the part that they have played in the history of the game is even more outstanding albeit in a negative way. Enshrine them and then let us, the fans of the game interpret it for what we will.

Dave Langetty

July 27th, 2009
7:51 am

Michael Smith: Vitamins, diet and exercise are natural and LEGAL methods of enhancing performance. Steroids and HGH and the like are UN-natural and ILLEGAL without a doctor’s prescription

As were the amphetamines that Mays, Rose, Schmidt, Snider, Aaron, Rose, and Stargell have admitted to using during their playing careers.

mitch

July 27th, 2009
7:57 am

Mr. JS–me, I say start another form of recognition for those outstanding players who used steriods. Call it, “The Fall of Hame.” Your pal, Mitch

Big E

July 27th, 2009
7:59 am

Any proof and your out.

Jeff Schultz

July 27th, 2009
8:02 am

Rhynster — sorry, no Barry Bonds exception.

Michael Smith — there’s a huge difference. If taking vitamins — which are legal — made just as big an impact as PEDs, than athletes would just take vitamins.

Barry — I’m with you on Pete Rose — he should be in. He didn’t cheat the game,

Dave — I’m not endorsing amphetamines by any means, but I think there’s a line between uppers and drugs that basically keep you awake and drugs that help build muscle and enable you to recover from workouts. A big line.

jim

July 27th, 2009
8:02 am

hang on. i heard today that aaron was speaking in favor of rose being reinstated, and selig’s considering it. so henry, it’s OK for someone gambling on the game to get in, but not steroids users?

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

July 27th, 2009
8:04 am

My vote is no…..if they tested positive, then no. Coach, who do you believe is in the HOF on roids…..I think one went in yesterday. Steroids causes memory loss and makes you forget to cash your signing bonus or forget guys who you have played with doesn’t it.

Jeff Schultz

July 27th, 2009
8:04 am

Jim — I didn’t hear of Aaron’s comments, but I’ll give you the argument supporting that position: drugs cheat the game and affect performance. Rose never cheated the game. His numbers are legit. And he certainly never THREW a game, which is the biggest fear about gambling. Baseball never accused him of that.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

July 27th, 2009
8:08 am

I think Aaron is trying really really hard not to look like he is upset about Bonds breaking his record, And has been as safe as possible with his comments but in his heart he is saying “no way that @hole Bonds gets in and the record doesn’t count either!!!”

Joey

July 27th, 2009
8:09 am

Jeff, come on, Rose didn’t cheat the game? He bet on games he was playing and worse, managing in.

Sonny Clusters

July 27th, 2009
8:21 am

We was talking about this just last night. I think steroids ought to be banned and anybody using them should be labeled a cheater and cheaters don’t get in the Hall of Fame. What? Steroids are already banned? Cheaters have already been found? Then what’s the big deal? Oh, the players union. Forget what’s right or wrong, look for the union label.

I see Jeff’s really hitting the ball now. Had two RBI’s yesterday and has his average up to around .260. That should make some people take notice. I wonder if they notice how many games the Braves have won without Jeff’s sagging bat in the lineup? When we was playing ball together back in school I woulda never figured this.

I am raising some money to erect a plaque (was gonna do a statue but it would look like a swing and a miss to most folks) for Jeff at the Dairy Queen. I think I’m gonna put on it we was state champion and best friends.

Blogging here with Jeff Schultz has become special for me. I was about to give up my writing career when Jeff came along with this blog. Now, I can write just like Jeff and we was thinking how that might give me my break with the AJC. Somebody needs to do these blogs on the weekend for Jeff and we was thinking maybe it could be me.

William

July 27th, 2009
8:37 am

Steriods are illegal and anyone using them to cheat sgould be banned period. Ask yourself if we just let everyone do it ( not that they would )where would sports be? How much is to much steriods? Players would go over the top to try and out do others…bottom line it is not right and those who choose to cheat run the risk of getting caught and have to pay for it.

C-Rip

July 27th, 2009
8:42 am

Proof and you are out – but I fear that method may face a considerable challenge as it seems many fans are content to give Manny Ramirez a pass because “he’s funny and its just ‘Manny being Manny’”. So if Ramirez gets in – they ALL get in – Sosa, Palmeiro, McGwire, Clemens, even Bonds.

