Aaron gets wish: Steroid users kept out of Hall of Fame

Mark McGwire's eventual admission garner votes.

Mark McGwire's admission didn't garner votes.

Rafael Palmeiro's emphatic denial didn't fly.

Rafael Palmeiro's emphatic denial didn't fly.

Last year I spoke to noted non-steroid user Henry Aaron about baseball players whose muscles and career statistics were obviously chemically enhanced, and his response was the verbal equivalent of taking a rip at a fastball.

Quoting: “My feeling has always been the same – the game of baseball has no place for cheaters. There’s no place in the Hall of Fame for people who cheat.” (For the rest of that column, click here.)

Well, Aaron is getting his wish. So is everybody who wants the baseball Hall of Fame free of cheaters.

Lower profile than the news that Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar were elected to the Hall of Fame was the word that Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell and Juan Gonzalez weren’t. They’re the first four players from the steroid era — and suspected steroid users — who’ve been on the HOF ballot.

The contempt most voters have for suspected cheaters is obvious. McGwire finally admitted steroid use last year, just as he was re-entering public life and being hired by the St. Louis Cardinals as their batting coach. But, almost amusingly, he received only 19.8 percent of the vote this year, which was down from 23.7 percent a year ago.

Bagwell received the highest percentage of votes among players from the steroid era at 41.7 percent, followed by Palmeiro (11 percent), Gonzalez (5.5). Enshrinement requires 75 percent.

It was McGwire who famously went mute at the Congressional hearings on steroid use, saying he didn’t want to discuss the past. Palmeiro told the committee he had never used drugs, and punctuated his remarks by pointing his finger. But he was identified by former Texas teammate Jose Canseco in the book, “Juiced,” as a steroid user in 2005, was subsequently suspended by Major League Baseball for 10 days for a positive test and in 2007 was named in the Mitchell report as a steroid user.

Palmeiro now claims a vitamin B-12 injection he received was tainted.

Whatever.

At one time, I believed players with perceived Hall of Fame numbers would get into the Hall of Fame anyway. Now, I don’t think so. That includes Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. At the very least, players would have to publicly admit past transgressions and apologize to have even a chance of buying public support and swinging voters.

My view had been that if I thought a player would’ve had Hall of Fame credentials without performance-enhancing drugs, I was going to vote him in. But Aaron changed my mind. I figure his opinion carries more weight than mine.

– By Jeff Schultz

Remembering Palmeiro’s testimony (with subtitles)

And here’s McGwire before his eventual admission

Previous posts

Richt’s plan for change is good, but why did it take so long?

Playoff rankings and why Falcons can get to Super Bowl

Fortunes of Georgia, Richt can turn on recruiting Crowell

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

132 comments Add your comment

Mr. Pappagiorgio

January 5th, 2011
4:59 pm

KB

January 5th, 2011
5:08 pm

The unfortunate part about all of this is that the NON users are being punished as well. Fred McGriff is the classic example. His career is undervalued and overshadowed because of the users like McGwire, Bonds, Palmeiro – and votes for Crime Dog went down (21% to 17%). So essentially the writers are punishing both the users and non-users. Here are some McGriff stats to chew on:

HOW HE COMPARES WITH OTHER HALL OF FAME FIRST BASEMEN
HRs OBA SLG BA
Fred McGriff 493 .377 .509 .284
Orlando Cepeda 379 .350 .499 .297
Harmon Killebrew 573 .376 .509 .256
Willie McCovey 521 .374 .515 .270
Eddie Murray 504 .359 .476 .287
Tony Perez 379 .341 .463 .279

30-HOME RUN SEASONS, FIRST BASEMEN
Fred is one of 18 players all-time with 10 or more 30-homer seasons…of the 17 others who have done it, nine are in the Hall of Fame and seven aren’t yet eligible…that list included only four first basemen (must have played half the games that season at 1B).

