Should Mike Piazza — Or Anyone — Be Voted Into Hall of Fame?

Three years ago, I posted an article that generated 117 comments – Mike Piazza and the Steroid Issue. I’d rather not re-open that specific can of worms, but encourage you to re-visit the post (as well as the comments).

Rather, I’d like to bring up the topic of “The Steroid Era” in MLB as it pertains to Baseball Hall of Fame voting.

Today, little — if anything — has changed in terms of knowing who cheated or didn’t cheat. Due to that, I found it glorious that the BBWAA did not vote in a single person to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013. As far as I’m concerned, the doors should be shut to inducting individuals as “Hall of Famers.” There are other ways that the game can be celebrated and remembered — including many ways that have yet to be included in the Cooperstown museum.

When the BBWAA didn’t vote anyone into the Hall of Fame in 2013, it was making a stand. The writers were stating that they didn’t know who cheated and who didn’t, and since they couldn’t tell, no one would be elected.

Now, though, there is growing confidence that Greg Maddux will not only be elected, but that he’ll eclipse former Met Tom Seaver‘s record of 98.84% of the vote and be the first unanimous selection in the history of the voting (how several people didn’t vote for Willie Mays is beyond comprehension, but I digress). Did something change in the last 12 months? Did baseball writers suddenly gain access to retroactive PEDs tests that made the situation more clear?

I’m not suggesting that Greg Maddux took PEDs. Rather, I’m wondering how in the world anyone can decide that Maddux didn’t, while also deciding that many of his peers did. Any writer who votes for Maddux (or Tom Glavine, or Frank Thomas, for that matter) must also vote for Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens, and has to seriously consider Jeff Bagwell, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa, among others. Because either you ignore the PEDs and vote for everyone you deem worthy, or consider that PEDs were part of the game, believe it was cheating, acknowledge there’s no way of knowing who did what, and vote for no one. The “eye test” isn’t enough to judge; if you disagree then you don’t remember the first MLBer ever suspended for steroid use — the 5’10, 180-lb. Alex Sanchez (not to mention, Ryan Franklin, Juan Rincon, Guillermo Mota, Clay Hensley, and similar sand-kicking “muscleheads”).

What’s your thought? Should players continue to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame? If so, should electees include those from the “steroid era”? Do you even care about Hall of Fame inductees any more? Sound off in the comments.

Item of the Day

This isn’t necessarily a “Mets” item of the day. Occasionally, I’m going to suggest items that I actually purchased from Amazon, and recommend, rather than just Mets-related products. And if there’s a way I can tie in the item with the post, even better. That said, I’m suggesting this can opener — it will help open a can of worms like this discussion, and any other can, for that matter. Simple gadget, I know, but often, simple is better.

Several months ago I moved to a new apartment (due to a situation similar to the plights that removed Felix Unger and Oscar Madison from their places of residence), and brought with me a really bad, cheap can opener. Too bad it wasn’t a vacuum, because it truly sucked. I’m not one for electric openers (old-school all the way, even away from the blog) so I went on Amazon and saw that this solid-looking, manual can opener from EZ-DUZ-IT. I know, cheesy name. I chose it because it had great reviews, was made in the USA, it’s made by the same people who used to make the tried-and-true “Swing Away” model of yesteryear (those are now made in China), was eligible for free shipping (on orders over $35), and was under ten bucks. I’ve had it for two months now and recommend it highly to anyone in the market for a manual can opener. It executes as advertised, and opens cans quickly, cleanly, and with little effort. Buy one today by following this link: EZ-DUZ-IT Deluxe Can Opener with Black Grips or clicking on the image below.

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. izzy January 7, 2014 at 9:19 am
    So, if we want to ban players from the steroid era, then shouldn’t we kick out all the inductees from the White only era? How do we know who was the best in the “good old days” when we banned everyone whose color wasn’t appropriate? I’m sure we can find things about every era. It was what it was, and as too many like to forget, MLB, led by one Bud Selig, glorified users like McGwire. Now it bad because Bud was saved and saw the light!!!!!!!
    • Joe Janish January 7, 2014 at 1:41 pm
      I understand your argument about white players from the pre-Jackie Robinson era, but don’t see how it can possibly compare to my argument about PEDs.

