Mom, apple pie and performance enhancing drugs

Photo: Wikipedia

By Will Sandman|
Our national pastime is doing everything it can do prevent players who cheated from being memorialized, and for good reason. However, many believe that thinking may be incorrect.

Steroids have drawn a line in baseball. Over the past 30 years, performance enhancing drugs, or PEDs, have tarnished all kinds of sports. Cycling lost its greatest superstar, Lance Armstrong, a man who had overcome all kinds of personal issues, due to his doping. Other sports like track and field, combat sports, and even football have been suspect to human growth hormones, testosterone boosters and the like. However, none have been hit as hard as baseball.

Baseball’s reputation was destroyed in the late ’90s and early 2000s when scandal after scandal rocked the game’s biggest stars. Players such as Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Jose Canseco were all accused and convicted of steroid use. In fact, Jose Canseco estimated that during his time in the league at least 85 percent of players in Major League Baseball were using some kind of PED.

This rampant drug abuse has led to all kinds of repercussions. From attendance decreases at games between 2000-2007, to Congressional court hearings, baseball has been put through major adversity in the past 10 years. Now, players are feeling the effects of their actions themselves.

Picture1The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame is the front line for enforcing that punishment. The Hall of Fame voters have consistently sent out the same message, they will not tolerate the use of PEDs. Players like Barry Bonds, who is the current record holder for most home runs in a season and in a career, Mark McGwire, who was the previous record holder for home runs in a season, and Roger Clemens, an 11-time All-Star and 7-time Cy Young Award winner have all been denied induction into the Hall of Fame. They have been denied that, despite their abundant qualifications solely due to their PED use.

This conservative approach has been taken by the voters to preserve baseball’s integrity. However, by essentially banning all players that were active during the steroid era, baseball is ignoring a large part of its history.

“I think Bonds has a better chance than (Sammy) Sosa and McGwire, but if Bonds gets in then you might as well let the others in,” said Danny Ruppert, a senior college student.

Another senior, Alex Cattermole, agrees, “I think Bonds should get in. Bonds was always great. McGwire, no.”

Some circles advocate the use of an asterisk, or a separate wing of the Hall of Fame to celebrate their accomplishments. As an example Cattermole points to Honus Wagner, one of the most dominant baseball players ever to live.

“Wagner was the best of his era, even if he was playing against terrible competition. He’s in the Hall of Fame,” said Cattermole.

If 85 percent of baseball really was using steroids during Canseco’s career, then it would be nearly impossible to admit anyone without strong suspicion of PED use. Yet, if everyone was using PEDs then the stars of that era would simply be the best of an era of inflated batting statistics. That means that, while they should not be compared to players of other eras, they should be compared to each other.

However, there is even dissent there. Ruppert said, “I’m not a fan of ‘because they were the best of their era they belong in.’ I think the Hall of Fame is the best players ever, not the best of an era.”

Others, like college student Cody Manmiller, disagree completely. “None of them should get in,” he said flatly. “They cheated.”

The numbers show that you can’t compare that era to any other in baseball history in terms of runs and home runs. If we look at seasons in which the most home runs were hit across baseball, the top seven seasons were all between the years 1998 and 2006.

Since the Major League Baseball expansion the highest average for runs scored per game came in 1999 and 2000. These numbers all show that batting inflation during this era cannot be compared to that of other eras.

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

The problem, however doesn’t lie with the players that baseball has turned away from the Hall of Fame, it’s regarding who is in the Hall of Fame already, that may have taken steroids. There are players that could have been taking PEDs long before testing began in Major League Baseball that were never accused or convicted of taking steroids.

In Ken Burns’s, “The Tenth Inning,” a two-part, four-hour documentary film, Washington D.C. sportswriter Thomas Boswell said, “There was another player, now in the Hall of Fame, who literally stood with me and mixed something. I said, ‘What’s that?’ and he said ‘It’s a Jose Canseco milkshake.’ And that year that Hall of Famer hit more home runs that he ever hit any other year.”

According to Bill Deane, who received the SABR Salute in 2001 for great contributions to baseball historical research, there are only four players who fit that description: Ryne Sandberg, Cal Ripken, Paul Molitor and Tony Gwynn.

All four of those players are not only clean of any scandals, but they are respected and held above most other players in terms of their character. However, one of them probably took steroids, and that player is in the Hall of Fame.

There is another school of thinking however, one to which Flagler senior Ryan Coleman subscribes. “I think they should all be let in. In fact, I think steroids should be allowed. It makes the game more fun.”

One of the main complaints about baseball is that is too slow, too boring, too conservative. Even today we can see baseball trying to suppress bat-flips and generally bogging down the flair of the game. At the same time, though, they have added timers in-between innings and at other places to speed the game up. Baseball is caught in no-man’s land, stuck between its traditional roots and the ever-evolving world around it. If they’re not careful, they may get left behind.

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