Most 30-Home Run Seasons, All-Time, First Basemen
Jimmie Foxx 12 1929 – 1940
Carlos Delgado 11 1997 – 2008
Mark McGwire 11 1987 – 2000
Fred McGriff 10 1988 – 2002
Lou Gehrig 10 1927 – 1937

100 RBI SEASONS, ALL-TIME, FIRST BASEMEN
Fred is one of seven first baseman all-time to record eight 100-RBI seasons (must have played half the games that season at 1B)…those eight 100-RBI seasons are as many as Hall of Fame first basemen Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda had combined at that position.

Most 100-RBI Seasons, All-Time, First Basemen
Jimmie Foxx 13 1929 – 1941
Lou Gehrig 13 1926 – 1938
Carlos Delgado 9 1998 – 2008
Rafael Palmeiro 8 1993 – 2002
Fred McGriff 8 1991 – 2002
Jeff Bagwell 8 1994 – 2003
Johnny Mize 8 1937 – 1948

20-HOME RUNS SEASONS, ALL-TIME
Fred is one of only 13 players all-time with 15 or more 20-homer seasons…Of the 12 others on the list, 10 are in the Hall of Fame and the other two aren’t yet eligible … Fred had 14 20-homer seasons at first base, most all-time (must have played half the games that season at 1B.)

Most 20-homer seasons, all-time
Hank Aaron 20 1955 – 1974
Barry Bonds 19 1987 – 2007
Frank Robinson 17 1956 – 1974
Willie Mays 17 1951 – 1970
Eddie Murray 16 1977 – 1996
Reggie Jackson 16 1968 – 1985
Ted Williams 16 1939 – 1960
Babe Ruth 16 1919 – 1934
Ken Griffey, Jr. 15 1990 – 2007
Fred McGriff 15 1987 – 2002
Dave Winfield 15 1974 – 1993
Willie Stargell 15 1964 – 1979
Mel Ott 15 1929 – 1945

Most 20 homer seasons, First Basemen, All-Time
Fred McGriff 14 1998–2002
Mark McGwire 13 1987–2001
Eddie Murray 13 1978–1993
Lou Gehrig 13 1925–1938

POSTSEASON NUMBERS REACHED BY ONLY 3 OTHERS
In 50 postseason games, Fred batted .303 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI…only 3 other players have a .300 career batting average in the postseason with 10+ home runs and 35+ RBI: Lou Gehrig, Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols.

BEST SEASON CUT SHORT
In 1994, McGriff was working on what would have been one of the greatest offensive seasons in major league history; unfortunately it was cut short by the work stoppage. He played in 113 of the Braves 114 games that year and batted .318 with 34 home runs and 94 RBI. In a full season that would have translated to 48 home runs, 134 RBI and 85 extra base hits.

KB

January 5th, 2011
5:10 pm

I also wish that the ATL sportswriters would start actively campaigning for McGriff considering all he did for Braves baseball in the 1990’s. No World Series win without him. He had remarkable postseason numbers for the Braves…

anderson jones

January 5th, 2011
5:10 pm

KB=Baseball encyclopedia

Braves Fan

January 5th, 2011
5:15 pm

Yes to McGriff.. No to drug users

KB

January 5th, 2011
5:18 pm

Anderson – You would be shocked and appalled at how many of the people who actually vote for the HOF have no clue about numbers like these. I have written many of them only to have them respond, “wow, I had no idea” or “I guess I should look a little closer”…it’s absurd that these are the people who determine who goes into the HOF.

Tron5000

January 5th, 2011
5:21 pm

Jeff, I’m not aware of the steroid allegations involving Bagwell. Any info you can share?

Pete Rose

January 5th, 2011
5:21 pm

Charlie Hussle never used steroids….Jeff I’ll take LSU -2 in the Cotton Bowl for a hundie…PLEASE..!!! I need action…who bets on baseball that’s for degenerates!!!

ben

January 5th, 2011
5:23 pm

The problem with the whole mess is because reporters like you never did your job and just rely on rumor and innuendo, you have no proof that Bagwell ever used steroids. Yet, you lump him in this article with the known cheaters and I would assume you didn’t vote for him because of that assumption. That is a travesty for Bags and other innocent players to be judged by a lazy, wanna-be comedian who coulda cared less while the actual juicing was going on.