      Players didn’t make the rules when it came to excluding races from MLB — that was the owners’ choice. Players DID, however consciously and deliberately take PEDs to improve their performance / cheat.

      It’s two different, incomparable arguments.

      • izzy January 7, 2014 at 6:48 pm
        I was only responding to your question at the end of the article…..” Should players continue to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame? If so, should electees include those from the “steroid era”.
        Yes, you are correct tho, two different arguments, two totally separate issues, but one main ingredient….entry into the Hall has had more than one era where admittance is based on an unfair playing field.
        • crozier January 7, 2014 at 11:13 pm
          I’m with Izzy 100%. The idea that we can support a Hall that contains cheaters, amphetamine users, gamblers and racists, but deny others who are indisputably great because we think they cheated, is hypocrisy at the highest level.

          If we should truly consider “character” as a critical component, who’s left? Stan Musial? Minnie Minoso? (oh, wait…)

          You want to deny Bonds and Clemens? Then you should be lobbying for a clean Hall. No pill poppers, no racists, no criminals, no gamblers.

          Mickey Mantle didn’t take HGH – he had no choice. If he could’ve healed his knees and hips with it, would he have taken the plunge? Ask yourself this: was he a fount of integrity?

          There was a Swiftian piece some years back that proposed a perfectly clean Hall of Fame that ended up with one member: Willie Mays. But I think Mays did amphetamines, so give him the boot as well.

          Face it: the Hall is dirty beyond redemption, so why leave out its greatest players simply because they cheated like so many other great players? I don’t like Bonds or Clemens, and I particularly loathe Pete Rose. But saying they should be excluded and Ty Cobb should remain is absurd. Baseball has scrubbed Harvey Haddox’s perfect game; should it remove its unclean from the Hall?

          Now, that having been said, Steve Braun can go to H*ll.

        • crozier January 7, 2014 at 11:16 pm
          Argh, I meant RYAN Braun. Steve Braun was a fine human being.

          Blast it, Joe, you need a proper edit function for this blog.

  2. NormE January 7, 2014 at 10:10 am
    I have been reading comments from so many sources about the HOF. Many good points regarding exclusion vs. inclusion have been made. Also some good discussions re the voting process.
    The bottom line is that ending the voting for the HOF would be as easy as stopping the ocean tides or not buying products from China. Even if it should/could, it ain’t gonna happen.
    Cooperstown is quaint and the Hall is the closest thing we have to a national baseball museum. I’d be interested in hearing Joe’s thoughts on what changes he would make to the museum.
  3. Dan B January 7, 2014 at 10:54 am
    After watching
  4. Dan B January 7, 2014 at 11:01 am
    After watching players, especially older players, struggle with day games after night games it makes me wonder if “greenies” had more effect on baseball then steroids. I also wonder if more players were using those then steroids. One thing I feel strongly about is Selig should never be allowed in for ignoring the situation. It is a player’s responsibility to perform to the top of his ability. It was Selig’s responsibility to protect baseball.
  5. DanS January 7, 2014 at 11:19 am
    I know from reading these posts on a variety of subjects, that the people who post here are extraordinarily knowledgeable. I don’t have anything new to add to the steroid debate, but I would like to make two quick points re: previous posts: first the very real benefits of use of steroids to bat speed, hand-eye coordination, the ability to bounce back day after day from the grind of the long season far excel the illusion of “energy” provided by greenies. There is just no way to make a valid comparison between steroids and amphetamines. Second, as for the color line and baseball, MLB has done what it can—too late—to correct some of the gross injustices of the segregation era. It is a shame—a crime—that African-American players were not allowed to compete (except in some exhibition/barnstorming games) with their white contemporaries. The game and the country would have been so much the better for it.
    • argonbunnies January 8, 2014 at 7:33 am
      Steroids may boost performance more than greenies, but the two substances have a key attribute in common. Namely, that every player would be using them if they weren’t unhealthy (and/or outlawed for being unhealthy). The “unhealthy” bit is key for me — it’s why we don’t want young kids looking up to juicers, and why we don’t want clean players to be forced to juice or fall behind.