SuperB

July 27th, 2009
8:43 am

As a student of baseball history and the Hall of Fame, I do not believe ANY player who used steroids should be in the Hall of Fame. Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Clemens, Palmiero– they all knew what they were doing–cheating! All should be banned permanently. No asterisks, no nothing!
It’s “men” like these who would destroy the game.

Herschel Talker

July 27th, 2009
8:48 am

Schultzie – keep up the great blogging.

How do you know Rose didn’t throw a game? How do you know that he didn’t mismanage his pitching staff for the purposes of saving them for a game on which he planned to bet on his team? Once he crossed the line into betting, any specific tactic he employed very possibly could have been because of gambling ramifications, either on that game or a future game in which he planned to bet. Just because MLB never went so far to say as much (they didn’t have to – once gambling was alleged via the Dowd Report, no details on how he used his players were necessary) and just because he denied it (of course he did) doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.

Chris

July 27th, 2009
8:49 am

Jeff, I’m not sure about your equivocation of amphetamines and steroids. You’re right, both have different functions for different results. But amphetamines probably caused some of those 80-to-90-stolen-base seasons that Rickey Henderson had – along with turning many of his doubles into triples.

Home runs are more important (arguably) than steals and triples, but it’s still an edge.

I have always taken your revised position on being ineligible if there’s proof, but it’s tough for me to distinguish between two drugs that are basically made to give players an unfair advantage.

What’s the difference? Some guys didn’t take a damn thing, and they’re being looked over for the guys who cheated.

Brew

July 27th, 2009
9:00 am

Let all the steroid users in who qualify for their performances. MLB owners and managers KNEW those guys were on stuff and looked the other way at a time when baseball sorely needed the attention the records brought.
Plus, the stars of the 60s and 70s were using speed as was pointed out earlier, and they got in. Guys who’ve smoked pot and other illegal substances are in. Sorry, Hank. We knew what you meant the first time you said it. Thanks for coming clean (verbally) now.

Sonny Clusters

July 27th, 2009
9:01 am

I took some growth hormone back when we was in school because I was scrawny back then before I started drinking beer and getting a belly and some more weight on me after I went to work on the second shift with all the good benefits and able to sleep in my own bed when I get off work because I’m not on the road traveling to major league ballparks like some people. That growth hormone didn’t help all that much but I started developing some man breasts and quit taking it. It was rough in the locker room for awhile but soon I was back to normal and I won’t be taking any more of that stuff for obvious reasons.

Mac

July 27th, 2009
9:05 am

Bonds and Clemens are juicers. No Hall for them and their careers get an asterisk.

Ray

July 27th, 2009
9:06 am

I’ve seen what steroids can do to a kid. The terrible mood swings, the awful behavior, the swollen body parts, the infections from poorly administered injections, the incredible acne. This stuff isn’t funny. There’s a REASON this crap is illegal. A protein shake is not. Amphetamines, as stupid as they are, are not. Anybody who tries to compare them either doesn’t get it or is deliberately trying to cloud the issue.

Huge fines have no effect on people who make millions. Fear of suspensions have no effect; they’ll just take the time to detox while they nurse an “injury.” Take away the Hall – or any HOPE of the Hall. Bonds, McGwire, Clemens, Sosa, Manny, A-Rod. They’re out.

They chose to cheat. The Hall should chose, too.

Taurus

July 27th, 2009
9:07 am

I said before and will continue saying what I’m about to say..

Here’s my feeling. MLB and the writers are a bunch of hypocrites!! First, when baseball was extremely suffering after the 1994 strike, McGwire and Sosa along with a lot of others help save MLB. The HR’s were flying out left and right because fans love the long ball. We saw their bodies changing, but the owners and writers all turned a blind eye to the situation, because these steriod guys was saving the sport that they love so much. Fast-forward to now when MLB is doing well, the very same guys that saved the beloved MLB are now being vilified. It can’t be both ways. Second, you cannot do anything about the past. You have tougher measures in place going forward. Continue to crack down on performance enhancing drug use and let the past be the past. Third, It’s impossible to use specualtion to determine who should or should not be in the Basebal HOF. I believe Barry Bonds and Roger Clemons were HOfers before their alleged use. How much did the PED help Palmeiro or Sosa? We really don’t know. McGwire hit 49 homers in his rookie season. Do we really know how much PED helped him in his career. We have specualtions, but their numbers are facts. They should get voted in based on their numbers, however, you can place a note, not an *, but a note for each situation under their plaque.

