Alomar, Bagwell, and HOF Hypocrisy

In case you didn’t hear, Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar were voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, while Jeff Bagwell — among others — was not.

Cast Blyleven aside for a moment, and let’s focus on Alomar.

Personally, I was ambivalent about Roberto Alomar until he spit in the face of John Hirschbeck. Then, I despised him for disrespecting Hirschbeck, baseball fans, and the game itself.

Despite this, I still was able to appreciate the fact that Alomar was — hands down — the best fielding second baseman in MLB during the 1990s and first two years of the 21st century. And for that reason alone, he, to me, deserves consideration for the Hall of Fame.

However, there is the little matter of the “Steroids Era”, in which Alomar participated. Further to the point, there were many BBWAA voters who chose not to cast a vote for Jeff Bagwell because they suspected that he might have been a PEDs user — but DID vote for Alomar. What’s the problem with this? It’s hypocrisy; how could a writer not vote for Bagwell because of PEDs suspicion but DO vote for Alomar, who played during the same period of time?

Let me set one thing straight: I’m on the fence as to whether Bagwell is HOF material, mainly because he played during an offensive dominant time but also because of the PEDs cloud that hangs over everyone during his era. But what I don’t get is how a writer could specifically prevent casting a vote for Bagwell while also voting for Alomar. Is it because Bagwell had a musclebound physique and Alomar didn’t? If so, that is ridiculous; many people can be on steroids and/or HGH and not look like a gorilla. Don’t believe it? Consider the first MLBer who was suspended for PEDs use: 5’8″, 155-lb speedster Alex Sanchez. You don’t have to look like a professional wrestler to be a user. Steroids and/or HGH can provide “wiry” strength, increase bat speed, enhance vision, and improve endurance — without making a person look like Hulk Hogan. So for all we know, Roberto Alomar could have dabbled in illegal performance enhancers; he did, after all, go from a single-digit homerun outputs to 20+ practically overnight — and on the same Baltimore Orioles 1996 team that included Brady Anderson. For those who forgot, Anderson hit 50 homers in ’96, at the age of 32, after averaging about 8 HR a year previously. That outburst by Anderson is seen by many as questionable; why isn’t Alomar’s sudden increase to 22 HRs? (By the way, that same team also included Rafael Palmeiro.)

If a writer didn’t vote for Bagwell because they simply don’t believe he is HOF material, fine. But anyone who believes Bagwell did put up the numbers deserving of the Hall of Fame, and didn’t vote for him because they suspect he might have used PEDs, and DID vote for Roberto Alomar, is exhibiting gross hypocrisy and a dangerously unfair level of judgment.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Walnutz15 January 6, 2011 at 12:54 pm
    This is the stuff I can’t stand….the guys people start saying are “no-doubters”, then the ones who have something attached to their name.

    Until there’s a level plain, nobody knows…..and guys will be screwed.

    Why are Manny and A-Rod “locks” for some, since we know they delved into the “PED” sector?

    Then you bring up guys like Bonds and Clemens….who I loathe, for the record — and people act like they’ll never get in.

    (And I do view Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez are Hall of Famers, for the record…..same deal with Bonds and Clemens.)

    It’s just funny that people will flip the script on guys they don’t like, regardless of other factors.

    That’s why this is all lame to begin with…..but since it’s being held-onto, it should remain in question for all players, not just specific ones writers don’t like.

    I think that the steadfast supporters of Bagwell (1st Ballot? – still don’t believe that in my deepest of beliefs) feel there’s some sort of ill-will going into the thought process against him.

    Let me re-iterate from a previous post, I loved Jeff Bagwell as a player…..along with a ton of other guys from the juiced-up period, simply because they were the guys I was looking up to as a player growing up.

    I believe that he did steroids, as do plenty of other writers apparently. This is going to be the problem for a lot of other guys as the years go by. Right or wrong, steroids or natural – you’ll have people looking at the whole era as one of inflated statistics…top to bottom.

    …….which makes guys from the 80’s look even less special, by comparison, unfortunately for them.

    You also had a TON of other 1st Basemen who jacked balls to Timbuktu in the mid-to-late 90’s:

    – Frank Thomas
    – Big Mo Vaughn
    – Jim Thome
    – Carlos Delgado
    – Todd Helton

    I just see a LOT of already “borderline” names…..almost all of them could be questioned as to whether or not they used anything, and I wouldn’t bat an eyelash.

    The whole Performance Enhancement thing throws a pretty big monkey-wrench into the machine for guys from the 90’s-present…’re gonna have guys who are suspected of things paying the price, no matter what.

    I have no ill-will toward Jeff Bagwell, and certainly understand the suspicion. This is all MLB’s fault in the first place.

    Seeing these types of things 1st hand, in a locker room environment – I’d go as far as to say that an overwhelming majority of the players in the 90’s at least TRIED something.