"Chef" Tim Dix

January 5th, 2011
5:24 pm

Without a list of players who failed a drug screening, writers CAN judge more than numbers.

I’m sure the Hammer played against many a player on many forms of speed, also known by many a writer at the time society wouldn’t have considered it a story.

Tough call for those with a ballot, I’d just go with a player a liked.

KB

January 5th, 2011
5:25 pm

Bagwell falls into the “eye test”. He admitted to using Andro; played and worked out with Ken Caminiti (who was an admitted user). His body got abnormally large during the height of PED use and his power numbers increased. At the age of 37, his body shut down on him (as many do after abandoning use).
Charlie Hussle cheated, too. Just in a different way.

Paddy

January 5th, 2011
5:28 pm

When Henry Aaron gives this much thought to a subject, he always gets it right. Way to go “hammer”.

WDE!!!

January 5th, 2011
5:28 pm

Amazing how many people have votes for the Hall of Fame.

Speaking of that, I just got home from work and it always amazes me that “Around the Horn” is still on TV. That show is absolutely awful! How can anyone watch those guys?

Reid Adair

January 5th, 2011
5:30 pm

I couldn’t agree more with Hank Aaron – or this article, Jeff. There is no place for these guys in the Baseball Hall of Fame. For those claiming Jeff Bagwell’s “innocence,” while he didn’t testify before Congress, there has been plenty of discussion related to his possible use.

I’m also 100 percent for Fred McGriff – a class act whose numbers (thanks, KB) are as good, if not better, than guys already in the Hall of Fame.

Drifter

January 5th, 2011
5:44 pm

I strongly suspect the HOF already has steroids users, but I couldn’t vote for anyone who played since 1980. I knew high school football players doing steroids in the 70s and it would be absurd to think it wasn’t already in all professional sports by then. You want to reach the highest levels in sports today, grab your syringe. Sad, but true.

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GT Alum

January 5th, 2011
5:55 pm

I think the Bagwell argument illustrates the best argument for why you can’t exclude players who might have used steroids from the HOF (not saying that’s my position, just saying there is an argument to be made for that viewpoint). There’s only a handful of players that we KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt took PEDs. Anyone else is suspected. While there’s better cases for some than others (Bonds), there’s no proof.

In a recent article on ESPN.com, Bags said he came into camp one year and Hampton looked at him and said, “Dude, what’s wrong with you? You’re so skinny, you look like you’re on crack.” According to Bagwell, that prompted him to started lifting weights like a bodybuilder (of course, how many bodybuilders are on PEDs). Not saying I believe that story, but, like I said, no proof one way or the other.

Over on the DOB blog, several of us were arguing earlier today with a guy who was insisting that Chipper had used steroids. While I would hope most HOF voters would think this guy was crazy, there is a danger that every hitter from this era gets painted with the same PEDs brush.

The one argument against this line of thought, though, is there is a way for someone who doesn’t get voted in by the writers to make it into the HOF. I don’t know of any process to remove someone from the Hall. Perhaps by the time these guys get to the veterans committee, we’ll have a clearer picture of what actually happened and who did what.

Ole Smoky

January 5th, 2011
5:58 pm

Whatever Henry Aaron says goes.. & that’s good enough for me ….

RogueRunner

January 5th, 2011
6:00 pm

KB – Good work. Looking at those numbers, how can McGriff be denied. It is surprising that guys who have HOF votes don’t know this stuff. What then are they basing their votes on?

Also, how shameful would it be that a guy with Bonds’ career numbers never sees the Hall. I wonder how his ego will handle that.

