Before I start officially blogging all about Spring Training, there is one very important issue I would like to address. Many of you know my opinions on steroids, but I haven’t talked about it in a while. Believe me, my opinion has not changed, but with Mark McGwire FINALLY admitting to have taken steroids throughout his career; I think that it is a necessary topic to address.
The question is no longer “if” they did it. The question is what to do about it. Unfortunately, the majority of the 104 players who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003 are still undisclosed. Actually, it’s hard for me to say whether or not that fact is unfortunate because the truth hurts. When all of the names finally come out, I know that some of the players I may consider “heroes” right now will be seen differently by many.
Before I address what should be done about this issue, I would like to talk about the origins of this issue. I think that the catalyst was the implementation of the designated hitter rule in 1973. I do not like the designated hitter rule. It has severely disproportionated the two leagues, and it’s just not real baseball. Not only was it a catalyst for the steroids era, I also think it was a catalyst for the ridiculous contracts that have become a normalcy around Major League Baseball. My opinions on the possibility for a salary cap will be saved for another entry though.
I don’t know if the steroids era has an exact “starting point”, but arbitrarily speaking, I would say it was the last 20 years. No one is safe from suspicion, and the mentality has become “guilty until proven innocent”. There are people whom I believe to be clean such as Mike Lowell, Ichiro Suzuki, Albert Pujols, and Derek Jeter among others. So back to the main question: what to do about it?
There are three main approaches to this dilemma, which you are probably familiar with, but there is no clear answer. Can we erase an era of baseball?Can we put the players who have cheated next to the players who have attained their feats on pure and natural talent? Can we use asterisks?
The first method would be to simply not admit any players guilty of having used steroids into the Hall of Fame. This seems appropriate because these players cheated. I suppose they didn’t break the rules because steroids weren’t technically illegal YET, they were just frowned upon. When other players have broken the rules, they were banned from baseball even though they were quite deserving of a spot in the Hall (Shoeless Joe Jackson, Pete Rose). This is an entire ERA of players who have broken the rules. Baseball is a game rich in its history, and history cannot and should not be erased. It would be a travesty to try and forget any era of baseball: good or bad. The Hall of Fame may serve to commemorate the greatest players of each era, but it is also the ultimate token of baseball’s history.
The second method would be to admit all players “worthy” of enshrinement into the Hall freely. Like I mentioned earlier, when players used steroids in the 90’s, they were not yet illegal. Is it truly fair to punish a person for something that was not yet considered a crime? What they did was not right, but it wasn’t completely wrong from a legal standpoint. The main problem with this theory is that the players of this era did not achieve their fantastic numbers the same way of their predecessors. These players have ruined the integrity of the game. Baseball is a game about natural abilities, not the abilities achieved externally. Surely it would be a tragedy to erase an entire era in baseball’s history, but it would also be a tragedy if players from the steroids era were admitted before other players who have been banned for their comparably trivial mistakes.
The third and final approach to this dilemma is what some call the “asterisk method”. This would entail admitting all of the “worthy” players of the era into the Hall of Fame. However, a metaphorical asterisk would be placed next to their name, denoting the fact that they used performance enhancing drugs. This would not only ensure their place in baseball history, but it would also separate them from the natural greats. It seems like a win-win situation, but a problem still remains. There is no asterisk next the 1919 World Series. The Cincinnati Reds are in the books as the winners, even though the Chicago White Sox threw the series. There is no asterisk next to Roger Maris’ (former) single-season home run record (the controversy was that he had 162 games to do it whereas Babe Ruth only had 154). There is no asterisk next to Gaylord Perry’s name for his use of the spitball, nor is there an asterisk next to the lesser scandals. If we were to put an asterisk next to the players of the steroids era, Major League Baseball would certainly have to put asterisks next to other controversies.
If I had to choose one, I would choose the asterisk method. There may be flaws, but you do get the best of both worlds. I don’t know if I’ll be able to cast a vote for a player guilty of using steroids until I get Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson into the Hall of Fame. I will not allow a single player guilty of steroids into the Hall of Fame before those two men are in. Mark my words.