    Whether or not they stuck with it?

    You have our current conundrum.

    • Metstheory22 January 7, 2011 at 4:18 pm
      Out of this list, it would only surprise me if Mo Vaughn used it. I think that was all burger and fries.
  2. Joe R January 6, 2011 at 1:00 pm
    Well, what do you expect? The BBWAA still thinks in closed world views.

    I advocate ending the BBWAA vote and allowing a group that didn’t have any stake in the player’s careers to vote. How can we expect these guys to remain unbiased?

  3. Patrick January 6, 2011 at 1:14 pm
    I saw this article on Rob Neyer’s twitter…

    Anyway, the only thing I can think of is that several voters are giving one-year penalties to players from the steroid era (read: players who played, but did not test positive/don’t have a “cloud” over them). Alomar’s totals jumped up significantly in year two, so we’ll have to see what happens to Bagwell next year.

    Bagwell’s vote totals are high enough that it appears voters don’t really think he has a “cloud” over him (look at McGwire’s and Palmeiro’s totals).

  4. Walnutz15 January 6, 2011 at 1:17 pm
    Does anyone really view Bagwell as a 1st ballot Hall of Famer?

    I guess I just don’t get the disappointment associated with a guy who’ll eventually get in, but shouldn’t really have been voted in this year anyway.

  5. Patrick January 6, 2011 at 1:24 pm
    Walnutz15 –

    The rules for voting do not state anything about first ballot vs. other ballots. If you (a voter) believe a guy is in, then you should vote for him. End of story.

    • Joe Janish January 6, 2011 at 11:35 pm
      In theory, yes. But in reality, the “first ballot” thing has taken significance.

      How about this: have players eligible only once. One vote, and that’s it. So either you’re a “first ballot” or you’re not in at all.

      To me it makes more sense for players to get voted in while the people who saw them play have a fresh memory of them. I don’t necessarily agree with the idea that a player becomes an HOFer after a generation of people who never saw him perform (or saw little of him) puts him in based solely on stats. There has to be a combination of both.

  6. Andrew January 6, 2011 at 1:25 pm
    Rob Neyer brought up an interesting point the other day and I agree: standard have to go up (at least for hitters) due to the offensive explosion in the era. I don’t think 500 HRs is automatic anymore and while the numbers of Bagwell, McGriff, Walker, Martinez etc. would have been plenty in the past, they are now borderline guys.

    Bagwell has terrific numbers if you look at his peak seasons and I think he should get it, but its hard to stand out when other 1Bs of your generation are Thomas, Thome, Palmeiro, McGwire, Helton, and (a bit later) Pujols.

    • Joe Janish January 7, 2011 at 12:08 am
      I don’t buy into many — if any — numbers based primarily on longevity. 500 HRs means nothing to me in regard to players whose careers began after 1985. Same thing with 3000 hits. For example, to me it is absolutely ludicrous that Craig Biggio is almost certain to be voted into the HOF just because he collected 3000 hits. Biggio was a very good player for a very long time. Not a superstar. To me, the HOF is for superstars — the truly elite. Not the “very good”.

      I’d take Don Mattingly or Dale Murphy in their primes in a second before Craig Biggio. But Biggio will go in and Murphy and Mattingly can’t even collect 30% of the vote. Nonsense.

  7. Walnutz15 January 6, 2011 at 1:27 pm
    If you’ve followed the voting for any of the legends of the game, then most of them will get in on the first try.

    Bagwell isn’t one of those guys.

    Obviously, things change through the years….as Blyleven is the perfect example of a guy who gained more respect as advanced statistics made their way through to the mainstream.

    It’s never that cut and dry with Cooperstown; and if it is….then you’re typically a first-ballot guy.

  8. Patrick January 6, 2011 at 1:46 pm
    Looking at the past just leads voters to say things like “Well, Babe Ruth/Cy Young/Willie Mays/Hank Aaron weren’t unanimous, so I’m not going to vote for Greg Maddux/Ken Griffey Jr/Rickey Henderson”.

    Again, here are the requirements:

    NOTHING about 1st ballot vs. other ballots. If a voter actually thinks “Yeah, I think this guy is a Hall of Famer, but not a slam-dunk first ballot Hall of Famer, so I’m gonna wait to vote for him” s/he is not voting according to the very rules provided to them by the Hall of Fame.

    I personally think Bagwell is a HOFer. If you don’t, fine. I just absolutely disagree with the idea of someone being a HOFer, but not a “first ballot” HOFer. There’s no difference. If you’re in, you’re in.

  9. Walnutz15 January 6, 2011 at 1:56 pm
    I think it’s pretty clear that those requirements have been thrown out the window by the writers who are voting.

    Baseball holds this stuff in high regard, and the concept of “1st ballot” as opposed to later inductions are, for the most part, going to be kept sacred going-forward.