[...] Original post by Jeff Schultz [...]

Judy Blueeyes

July 27th, 2009
9:21 am

Read Aaron with awe: right on, Hank ! I was taught that women, and especially pregnant women need to respect, cherish, and glory in their bodies’ natural capacities. The same is true for gifted athletes. And, like athletes, women were misguided into taking, for example, diethystilbestrol (DES), to combat morning sickness, increasing their risk of cancer, causing reproductive disorders in their children, and even passing on to grandchildren, when morning sickness is simply an unpleasant, non fatal, temporary natural result of pregnancy. Athletes, stretch your natural capacities, reach even beyond your natural limits, but accept them. Don’t sacrifice health to drug profits.

Michael Scharff

July 27th, 2009
9:22 am

Jeff, has it ever been proven that Rose did not affect outcomes of games by activities associated with his gambling?

NC Braves Fan

July 27th, 2009
9:26 am

I’m right along with Aaron on this one – release the names of the players on “the list” and ban any and all who are proven to have used steroids.

In my view you can’t take away the statistical HR records of these guys, but you can punish them by denying them a spot in the HoF.

john d

July 27th, 2009
9:30 am

There is no difference in what these guys did and what was done in the past. Drysdale, Sutton, Perry and others are all known spitball throwers. You can’t blame the players for trying to get an edge. The biggest culprit in all of this is Bud Selig! He sat on his hands and took credit for baseballs’ resurgence after the last strike. Was he blind? Your head doesn’t grow by 30% as Bonds did at the tender age of 37 from from working out! As for Mcguire, Sosa, just look at their size! Sosa hit over 60 hrs. 3 straight years and never won a hr title! By the way that was a feat only acheived twice in 150 years. Ban Selig and Fehr!

Ray

July 27th, 2009
9:31 am

And, you know, you might not be able to “take away the statistical HR records of these guys,” but I think it’s worth a try. Strike Bonds from the record book. Same with the other guys. Let them take you to court. If they win, fine. If they lose, terrific.

Ban them. Completely. Unconditionally. Let them sue. I’d like to see their steroid use come out in civil court.

Angus

July 27th, 2009
9:35 am

Arghhh!

It really, really, really sucks that it’s happend. Falsely breaking Maris & Aaron’s records (Aaron’s being the most hallowed record in all of sports) will have profound consequences on the game. My dad loved to opine about the baseball greats of his time – you will not find me doing the same for my son.

I say ban them all from Cooperstown – make sure you include Selig, Fehr, & all the owners. Build a PED era HOF in the new Yankees stadium – those guys & that stadium deserve each other.

Dave Langetty

July 27th, 2009
9:39 am

I’m not endorsing amphetamines by any means, but I think there’s a line between uppers and drugs that basically keep you awake and drugs that help build muscle and enable you to recover from workouts. A big line.

Performance-enhancing is performance-enhancing. If we draw a line between them, then we’ve moved from “illegal performance-enhancing drug usage should not be allowed” to “illegal performance-enhancing drug usage is OK sometimes.” Amphetamines are banned from all international competitions as well and, in fact, were controlled-substances long before steroids. Amphetamines are actually a lot closer to steroids than HGH is; there have been plenty of studies that show the performance-enhancing benefits of both amphetamines (originally given to WWII pilots because of demonstrated large increase in reaction time) and steroids while there hasn’t been any study that demonstrated any positive athletic benefit with HGH. Amphetamines do far, far more than simply keep you awake. Implying that amphetamines are essentially a cup of joe or a can of soda is akin to comparing steroids to a steak or a protein shake.