GT Alum

January 5th, 2011
6:04 pm

Oh, btw, Aaron suggested players who are only suspected of steroid use go in with some kind of asterisk. He then said, “If it’s proven that you took any kind of drug or substance, then you shouldn’t be there [in the Hall]. Like I said, the game has no place for cheaters.”

Outside Observer

January 5th, 2011
6:08 pm

Bagwell’s numbers were able to garner at least 40% of the vote. What will a guy like Barry Bonds, even with all the controversy swirling around him, draw from the voters?

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January 5th, 2011
6:08 pm

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Hillbilly Deluxe

January 5th, 2011
6:11 pm

Congrats to Bert Blyleven; it’s about time.

GT Alum

January 5th, 2011
6:13 pm

Outside Observer -

I think one difference there is the innuendos and suspicions around Bonds are much greater than the ones around Bagwell. That may counterbalance his bigger numbers. Not sure how much this will come into play either, but, from everything I’ve seen, Bags was a very likable guy. We all know Bonds wasn’t particularly well liked. Not that that should factor in, but, when you’re asking writers to make a subjective judgment about whether or not a guy used PEDs, it could.

collegeballfan

January 5th, 2011
6:37 pm

I concur – no drug users in the Hall.

Angela

January 5th, 2011
6:38 pm

I’m on the fence with this topic. I agree with Mr. Aaron that cheaters do not belong in baseball, BUT…..Athletes have been using so many things to get an edge forever. I’m sure there was a time when caffeine was used for a quick burst of energy. Was that cheating? What about vitamins? Would they have made one player better than another at one time? Weight lifting? Wonder who decided that bulking up would make them a better athlete? I know those are silly comparisons, but if some of these things were legal at the time, what makes them so wrong that athletes used them to get an edge? A line needs to be drawn somewhere.

People like Bonds put up phenomenal numbers, yet could be denied the HOF. They still keep the numbers so what is the difference? I think if these athletes get to keep the numbers/titles, then they should be eligible for HOF based on those numbers/titles, even if obtained in a not so noble manner. If the cheating keeps them out of the HOF, then strip the athlete of the numbers/titles as well. At least ** them.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

January 5th, 2011
6:44 pm

good, glad they were denied. too bad their rookie cards aren’t worth squat now

GT Alum

January 5th, 2011
6:45 pm

Angela, I think your best comparison would be “greenies” (amphetamines), the use of which has been widespread in baseball for ages. I do have to wonder how many players already in the Hall used them, what difference there is between the advantages they might have given and the advantages steroids may have given and why steroids are looked down on so much more, other than steroids are far more recent and the use of “greenies” has been common for long enough that it’s just accepted.

Hit A Single

January 5th, 2011
6:49 pm

We all say give someone a second chance. We gave Vick one, we gave Alomar one after spitting on umpire, so why can’t we give Pete Rose one. He played the game the way it should have been played and his betting had nothing to do with the outcome of games. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Larry

January 5th, 2011
6:58 pm

Jeff,

Totally agree.

The most powerful yet non violent tool is that of the vote. Use it wisely to express your beliefs and opinions!

Falcon Jim

January 5th, 2011
6:59 pm

To me, Pete Rose is the epitome of baseball.

He did wrong. Long past time to forgive.

Pete Rose @ Hit A Single

January 5th, 2011
7:03 pm

Thanks for your support…I ticked off Giamatti and Ueberroth..(I think those guys are lawyers…actually sharks…) I guess I’m waiting people to die before I get in the Baseball HOF….wish me luck…

Larry

January 5th, 2011
7:07 pm

And for Angela and other sitting on the fence about this topic please remember the Baseball Hall of Fame Motto: “Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations”.

It says nothing about statistics but “honoring excellence,” in my opinion, encompasses both on and off the field behavior. It just has to, otherwise you could have a rapist or murderer with a great batting average that qualifies for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Use your vote, Jeff, to preserve history and honor excellence!

skip

January 5th, 2011
7:08 pm

I’ve said this many time before: If any of the juicers get into the HOF, Pete Rose should go to Cooperstown and kick the door down!!

