With Barry Bonds being convicted of obstruction of justice this past week and prosecutors debating whether or not to retry him on three other charges, steroids in baseball are back in the news. One of the areas where the issue of steroids is still having its greatest effect right now is with the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Many players have already failed to receive enough votes for induction because they confessed to steroids or were accused of it in the Mitchell Report. In the case of Jeff Bagwell, he had the bad luck to hit well during that era without any conclusive proof emerging that he did or didn’t take steroids.
Anyhow, a lot of the writers who vote on the Hall of Fame refuse to vote for these players because of their belief that it would set a bad example to kids and that the Hall of Fame is for moral players only. Given that Ty Cobb probably couldn’t last five minutes on this campus today before being booted for some horrible racist act, I’m rather skeptical that this is true. Moreover, this moral stand is probably one of the reasons why the entire 2010 Baseball Hall of Fame class consisted solely of Andre Dawson.
By contrast, the Hockey Hall of Fame inducted four members last year including one NHL player and one women’s Olympic hockey great, the Basketball Hall of Fame inducted ten new members, including four NBA players alone and the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted seven different players. Since Induction Weekend is Cooperstown’s biggest weekend and counting on tens of thousands of Cubs and Expos fans to make their way to Central New York isn’t exactly the greatest way to pay the bills, something needs to be done about this steroids dilemma.
So my suggestion is this: let the players who used steroids in. Go ahead, do it. Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds (once he becomes eligible). What the heck, let Pete Rose in too. We all know that when it comes to play alone, they deserve to be in the Hall of Fame more than some of the people who’ve already made it in.
There is, however, a catch. Do NOT let these players give speeches at their induction. Don’t even let them attend or gather all their plaques in a separate display case and make an exhibit on the Steroids Era if that makes you feel better. Why do players like Rose and McGwire want to be inducted? Because it allows them a moment in the spotlight, an opportunity to be forgiven. I suspect speaking at his induction would mean a lot more to Pete Rose than the event itself.
Many of the Baseball Hall of Fame voters want to remind us with their votes that players who took steroids violated widely popular ideals of fair play and possibly endangered their health while they were at it. I know lots of reasonable people who agree with those sentiments and lots who don’t.
But by letting these players in but not letting them speak at their own inductions, the Baseball Hall of Fame would be able to acknowledge these players’ talents and the prevalence of steroids in at least one era of the game AND be able to take a stand against something they believe nearly ruined the game. It’s not perfect but when it comes to the legacy of the Steroids Era, nothing really is.