Jeff Schultz

July 27th, 2009
9:52 am

Joey – I’m not defending his gambling. What I’m asking you is: Did his gambling affect the outcome of any game? Did it affect statistics? Did it affect records? The answer to all three: no.

Herschel – All I know is baseball has never accused him of that. They did determine he bet on Reds games when he was managing, but never found that he bet against them. With all of the investigating they did, I think that would’ve come up. Secondly, for as much as Rose could be classified as a dirtbag in a number of ways, I believe he’s way too competitive to allow himself to throw a game – even as degenerate a gambler as he was/is. I just don’t think he’d do it (or try it).

Chris – A baseball season is a grind. That’s what led to amphetamine use (and for too long). But it kept everybody awake, not just basestealers. In that sense, nobody was at a competitive disadvantage. The overall pct. of players who used steroids/HGH was relatively small compared to amphetamines. But the pct of records set by steroid users was/is extremely high. That’s the difference.

Michael – see Herschel.

Sam

July 27th, 2009
9:53 am

Isn’t it ironic that the one person who might actually benefit from the steroid era is Pete Rose? The steriod guys have definately lowered the bar for the Hall of Fame.

BugKiller

July 27th, 2009
9:54 am

Jeff, you’re gonna run into a lot of this from idiots who don’t know how to think logically:

Well, if you say NO cheaters, what about Goose Gossage, what about Phil Neikro, what about the spit-ballers, ball-docterers, what about George Brett and his pine tar, blah, blah, blah.

Here’s thing, for those idiots, just so you don’t have to respond.

There is a HUGE difference in scuffing a ball and CHEMICALLY ALTERING YOUR BODY to give you an advantage.

If you people can’t see that and can’t understand that, then you, like the Vick-worshipers over on Bradley’s blog are just hopeless and deserve your stupidity.

Also, as Jim Rice said, another big falsity is that, “Everyone was doing it.” Umm. No. Everyone was not doing it.

Marquis Grissom wasn’t doing it. Sid Bream wasn’t doing it. Greg Maddux wasn’t doing it.

Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry were too busy snorting coccaine and smoking pot, two things that WON’T help you play better, to do steroids.

You know who else didn’t do it? Dale Murphy.

Suddenly, Dale Murphy’s 398 homers, done the right way, look much, MUCH better when you realize all these guys hitting 400 and 500 did it while cheating.

Jeff, I disagree with you about the records.

Create a new column for tainted numbers. Bonds belongs in there. AFraud belongs in there. McGwire, Sosa, Palmiero, Clemens, all those guys have their numbers go there.

Clemens’ 7 Cy Youngs?

A different record than Maddux’s 4.

Bonds’, McGwire’s, and Sosa’s over-61 homer seasons?

A different record than Maris’s clean 61.

Bond’s and soon AFraud’s career homer record?

A different record than Aaron’s clean 755.

It’s not hard to do this. It makes sense to do this.

So of course, Puppet Bud Selig WON’T do this.

And for other idiots who talk about Aaron and Mays and Maris and Mantle taking “greenies” and drinking the “red juice” as the same as steroids, well again, they’re idiots who never paid attention in chemistry class.

That stuff is like Red Bull today.

It’s not going to help you work out more so you can have massive muscles so you can muscle a homer out of the park that would have been a warning track shot normally.

tom thumb

July 27th, 2009
9:56 am

If the roid players get in the hall, then reinstate Joe Jackson and Pete Rose.

Dave Langetty

July 27th, 2009
9:59 am

And for other idiots who talk about Aaron and Mays and Maris and Mantle taking “greenies” and drinking the “red juice” as the same as steroids, well again, they’re idiots who never paid attention in chemistry class.

That stuff is like Red Bull today.

Thank you, professor BugKiller, for lighting the way for us. After dozens of clinical tests using amphetamines and the long period the World Anti-Doping Agency consulted with experts to determine the drug code and standards for international competition, we now know, through the magic of some guy on the internet, that it’s all for naught and they were just using Red Bull.

