Saturday, December 8th, 2012
When the 2013 MLB Hall of Fame Ballot was released this past November, the heated discussion began about which controversial candidates, if any at all, would be inducted into Cooperstown (HOF). While isolated athletes have come up in previous years, this year represents a first real tension between the modern era of baseball – the “steroid era” – and traditional standards for admission into the Hall. The 537 baseball writers are, and should be, entrusted to weigh cheating and use of PEDs against the HOF’s criteria of “character,” “sportsmanship” and “upholding the integrity of the game” (the integrity standards). These writers each will struggle, however, with a preliminary question that falls outside of their expertise:under which circumstances may a HOF voter consider, at all, a candidate’s connection to cheating and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs)?
For each candidate, varying levels of proof or mere suspicion relate to their use of PEDs. Mark McGwire admitted in a 2010 interview to using PEDs when he broke the Home Run record in 1998. Rafael Palmeiro was suspended for 10 games in 2005 for failing an MLB administered drug test for steroids. Other candidates faced criminal obstruction charges premised on their use of PEDs – Barry Bonds was convicted on one count of obstruction but found not guilty on several other charges, while Roger Clemens was indicted, yet acquitted of perjury. Sammy Sosa was implicated for steroid used in the Mitchell Report, which was explicitly not to be used criminally, and the New York Times also reported that Sosa was one of 104 players who failed an anonymous drug test for steroids in 2003, before MLB’s formal testing program was implemented. Voters will consider others amidst a cloud of suspicion simply because they played in this era – Mike Piazza was named in Jeff Pearlman’s book (The Rocket That Fell To The Earth-2009) because he supposedly claimed, off the record to reporters, that he used PEDs and Jeff Bagwell was close friends with admitted PED user Ken Caminiti.