Paul in RDU

January 5th, 2011
7:12 pm

Jeff – I think you are correct about the players who have retired and are suspect for taking steroids not making the Hall of Fame. What about current players who still have a chance to try to “redeem themselves” in the eyes of the voters? I am thinking in particular of a certain SS for the Yankees.

Paul in RDU

January 5th, 2011
7:12 pm

Oops – I mean A-Rod, not Jeter

Larry

January 5th, 2011
7:13 pm

Paul,

Did you mean 3B?

Paul in RDU

January 5th, 2011
7:24 pm

Larry – Yep – current 3B

Paul in RDU

January 5th, 2011
7:27 pm

Talking about Cooperstown – as someone who went to plenty of Braves games in the early 80’s, I’d love to see Dale Murphy get in, but I don’t think it is going to happen.

Hit A Single

January 5th, 2011
7:28 pm

They can take the Hall away from Pete but they can’t take away all those hits, wins and his reputation of how he played the game. Like Remembering the Titans, he is a Hall of Famer in my book!

Hit A Single

January 5th, 2011
7:32 pm

They can take away the Hall from Pete, but they can’t take away all the hits, wins and his reputation of how he played the game. Like Remembering the Titans, he is a Hall of Famer in my book.

Pete Rose @ Paul

January 5th, 2011
7:33 pm

Murph didn’t hit 400hrs…..but I agree with you he got junk to hit and he still hit hrs to the opposite field…..Murph was soo strong…nobody pitched to him…and he still had good numbers….

Hit A Single

January 5th, 2011
7:33 pm

Hey Jeff, why won’t you take may comments about Pete Rose? You know he deserves to be in the Hall.

Pete Rose @ Hit A Single

January 5th, 2011
7:36 pm

There are people out there that hate me…they think I was a “hot dog”…

Dawg A

January 5th, 2011
7:49 pm

If Jerks were not allowed in then Hank Aaron would be left out! My friend and I and our boys traveled a few years back to see the Braves play a game on the road! The boys who were nine at the time approached Aaron and very politely asked him for a autograph! He would not even look at them! They once again addressed him as Mr. Aaron and said please and again no response. And while standing there some other kids walked up and he gave them a autograph and talked to them and when they left he looked at our kids and walked off!
My son and his friend to this day say that they wouldn’t take his autograph if someone paid them! And they threw away the baseball cards they had of him!
Strange how the mind of a child can never forget some things! And sad to say….. I had no excuse for him! So no we don’t listen to anything he has to say!

sharecropper

January 5th, 2011
7:57 pm

If you “thought” a player could have gotten in the hall without steroids? My goodness, my friend, since they were juicing, how in the world would you have any, remote, faint idea that they could have performed to that level without the dope? We know that a) they compiled some outstanding numbers, and b) they were on steroids or HGH when they did it, and c) therefore we will never know, it is impossible to know, that they could have done it otherwise. Grow up. Sportswriters are not omnipotent.

68 Atlanta Facon

January 5th, 2011
7:58 pm

5150 poad so would cold beer, but it don’t work that way, a cheat is a cheat is a cheat… bonds!

Dawgdad (The Original)

January 5th, 2011
7:59 pm

I agree with Hank, but it is a slippery slope. What about Gaylord Perry and our Don Sutton and their uses of foreign substances. Is that cheatin?

Jeff Schultz

January 5th, 2011
8:16 pm

Braves Fan — I agree. McGriff should be in.

Jeff Schultz

January 5th, 2011
8:18 pm

Tron5000 — Steroid speculation about Bagwell have been just that, speculation. As far as I know his name never has been directly linked. But his longevity and muscular build have long led to whispers about him. He’s always denied it. Here’s a link to a recent story written by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.
http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/hof11/columns/story?columnist=crasnick_jerry&id=5963276