I favor a “Small Hall”, so from that standpoint I’m not entirely disappointed to see nobody added to the Hall of Fame this year.
But the idea that some holier-than-thou blowhard believes we should be punishing players who were the best of the “Steroid Era” seems somewhat ridiculous to me.
“If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’,” goes the saying.
Any half-assed student of baseball history knows that cheating in baseball is as old as the game itself. The Hall is already littered with player who cheated. It is full of players who were less than morally upright.
We should punish a player who used steroids (or allegedly used) but it’s okay that there are players in the Hall who used amphetamines, doctored balls, or never had to compete in the post-integration era?
On that latter point, I feel like we’ve already accepted that, yes, it was obviously reprehensible to keep blacks out of baseball. Guys like Ruth, Gehrig, Cobb, Wagner, and Lajoie, while great players, never had to play against that portion of the baseball-playing American population. But we look over it and say that they were the best players in an era in which no blacks were allowed to play professional baseball.
Why can’t we also agree that guys like Bonds were the best to play in an era in which their was rampant steroid use?
The argument that we should ignore guys like Bonds because their offensive numbers were inflated during the era is patently ridiculous.
We already adjust for historical era when we consider the feats of other players. There have been prior eras of increased offensive production and others of decreased offensive production and we take those things into account already. An ERA of 2.25 is quite different if a pitcher threw in the 2003 National League (4.6 runs scored per game) versus 1963 (3.8 runs per game). Voters should be smart enough to take that into account and I don’t see why this is any different. You don’t need a degree in advanced mathematics to know that a guy who popped 40 HR a season during the steroid era is not the same as a guy who hit 40 a season during the 1960s. But maybe you could answer for yourself what the equivalent is – is 60 HR a season during the late ’90s equivalent to 40 a season during the late ’60s?
To go along with that, it’s not as though we don’t have pitchers from the era who we don’t consider to have been pretty lights out in an offensive era. Pedro, Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Clemens, Randy Johnson. It was an offensive era, of course. The numbers don’t lie – runs per game were up. But there were also plenty of star pitchers.
By the way, this is not to argue that there was no juicing. Of course there was. But one should also keep in mind how many new stadiums went up during that era and how many of those new parks had smaller dimensions than those that preceded them. Fences were brought in. Foul territories were shrunk in order to bring fans closer to the field, a la relics like Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. These impact scoring. I haven’t seen a good chart showing all new stadiums that went up in the 90s and comparing them to fields that came before, but that might be an interesting thing to see. Maybe I’ll get to that…
Also, Jonah Keri nailed it when he wrote that we need to overhaul the system. It’s a good read and worth checking out. The idea that there are people out there who are voting for this who look at nothing more than the Triple Crown numbers (AVG/HR/RBI for batters; W/ERA/K for pitchers) is a little upsetting to me. It’s 2013. You should be voting on the overall skills of a ballplayer, not on the numbers that are used for traditional 4×4 Rotisserie leagues.