    I loved Jeff Bagwell as a player – and do see him as someone who will eventually get in…..however:

    I believe that he may have done steroids at some point in his career; as do plenty of other writers apparently.

    And as Joe has already pointed out with Alomar….there are groups, upon groups of teammates that we can lump together – some overlapping into different organizations where we can essentially think that so many of them dabbled in the stuff anyway.

    This is going to be the problem for a (boat)load of guys as the years go by.

    Right or wrong, steroids or natural – you’ll have people looking at the whole era as one of inflated statistics…top to bottom.

    And again, this is all MLB’s fault in the first place.

  10. aronmantoo January 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm
    I am so proud of the sports writers that didn’t vote for the juice boys
    • Donal January 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm
      Because they are getting all sanctimonius now, but not when they were, you know, riding the gravy train the “juice boys” were driving?
    • Donal January 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm
      If the players who juiced or were somehow connected to it are going to be kept out of the HoF, even thought there was no rule about it until a few years ago, then the writers who covered them should be punished as well. They enabled this as badly as the executives.

      Take away their BWAA membership. Prevent them from voting on awards or HoF ballots.

      I don’t think I’ll hold my breath for that one.

      • Joe Janish January 7, 2011 at 12:00 am
        There is no rule in MLB regarding murder. So if a player pulls out a knife and murders a catcher so he can score, is that OK?

        The argument that “there was no rule” / “no testing” for ILLEGAL drugs such as steroids, HGH, etc., doesn’t hold water.

        Though, I agree with your other sentiment. It was these same writers who stuck their head in the sand (particularly during the HR chase of ’98) who are now withholding votes based on PEDs or suspicion thereof. Where were all these “ministers of ethics” when players looked like they walked in from a WWF match and were putting up PlayStation numbers?

        • Donal January 7, 2011 at 3:49 pm
          No, you can’t use a foreign object to injure another player. There is a rule against that.

          There have been numerous rule changes throughout baseball history that would have affected past players’ stats.

          The bat Babe Ruth used was over weight by today’s standards. Bob Gibson pitched on a mound 6 inches higher than today. Corked bats were legal.

          Don’t forget that for the first half the 20th Century, MLB was segregated. The standards for what is considered a home run have also changed.

          So, I think the “no rule against it” argument does hold water.

          Besides, its not like there aren’t cheaters already in the HoF, like Gaylord Perry.

        • Joe Janish January 7, 2011 at 10:59 pm
          You completely miss the point. Spitballs are not outlawed by the US government. Obtaining drugs without a prescription is. MLB players were not allowed to take steroids because they were residents of the USA. It doesn’t matter whether or not MLB tested for it or not — it was illegal. US laws trump sports league rules. End of story.
  11. Rob January 6, 2011 at 6:34 pm
    Joe: I just don’t understand any of the guidelines for admission to the HOF. Heck, there don’t appear to be any guidelines. Everyone seems to debate them, but I don’t even know if there are any specific standards that anyone adheres to in making their votes. What I don’t get is how anyone can speculate on someone’s steriod use (without specific evidence) and use that to decide on someone’s worthiness to get into the Hall. More to the point, why do the writers also seem to defer candidates to future ballots, as if to say that letting someone in on the first try is somehow indicative of greater worthiness than someone who has to wait for two or three or more years. Getting into the HOF should be like getting pregnant. Just as there is no such thing as being a little pregnant, there should be no degrees of HOF worthiness. You either belong or you don’t. Enough of this subjective voting and let’s devise a system that says you’re in or not based upon some objective criteria. That avoids the subjective crap that we continually see each year and puts those who are objectively qualified immediatley in to the hallowed Hall.

    I’m not sure if I make any sense, but this annual debate is tiring and it cheapens what the HOF is all about.

    Hope you had a great New Year’s!


    • Joe Janish January 7, 2011 at 12:03 am
      Thanks for the New Year’s wishes – same to you!

      Agreed. This is why I say get rid of the vote altogether. Or do one ballot / one vote / one time. In or out, that’s it.

      HOF inductees will lose relevance as the years go on — just as “all-time records” have already. Nobody cares.

  12. Tasan January 6, 2011 at 7:08 pm
    what makes them think alomar didn’t take any PEDs? He has strong baseball ties in his family and access to a lot of people involved in baseball…so he didn’t get super big? so what? A-rod didn’t get super huge and apparently he loaded up on PEDs like crazy.

    how do you really know? you dont
    it is hypocrisy…what isn’t?

  13. Dan January 6, 2011 at 8:39 pm
    Most of what I see above seems to support the need for Joe’s “Solution for Hall of Fame – PEDs Dilemma”.
    And it will get worse when A-Rod and other tainted super stars retire.
  14. Walnutz15 January 7, 2011 at 12:19 pm
    I honestly think that Met fans (and I’m a diehard Met fan) are in flat-out denial when it comes to the case of Mike Piazza.