Do you have any other wisdom to provide us? From renewable energy to a theoretical basis for faster-than-light travel, we truly need the wisdom of BugKiller if we are to move humanity forward.

don0713

July 27th, 2009
10:07 am

This is so simple, I don’t see why people don’t see it. Juicing is illegal, period. It definitely gives the player an edge. Why would they do it if it didn’t?
Juicers are cheaters. They should be out, period.

Name (required)

July 27th, 2009
10:09 am

I say let them shoot up to their hearts content. Let them try to out-steroid each other. HOWEVER, their salary is capped at the league minimum if they choose to dope. If the big numbers are that important to their love of the game, how much money they make should be secondary and league minimum is still more than I make in 2 years.

Chris

July 27th, 2009
10:10 am

Jeff, you’re right. There are more records – career home runs, single-season home runs, strikeouts – affected by steroids than greenies.

But the argument still revolves around who gets into the Hall of Fame. I’m pointing out the Rickey Hendersons of the world who had those ridiculous speed-related (amphetamines and stolen bases when I say “speed-related”) totals that you never see anymore, just like you rarely see 50 homers.

Where are the Rickeys, the Otises, the Vince Colemans of the world these days? You might say the game has changed, but we’re not that far removed from 100-steal seasons.

It just seems a little disingenuous to say that you’d allow one banned substance against another based on which records are being broken.

Tony Gwynn and Greg Maddux did it on burgers. Ruth did it on beer and broads. Let them in, keep the proven frauds out.

april glaspie

July 27th, 2009
10:10 am

Ha anybody located even the most rudimentary evidence that steroids, HGH and other supposed performance enhancers actually enhance performance? Seems unlikely for most sports, exceptionally so for hitting a baseball. Wrong athletic skill sets.

Michael Bicknell

July 27th, 2009
10:13 am

No steroid user should get into the Hall of Fame. Clemens, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro took performance enhancing drugs which were banned by baseball or if they weren’t banned then they were outright illegal.

William Satterwhite

July 27th, 2009
10:13 am

I actually think the Switzerland approach is the one to take, because we’ll never truly know exactly the full story. There are countless minor leaguers who have been suspended for steroids and look where it got them, obviously steroid use by itself doesn’t make one a great baseball player so steroid use by itself shouldn’t disqualify one for standing among the game’s greats. Steroids might have helped Barry Bonds hit the ball further but it had no effect on his ability to hit the ball to begin with.

april glaspie

July 27th, 2009
10:14 am

By evidence I mean, you know, medical and other scientific evidence. Not information some reporter obtained illegally from a grand jury to enhance his career and financial performance, or what passes for common knowledge and is actually shared ignorance.

Chris

July 27th, 2009
10:15 am

Sorry if this posted twice.

Jeff, you’re right. There are more records – career home runs, single-season home runs, strikeouts – affected by steroids than greenies.

But the argument still revolves around who gets into the Hall of Fame. I’m pointing out the Rickey Hendersons of the world who had those ridiculous speed-related (amphetamines and stolen bases when I say “speed-related”) totals that you never see anymore, just like you rarely see 50 homers.

Where are the Rickeys, the Otises, the Vince Colemans of the world these days? You might say the game has changed, but we’re not that far removed from 100-steal seasons.

It just seems a little disingenuous to say that you’d allow one banned substance against another based on which records are being broken.

Tony Gwynn and Greg Maddux did it on burgers. Ruth did it on beer and broads. Let them in, keep the proven frauds out.

BugKiller

July 27th, 2009
10:17 am

Suck it, Dave.

If you want to sit here and claim that taking low dose amphetamines will give you a PED advantage, as steriods or HGH or even Fertility Drugs will, then YES, you are a moron.

saywhat

July 27th, 2009
10:19 am

The major problem with the ban is that there would be a vast time period where very few players from the late 70s through much of the 90s (a 20 year span) would make the hall. I have heard from several people that most (if not the majority) of players were on roids during that time period – heck, even in high school ball back in the day. Nobody seemed to think it was a big deal or problem back then (or even a moral issue) – people did it just to get that edge – and it was easily and abundantly available. So – it would be nearly impossible to determine who did and who didn’t use them back before testing. There are many players in the Hall now that did – but we will never know (publically that is)