      The fact that steroids boost numbers more than greenies do is, to me, a matter of how we should discount players’ numbers, not a matter of player psychology, “cheater”-ness, or integrity. If you want to keep Mark McGwire out of the Hall because you suspect his ‘roids-free numbers wouldn’t match up with Killebrew, fine. But I don’t buy it that Mac is “more of a cheater” (than an amphetamine user) in any other sense.

  6. James K. January 7, 2014 at 1:14 pm
    Players from every era did questionable things, many of which were far worse than taking PEDs. Also, a person is a fool if he thinks pre-steroid era players were saints and wouldn’t have taken PEDs (as we know them today) if they were available back then.

    Judge players by their performance on the field. Enshrine Bonds, Clemens, etc.

    • Joe Janish January 7, 2014 at 1:51 pm
      I’m fine with your opinion of voting for everyone — in other words you don’t care whether athletes cheat, and if there’s a way to cheat, an athlete should take that path to greatness — and further, he/she will be rewarded for that “extra effort.” Fine, I’ve come around to understand that there are many people with this viewpoint, and while I don’t agree with it, I’ll respect it.

      But I’m not sure I understand your argument about “questionable things.” Do you mean that players in the past were racists, thieves, rapists, and murderers? Or maybe I’m misunderstanding what “far worse” “questionable things” refer to.

      • James K. January 7, 2014 at 2:27 pm
        You’re putting words in my mouth with this:

        “in other words you don’t care whether athletes cheat, and if there’s a way to cheat, an athlete should take that path to greatness”

        With PEDs, we’re talking about something which had no punishment in MLB until 2005. MLB put rules in place and I respect those rules. But prior to 2005, there was no punishment for using PEDs, so I find it silly to condemn players for doing so. Especially when past players, many of whom are in the Hall of Fame, used substances currently banned by MLB.

        And I don’t care that some of the PEDs were illegal at that time. The PEDs should not be illegal. Legislation is not morality. You of all people should recognize that.

        • Joe Janish January 7, 2014 at 4:32 pm
          We’ve been having this argument for what? Five years?

          You’re not going to turn me around to your way of thinking. In my mind, using specific PEDs that unnaturally alter the human body and make a person stronger, faster, etc. beyond his genetic ceiling — i.e., steroids, HGH, and the like — is cheating. In your mind, using PEDs of any kind is not cheating. That’s the bottom line. We’ll agree to disagree. From what I remember, you also believe that taking a greenie to be more awake and alert is the same thing as taking a steroid/HGH cocktail to gain 25 lbs. of muscle in four months, and either way, it’s perfectly OK. Again, we’ll agree to disagree. It’s a tiresome argument, because I’m not changing my stance, and you’re not changing yours. We would do better to argue politics.

          BTW, if legislation is not morality then why do you respect MLB rules? There’s a contradiction there, no? And that argument makes no sense — it’s not MLB’s responsibility to create policy that is already covered by U.S. law, but it IS the responsibility of anyone employed by MLB to adhere to U.S. law. Nowhere in the MLB rules does it prohibit murder, but does that mean it’s OK if Bobby Cox shoots the home-plate umpire dead for not calling enough strikes for his pitchers?

          But, you do have an interesting argument — maybe nothing should be illegal. Hey, marijuana is legal in some states, why not make everything else legal as well? Let people make their own decisions to take or not take drugs, fatten up on corn-fed beef, drink a gallon of soda every day, or whatever. I’m with you on that premise, as long as we also do away with any hint of welfare, social medicine, medicaid, etc., and the associated tax burden placed on the people earning money and making healthy decisions. Can we agree on that?

        • argonbunnies January 7, 2014 at 9:37 pm
          Whoa. Did James eat your children or something? I believe Chill Pills can be found in between the Creatine and Andro at your local “Health” store.
        • crozier January 7, 2014 at 11:22 pm
          I hear you, argon. It’s as if James broke his bat, and Joe hurled it back at him in some kind of…roid rage?

          Just kidding. Joe, always stay passionate. I wouldn’t have you any other way.

        • Quinn January 8, 2014 at 2:12 am
          “BTW, if legislation is not morality then why do you respect MLB rules? There’s a contradiction there, no? And that argument makes no sense — it’s not MLB’s responsibility to create policy that is already covered by U.S. law, but it IS the responsibility of anyone employed by MLB to adhere to U.S. law. Nowhere in the MLB rules does it prohibit murder, but does that mean it’s OK if Bobby Cox shoots the home-plate umpire dead for not calling enough strikes for his pitchers? ”

          I have always wondered the same thing, how are felonies not punished with more severity?
          On a side not that last sentence made me spit out my morning coffee.