    We already know that Mike’s admitted to andro use in the past….so I suspect “yes, he did use”, and that he delved into something from the time he finished college (as a 62nd round favor to his father) through his rise to Hall of Fame-great.

    NY Times, circa 2002:

    “Piazza has said he briefly used androstenedione early in his career, stopping when he did not see a drastic change in his muscle mass. He said he had never used steroids because ”I hit the ball as far in high school as I do now.”

    ”If being big and strong is a prerequisite to hitting 70 home runs,” Piazza said, ”you’d have every Mr. Olympian contestant coming out because God knows there’s no money in body building, at least not the money we make.”

    Keep in mind, this interview was conducted in 2002 — well before any of the “I only used it once” or “I didn’t knowingly take it” excuses became crutches for every pro-player.

    He actually admitted to andro use….which, though, legal back then — is classified as a steroid now.

    It’s not that much of a stretch to think Piazza was on something at some point.

    Hell, in the very same article — we read this, from Mr. Natural — pre-exposition:

    The Yankees’ Jason Giambi said: ”This is a sport that’s about flexibility and staying healthy.”

    ”The one common thread that all the greats of the game have had is longevity,” he added. ”You don’t get that by taking shortcuts. You get that by working hard.”

    Yes, we’re to believe every word these guys say….

  15. Aric January 13, 2011 at 6:24 am
    I’m just catching up on past posts, personally Joe, i love your blog, bookmarked it the day i found it.
    Now to my comment’s meat. Nutz, if you ever read this, your comment about Piazza’s ascent from the 62nd round as that favor to HoF candidacy being a reason to raise an eyebrow, i ask, why? I’m a wonky sports fan, Piazza is the reason i’m a Mets fan, but i grew up with Minnesotan parents, i bleed purple and gold. John Randle was a 2010 HoF inductee. He was undrafted out of Texas A&I, not exactly a football hotbed, yet he wanted to be an NFLer, so he became one of the best defensive tackles of all time and a hall of fame member. His undrafted status is just as suspect as Mike Piazza’s, hell, he played a physically demanding position in a contact sport. My point is, his ascent to the elite took years, but he did it. Why couldn’t Mike? Was Mike clean? The more i think about it, doubtfully, but do i still hope he was? Yes, without a single doubt in my mind, i want him to be clean, as did i with Bonds and the Rocket. In the end, if he was tainted, as he likely was, his HoF campaign ends there, Shoeless Joe and Charlie Hustle were “first ballot” HoFers, yet they are banned for life. If Selig wants to cement himself as competent or at least prove he owns a spine, he will set a precedent just like Kennesaw Mountain Landis did in ’21. The burden of choosing a candidate should be streamlined through baseball’s history. If we want to see our (presumably) beloved game’s honor restored, we will see comprehensive surprise tests emerge. These tests will once and for all create a hardline stance on at least PEDs and other illegal substances. In the end, i’m a 21 year old dude who loves baseball. I want to see baseball be seen as honorable again, but until the players union allows testing, it’ll always devolve into a game marked by dingers and pitchers who have heat, not a game of true finesse, or a game where someone like Cal can play for 2632 consecutive games and capture a fanbase’s imagination. Dominance in the short term is what Big Mac and Sosa represented. Tom Terrific and Nolan Ryan, even Cal, represent dominance long term. If we want to believe that the steroid era is a stain, then we will. But if it is, you have to screw everyone over, not just the “confirmed users” because in the end, how the hell do we know who is clean? Pete Rose claimed he never gambled on baseball, then all of a sudden, JUST KIDDING, i’ve been lying. A case by case consideration, as Joe’s post about Piazza was a bit of, ignores the glaring issue present to the BBWAA voters. Case by case demonizes and creates a witch hunt. Bud Selig is not Joe McCarthy, there is not ROID SCARE to deal with. If he wants to try and start new, he has to show real consequences to kids. He has to show kids that were my age during the race to 62 HRs that baseball is a game of fairness, not a game where a failed drug test doesn’t really affect a player at all. No where is that issue more obvious than in the minors, a “stern talking to” and they’re on their way, to frolic in batting practice or pre-game stretches. I’m not calling anyone here out, this is just a rambling opinion, take it at face value.
  16. argonbunnies January 20, 2011 at 5:12 am
    Joe, completely agree on Alomar. Somewhere amid all the Clemens crap, I’ve heard it said that Toronto is an easy place to get roids. If Robbie was doing them in the early 90s, that’s even more of a competitive advantage than Bagwell’s heyday, when half the pitchers Jeff faced were probably on them too.

    I also think it would take a special kind of scumbag to give the long “I didn’t do roids” interview Bagwell gave if he actually did them. And the guy never seemed like a scumbag to me…