It’s time to talk about something I haven’t ever discussed on Baseball with Matt and for good reason. However, I feel like the following topic is important to address at this moment because of my list of the best Hall of Fame hitters in baseball history and why it’s restricted to only Hall of Famers. That’s right: let’s talk about steroids.
A lot of people have their opinions on steroids, but I find that a lot of people don’t have the information to back their opinions up. So before I tell you what I think about performance-enhancing drugs, here are the facts. From 1962-1994, just three players hit over 50 homers in a single season. But once the late ‘80s and early ‘90s came and went, home run numbers started to skyrocket. MLB executives probably had an idea of what was going on, which is why they banned the use of steroids in 1991. However, drug-testing didn’t start until 2003. So there was a period of 12 years when steroid users could operate above the law, so to speak. Coincidentally, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire had their crazy race towards breaking the single-season home run record in 1998 and these twelve years were also the beginning of the out-of-this-world career of Barry Bonds.
Jose Canseco, a famous steroid user and McGwire’s former teammate on the A’s, stated that 80% of the hitters he played with took steroids, while others claim the numbers are lower but still bad, around 40-50%. From 1998-2009, the 500 home run club got 10 new members, which is insane because between 1987, when Mike Schmidt hit homer number 500, and 1996, when Eddie Murray accomplished the feat, not a single hitter joined the 500 home run club. Seven of those ten hitters have since been accused or proven to be steroid-takers: Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Rafael Palmeiro and Gary Sheffield. Even other hitters of the era, like Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, had their Hall of Fame election delayed because of steroid skeptics. But, no hitter positively associated with PEDs has been elected into the Hall of Fame, let alone any pitchers. Although some of the all-time greats just based on their numbers may be getting close, as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have seen their Hall of Fame numbers rise ever since they got on the ballots.
The main argument I’ve heard for letting players linked to steroids into the Hall is that because there’s no way to prove that players before steroids were banned actually took steroids, you can’t discriminate against the players who we know took steroids, despite the fact that they took steroids. Although that is true, like I said before, look at the numbers. When guys like McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds joined the league, home run numbers went up so much that rules had to be changed. On top of this, even if someone like Babe Ruth took some sort of performance-enhancing drug, back then, it was legal. It’s not like he was breaking any rules. It’s not like he cheated.
So, how do I feel about steroid users? Because PEDs have been illegal since 1991 and some of the aforementioned members of the 500 home run club have made it an extremely big deal to admit to their use of steroids and have admitted that they used the substances regrettably, steroid users do not belong in the Hall of Fame. They themselves have told the public that they cheated, so that’s what I think of them as well. Even for guys like Andy Pettitte and Robinson Cano, guys who I grew up watching as a die hard Yankees fan, their career stats must be taken with a grain of salt. I hate saying that, but the members of the Hall of Fame who may or may not have used substances legally do not deserve to have their statuses tarnished by a terrible era for the reputation of baseball. This is the stance I’ve always had about steroids and it’s how it will always be. It’s why I’ve never mentioned Barry Bonds’s name in any blog post I’ve ever written and it’s why I never plan to do so after today.