The Baseball Hall of Fame released its ballot for the 2013 elections to voters this week. The ballot, released to members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who have been members for 10 consecutive years or more, has 24 new names this year as well as 13 carryover names. Of the 37 names on the ballot, several of them have links to steroid and performance enhancing drugs (PED) use.
This year’s election will mark a turning point of sorts in the players elected to the Hall of Fame. If even one player whom is suspected of PED use gains entrance, that opens the door for others. If none gain entrance, then it could be a long wait for any player suspected or to have admitted to PED use.
Players new to the ballot this year with suspected PED use include Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa. Carryovers include Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro.
McGwire admitted to steroid use in 2010. Palmeiro tested positive for PED in 2005. Sosa never officially tested positive, but there were reports that he tested positive in 2003 (while with the Chicago Cubs), the same year he was caught using an illegally corked bat.
McGwire finished his career with 1,626 hits, 583 home runs, 1,414 RBIs and a .263 batting average. He is currently 10th on the baseball home run chart. He set a rookie record with 49 home runs in 1987. That was one of four different season in which McGwire led the league in home runs. McGwire became the first player to hit 20 or more home runs with two different teams in the same season. He broke the single season home run record when he became the first player to hit 70 home runs in a single season in 1998.
McGwire is a 12 time All Star. He is a World Series winner (1989) and won a Gold Glove. McGwire was the 1987 AL Rookie of the Year. McGwire won the 1999 Lou Gehrig Award as well as the inaugural Babe Ruth Home Run Award in 1998. McGwire also won the 1992 All Star Home Run Derby at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, California.
Bonds holds the record for most career home runs (762), most career walks (2558) and most career intentional walks (688). Bonds is also the single season record (73) holder and one of just four players to ever hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases during the same season. He is also the only player in baseball history to have over 500 career home runs and over 500 career stolen bases.
Bonds was a 14 time all star and a 12 time Silver Slugger Award winner. Bonds won a major league record seven MVP Awards and has eight Gold Gloves to his name. He also won the National League’s Hank Aaron Award three times (given to the top hitter in the league) as well as winning the 1996 All Star Home Run Derby at Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Palmeiro finished his 20 year career with 3,020 hits, 1,835 RBIs, a .288 batting average and 569 home runs. He is one of just of just four players to have amassed over 3000 hits and 500 home runs in a career. The three other players, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Eddie Murray, are all currently in the Hall of Fame. Palmeiro currently ranks 12 in career homers and 25th in career hits.
Though he finished with almost 600 home runs, Palmeiro never led the league in homers. His single season best was 47 (in 1999 and 2001). From 1991 through 2004, Palmeiro hit at least 20 home runs every year. He was a four time All Star, a three time Gold Glove winner and a two time Silver Slugger winner. He is also a member of the Mississippi State University Hall of Fame and the National College Baseball Hall of Fame.
Sosa is one of eight players to reach the 600 career home run mark. He is currently eighth all time among home runs leaders with 609. He is also the only player in baseball history to hit 60 or more home runs three times. Sosa finished his career with 2,408 hits, 1,667 RBIs, 609 home runs and a .273 batting average over 18 years.
Sosa was a seven time All Star and a six time Silver Slugger winner. Sosa won the 1998 NL MVP and the 2000 All Star Home Run Derby at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia. Sosa won the 1999 Hank Aaron Award and the 1998 Roberto Clemente Award.
Clemens was one of the most dominant pitchers of his time. Over 24 seasons, Clemens finished with a 354-184 won/loss record, a 3.12 ERA, and 4,672 strikeouts. Six times Clemens won 20 or more games in a season and is one of just 24 pitchers to win 300 or more games in a career. He is currently the ninth most winning pitcher in baseball history. Five times Clemens led the league in strikeouts and is one of just four pitchers in baseball to record over 4,000 strikeouts. Two of those players, Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton, are already in the Hall of Fame. The fourth member, Randy Johnson, is not yet eligible.
Clemens is an 11 time All Star and a 7 time Cy Young winner. Clemens won the 1986 AL MVP as a pitcher and was the All Star Game MVP in 1986 as well. He also won two World Series titles (1999 and 2000).
In 1986 Clemens became the first pitcher to record 20 strikeouts (out of 27 possible outs) in one game. Ten years later, Clemens did it again. Since then, only one other pitcher has recorded 20 strikeouts in a game, Kerry Wood in 1998.
For players in the 1990s through the mid-2000’s, steroids and PEDs were not illegal. Yes, they were not legal in the United States, but according to Major League baseball’s collective bargaining agreement with the players union, they were legal. They did not become illegal until 2006.
Looking at the stats, regardless of PED use, all five players belong in the Hall of Fame. If we block out any player who used or is suspected of using, we are blocking out an entire generation of players. Twenty years from now when we take our kids to visit the Hall of Fame, they will ask why wasn’t anyone elected from the early-1990s to the mid-2000s.
When the players were blasting home runs, no one cared. When McGwire and Sosa were reviving interest in the sport with their home runs, baseball made up commercials featuring Heather Locklear proclaiming “chicks dig the long ball.”
So why could baseball writers celebrate the home run then, but now turn their backs on some of the great players to play the game?