Voting Steroids Into The Hall?

Bob Hogue
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Wednesday - July 29, 2009
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Next week, I’m back on the air again as a radio sports talk host - AM1500 “The Team” 6-9 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday - with my co-host Russell Yamanoha. The two of us love to argue about everything in the world of sports. One of the topics sure to come up is the annual voting for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

It’s one of my favorite polarizing subjects. Would you vote for Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds or Alex Rodriguez or Sammy Sosa or Rafael Palmeiro or Roger Clemens, or any of the other superstar names allegedly linked to steroids or human growth hormone, when they become eligible for candidacy to the Hall of Fame?

When we introduce this topic on the radio, the phone lines light up. And the passionate opinions go both ways, from “Absolutely, yes!” to “Never, no way, no!”

Of the names on the list, McGwire received only 21.9 percent of the votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America this past year - with 75 percent needed for election - despite being one of the greatest home-run hitters of all time. All of the other players won’t be eligible to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot until they’ve been out of baseball for at least five years.

I guarantee you McGwire’s total is just the beginning of future low vote percentages for alleged steroid users. When Bonds and Clemens - whose statistics are off the charts - become eligible for the Hall, the debate will rage on all over the country on talk radio and television as well as in newspaper columns, blogs and anywhere baseball is a hot topic.

This is the clause that voters are using to withhold their support: “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

It’s a clause that allows baseball writers to place their own values on what is right and what is wrong - and it’s incredibly subjective. Just what constitutes the right amount of character and integrity to receive placement in the Hall?

Apparently, nearly 78 voters from last year’s balloting believed that McGwire - the same man who was lionized for his home run exploits on U.S. Postal stamps and who has been credited with helping save the popularity of the game during the late 1990s - doesn’t have the integrity or character for selection. How subjective is that interpretation? Well, consider that despite widespread suspicion that Big Mac used performance-enhancing substances, he has never been criminally charged, indicted or suspended for anything. He accorded himself with great class throughout his playing career, was the subject of many inspirational stories by these same writers, and then has quietly and respectfully faded into private life since his playing days ended.

Members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, who vote on Hall candidates, thump their chests in righteous indignation at the alleged participants in this latest scandal, as if they alone can protect the grand old game by withholding their votes.

Ironically, the same voters who won’t vote for McGwire, and probably won’t vote for many of the other players on the steroid list in future years, have had no problem with the character and integrity issue in the past.

Let’s list some of the upstanding citizens in the Hall, all of whom received lofty voting totals and are constantly revered as some of the greatest names in the game: Famous womanizer and drunkard Babe Ruth, avowed racist Cap Anson, prodigious hater and all-around mean-spirited guy Ty Cobb, confessed cheater by way of doctoring baseballs Whitey Ford, alleged alcoholic and user of so-called “greenies” or amphetamines Mickey Mantle.

The list goes on and on.

It’s precisely because of this double standard that I am in favor of voting for McGwire, Bonds, Clemens, et al. All of these men should be judged by their performance on the field in the eras in which they played. We simply don’t know which players who opposed these men were also allegedly users - and to ostracize one player because he made headlines or failed a drug test or may have looked like he was a user simply isn’t fair. What they accomplished on the field is what matters, and that alone should be used as rationale for a positive vote.

I’ve heard it said that baseball players over the past couple of decades broke the law by using performance enhancing drugs and therefore should be left out. If that’s the case, then every ballplayer who drank during Prohibition, or took pills during the ‘60s and ‘70s, should be denied a spot in the Hall as well. Isn’t it ironic that the past few presidents of our country have admitted using illegal drugs and have still been elected, but baseball writers hold some of the game’s greatest stars hostage by suggesting they couldn’t be elected dogcatcher?

That’s my opinion. Feel free to call me on the radio and tell me I’m all wet.

And to add fuel to the fire, I’m also supportive of a vote for Pete Rose.

Gotta love that sports talk!

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