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.
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