Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity

Athletes and the Hall of Fame: Cheaters Allowed?

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Within one of our classes, the discussion of PED’s within sports came up. No topic seems to be as hotly debated with regards to PED’s then the concept of the Baseball Hall of Fame. For those who don’t know, from the late 1980’s to the early 2000’s, baseball had a notorious problem with steroids as many of the most popular players, from Roger Clemens to Barry Bonds to Mark McGwire, were using steroids. Now, many of these players are long retired and are being refused entry into the Hall of Fame by baseball writers who used to write and promote these players are now leaving them off the hall of fame ballot.

The debate then becomes should these players be allowed into the hall of fame? Some would argue that leaving them out would ignore how many of them hold career and single season records in a variety of categories and therefore, baseball is ignoring this part of it’s history. As well, many would argue that is not up to the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) to police morality in baseball. On the other side, many argue that many of the records broken by the players would not have been done with steroids. As well, morality might not be the issue here as it is important that the so-called “sanctity” of baseball is maintained.

Here is an argument for the inclusion for alleged steroid users:

Here is an explanation of why a writer within the BBWAA did not vote for these steroid users:

With the HOF ceremony over for this year, once again many steroid users have once again been not voted into the HOF. In fact, there were a few players who were never proven to have taken steroids that were not voted in simply because the suspicion of using PED’s exist.

So what do you think? Should these so-called cheaters be let into to the hall? Or should they be kept out forever? Only time will tell if baseball writers become more lenient with their votes.

3 thoughts on “Athletes and the Hall of Fame: Cheaters Allowed?

  1. My view on this issue may be somewhat controversial, but I believe it’s borderline ridiculous that the use of ‘PED’s’ in sport, and in some cases the notion that the player used PED’s, have kept them from the hall of fame. The hypocrisy of the MLB and the baseball writers in this regard is absurd. Although the MLB likes to foster it’s image as a clean sport and having a strong anti-doping stance, this position wasn’t taken until outside pressure from the general public and congress was to much to ignore. Over the summer i had a chance to read “The Game: Inside the Secret World of Major League Baseball’s Power Brokers” by Jon Pessah, and it was eye-opening to say the least. This insightful look into the operations of the MLB illustrated a picture of a league that for decades took a “see no evil, speak no evil” approach to PED’s.

    Although technically PED’s have been banned for quite some time, until the early 2000’s, when the issue was brought to the public forefront, there was no testing or punishment system in place. This allowed the MLB to say it had a stance on the issue, all while profiting from the publicity that things like the famous 1998 record breaking home run chase between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire brought to the sport. The signs of doping were obvious; players were taking the shape of cartoons with their massive arms and disproportionate bodies, players came from obscurity one year to hit 30 home runs the next (Brady Anderson and Ken Caminiti come to mind) and home run totals across the league were skyrocketing. However, the MLB was coming off of a bitter labour dispute that had resulted in the loss of an entire season, and the offensive resurgence was bringing fans back to the sport. So even though it was fairly general knowledge that steroids were being used, the issue was conveniently swept under the rug and the MLB marketed the offensive resurgence.

    One of the poster children for steroid use in baseball, Barry Bonds, has NEVER actually tested positive for steroids, yet he is being kept out of the Hall of Fame. As the all-time home run leader and single season home run record holder, this exclusion is not due to performance, rather the NOTION that he took PED’s. In a society that prides itself on “innocent until proven guilty”, the baseball writers (voting members of the Hall of Fame) have taken on the role of judge, jury and executioner.

    One common argument for the exclusion of these so called “cheaters” is that the ethics of cheating. I would consider whether its unethical to game the system in place. In fact i would argue that it’s human nature to take advantage of every permissible opportunity, especially when money and fame at the level of being a professional athlete are on the line. I question whether it’s ethical to hold human being responsible for gaming a system that publicly said one thing, but who’s punishment and testing system distinctly said another.

    Another common argument is that steroids provided some sort of supernatural power in hitting a baseball. I will not argue that the use of PED’s did not enhance statistic totals, but I believe there is a misconception regarding how it helps players. Hitting major league pitching is widely regarded as one of the hardest things to do in sport. This link (http://www.axonpotential.com/hitting-a-baseball-the-hardest-thing-to-do-in-sports/) illustrates some of the difficulties associated with doing so. Did more pop flies turn into home runs? Absolutely. Were home run totals inflated? Of course. But the notion that Barry Bonds, or Mark McGwire, or Sammy Sosa would not have been hall of fame calibre players without the use of PED’s is one that i believe to be false. PED’s make good players better and better players great, it’s not a recipe to hitting major league pitching.

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    • Reference

      Pessah, J. (2015). The Game: Inside the Secret World of Major League Baseball’s Power Brokers. New York: Little Brown and Company.

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  2. Hi Craig-

    HOF inclusion is an extremely subjective matter. While I respect your opinion allow me to play devil’s advocate against your controversial stance of allowing cheaters into the Hall of Fame (HOF).

    While I do agree with your assertion that PED’s are not the magic Kool-Aid that will turn average baseball players into Hall of Famers, I don’t see the issue of exclusion being centered so much around the inflation of statistics but rather the dangerous precedent it sets for potential future damage to the integrity of the game.

    There are arguments saying that someone like Roger Clemens was a Hall of Famer even if you exclude his ‘juiced up’ seasons. However, this is kind of like saying someone shouldn’t be punished for robbing a bank just because they were already rich. ‘The Rocket’ should simply be happy that Major League Baseball is allowing him to keep his trophy chest full of Cy Youngs…

    Here’s some food for thought:
    Let’s pretend you’re a senior in high school. You’re a good student, some may even say great. Your marks from grades 9 to 11 have been outstanding and were achieved with the utmost academic integrity. However, in grade 12 you being to cheat. Everyone else is doing it, so it is only human nature to take advantage of this opportunity to get ahead, especially when honour roll status is on the line, right? Then you get caught. Should you be punished? Should you make honour roll? Should this instance of cheating impact your entire academic career? There’s no question you would have made honour roll even without cheating, but the honour roll is about far more than just the marks…

    Based on this example I urge you to consider what the purpose of the HOF is. Is Cooperstown a place to simply celebrate the statistical successes of players? I’d say no, in my opinion Cooperstown is a historical enshrinement celebrating only those who contributed positively to ‘America’s favourite pastime.’ The HOF is not simply a place for the statistical giants (literal giants in the case of the many notorious dopers) Statistical thresholds are simply used as a baseline for HOF entry. The voting process is about so much more – “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which he played” It is hard for me to say that steroid user upheld to these values.

    PS- I agree with your thoughts on ‘innocent until proven guilty’ surrounding Barry Bonds. I never realized his PED use had never actually been proven. This makes me thinking of the unfair stereotypes that are placed on players who thrived during the “steroid era” but that is a discussion for another time.

    http://baseballhall.org/hall-of-famers/bbwaa-rules-for-election

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