  7. Paul Festa January 7, 2014 at 6:03 pm
    That is easily the best can opener on the market.
    • NormE January 7, 2014 at 7:53 pm
      But, if the Mets buy the can opener there won’t be enough money to upgrade SS.
    • crozier January 7, 2014 at 10:51 pm
  8. argonbunnies January 7, 2014 at 9:22 pm
    It’s too late to keep the Hall steroid-free. Nolan Ryan, Dennis Eckersley, Cal Ripken, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Alomar, Goose Gossage, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray, Barry Larkin, Kirby Puckett, Andre Dawson, Dave Winfield, Carlton Fisk, Wade Boggs — seriously, what are the chances that none of those guys did steroids? They all played when steroids were common, and many of them were unexpectedly great after age 35.

    Greg Maddux might be the most durable pitcher who ever lived, with Tom Glavine not far behind. How much do you want to bet that while tons of players were juicing to stay on the field, these guys abstained?

    So I see no point in trying to guess dirty/clean. I lean more toward “all in” or “none in”. That said, I do think there are exceptional cases:

    Some players went beyond cheating to tarnish the image of the game. Cheating, getting caught, and apologizing is one thing. Leading a years-long media parade such that all the coverage of baseball is Steroid News is another. Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, and 99% probably Roger Clemens, have done plenty to deserve the Pete Rose treatment.

    There’s also a performance-based aspect. Rafael Palmeiro is a slam-dunk HOFer without context, but who says voters should judge without context? Palmeiro did a thing — stay healthy and hit a lot of HRs — in an era when it seemed like everyone was doing that thing. He never had a dominant peak like Juan Gone, Junior, Belle, Big Hurt, or his other elite contemporaries. Does the Hall really need Palmeiro in it? Is his absence a huge loss? I say no, regardless of “3020” and “569”. Coming from 1988-2005, those numbers just don’t impress me as much as they would from another era.

    Do you guys know the story of Chuck Klein? Posted 2 of the greatest offensive seasons ever, but got zero support for the Hall when he retired. Why? Because everyone who saw him play realized that he was a mediocre hitter who simply pulled fly balls over and off of the ridiculous RF wall of the Baker Bowl. He had 445 total bases in 1930 and didn’t get a single MVP vote. Naturally, the Veterans Committee didn’t bother to learn any of this, and elected him in 1980 based on his stellar rate stats (.320 / .379 / .543).

    Palmeiro and Larry Walker just need to wait until 2050.

    • chris January 10, 2014 at 2:16 pm
      “Some players went beyond cheating to tarnish the image of the game. Cheating, getting caught, and apologizing is one thing. Leading a years-long media parade such that all the coverage of baseball is Steroid News is another.”

      Well stated what I have been thinking. It is subjective, just like everything in HOF voting, and life.

  9. argonbunnies January 8, 2014 at 7:58 am
    Here’s a thought: if we want to ding Bonds and A-Rod for the ‘roids, Aaron and Mays for the uppers, and Ruth for the racist playing field, then who’s our “legit” homerun champ? Griffey? Mike Schmidt? Ted Williams, the only guy in the top 20 with the bulk of his career after integration and before the greenies-fueled ’60s? (I’d say it’s still Aaron, but it’s an interesting thought.)

    Don’t under-estimate the importance of records in this discussion! Baseball fans love the record book, and Bonds’ 762 HRs and Clemens’ 7 Cy Youngs are messing with it.

  10. argonbunnies January 8, 2014 at 5:22 pm
    Since I have nowhere else to talk about PEDs, one more post from me:

    There’s been recent talk about harsher penalties for PED violators, so as to better discourage use. But voiding contracts (which would certainly work) opens up too big a cna of worms in the Union / Owners relationship. So, I have an idea that doesn’t require anything at all from the owners, or MLB:

    Kick cheaters out of the union.

    What do you think? It’d be a case of players standing up for a clean game, with no one to be accountable to except each other. They could even make their own policies on applying for reinstatement, or hearings to assess accidental vs intentional transgressions, etc.