Blog Entry

2013 Hall class to raise questions

Posted on: January 9, 2012 2:57 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 3:52 pm
Barry Bonds

By C. Trent Rosecrans

If steroids have clouded the Hall of Fame voting the last few years, a hurricane is coming in 2013. 

While the Hall of Fame is the ultimate honor for a baseball player, we all know there's a difference between the Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays Hall of Famers and the Phil Rizzuto, Andre Dawson, Jim Rice Hall of Famers. While Jeff Bagwell, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro were probably better than the later group, they certainly don't belong with the former. That changes next year.

Hall of Fame coverage

In December, members of the Baseball Writers Association of America that are eligible to vote for the Hall of Fame will receive their ballot and on that ballot will be baseball's career home run leader and perhaps its greatest pitcher. While most voters agonize over their votes and research each and every name in front of them, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens shouldn't take time. In a perfect world, a world where the only considerations are on the page, more time would be spent putting ink to paper than actually breaking down the candidacy of Bonds and Clemens.

This, as we know, is not a perfect world. And the Hall of Fame debate, which has always been hotly contested, takes on a different debate with the class of 2013. For the first time not only will Bonds and Clemens be eligible for the Hall, so too will Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza. While Sosa and Piazza aren't in the same class as Bonds and Clemens, they do have 1,036 homers between them and without allegations of steroid use, they'd be no-doubters as well.

As long as the Hall doesn't have any guidelines for the voting bloc, there will be a mixture of four types of voters when it comes to steroids:

1. Hardline no: These are the folks who don't vote for Bagwell. If there's even a rumor about a player having a zit on their back, these defenders of the Hall will keep a player out.

2. Proof only: Here's where it gets tricky -- some voters want hard evidence before they keep a player out. But what's the line here? Is it a failed test like Palmeiro? Or is it overwhelming evidence such as the cases against Bonds and Clemens? And then what about the Mitchell Report? Is that good enough? And then there's other ties, like Sammy Sosa, who was never suspended and not in the Mitchell Report, but just about everyone suspects he used.

3. Worthy before PEDs: Then there's the "he was a Hall of Famer before steroids." This is the argument you can use to OK Bonds and Clemens, while rejecting the likes of McGwire and Sosa. This, though, assumes you can tell when a player started using steroids just by their head growth or some other assumed symptom.

4. Numbers voters: Finally there are those who say the only thing we know is the results that were on the field. We don't know the extent of steroid use during the so-called steroid era or how much the results were changed by their usage or even who exactly did or did not use them. 

In the end, the results are likely to say more about the voting bloc than the players themselves -- and as many people who get upset about the voting every year will get louder next year as the steroid question will divide almost all baseball fans. Here's a quick look at the new players who will be on the 2013 ballot:

Craig Biggio -- Biggio finished his career with 3,060 hits and nearly 300 home runs (291). The seven-time All-Star put up a career line of .281/.363/.433. He started his career at catcher before moving to second base and was the face of the Astros, playing 20 years in Houston. And despite his close association with Bagwell during their playing days, he hasn't been associated with Bagwell's alleged steroid use. In the end, his squeaky-clean image could do as much to aid his Hall candidacy as his numbers.

Barry BondsBarry Bonds -- And this is where it gets real. Bonds has more home runs (762) in the history of the game, had a career OPS of 1.051. A seven-time MVP, Bonds may be the best hitter in the history of the game. And then there's Game of Shadows and BALCO -- the baggage surrounding Bonds is as big as his batting helmet. The common belief is Bonds didn't start using steroids until seeing the hoopla around Sosa and McGwire in 1998, and by that time he already had three MVPs under his belt. A great player and future Hall of Famer before the 1998 season, he hit 351 home runs from 1999-2007, breaking McGwire's single-season mark with 73 home runs in 2001.

Roger Clemens -- Like Bonds, Clemens had a Hall of Fame career before suspicion of steroids. Clemens had three Cy Young Awards in his first eight seasons, before going on to win four more later in his career. Clemens finished his carer with a 354-184 mark, a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third all-time after Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson.

Steve Finley -- The outfielder had a solid 19-year career, picking up 2,548 hits, 304 home runs and 320 stolen bases, to go along with five Gold Gloves. A fine career, but not a Hall-worthy one.

Julio Franco -- Franco's a better candidate for Ripley's Believe It or Not than the Hall of Fame. Franco played his last game at the reported age of 49 in 2007. In his 23 seasons, he hit .298/.365/.417, collecting 2,586 hits. In addition to his 23 seasons in the big leagues, he had two years in Japan, another in Korea and played his last season in Mexico. A three-time All-Star, he also won a batting title in 1991 with a .341 average. He won't be voted into the Hall, but he had one amazing career.

Roberto Hernandez -- A closer, Hernandez finished his career with 326 saves and a 3.45 ERA. He had a good career, but is unlikely to stay on the ballot more than one year.

Kenny Lofton -- Because Lofton played in the steroid era, his talents may be under-appreciated. A leadoff man, Lofton finished with a .299/.372/.423 line, stole 622 bases and had 2,428 hits. He also had 130 homers, winning four Gold Gloves and appearing in six All-Star Games. A premier defensive player, Lofton has a better case than you'd think at first glance.

Jose Mesa -- Mesa's numbers are just a tick below Hernandez's, finishing with 321 saves and a 4.36 ERA.

Mike PiazzaMike Piazza -- If there are whispers, but no proof, that Bagwell used steroids, there are shouts that Piazza did, despite the same lack of hard evidence. The best offensive catcher of the modern era, Piazza had 427 home runs and hit .308/.377/.545 in his 16 seasons. He wasn't considered a good catcher, but that was beside the point -- Piazza was a middle of the order presence. Without steroids involved in the discussion, there's no discussion of whether he's in or not. But that's not the world we live in.

Curt Schilling -- Jack Morris' candidacy has been built largely on his postseason exploits -- and with all due respect to Morris, he can't hold a candle to Schilling's postseason accomplishments. Morris was 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA in 13 postseason starts. Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 in 19 postseason starts, winning four of his seven World Series starts. In 20 years in the big leagues, Schilling was 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA, but that was done in a much better offensive era than Morris' 3.90 ERA. Injuries throughout his career kept his career numbers down, but his candidacy will be heavily debated from both sides -- and in a rarity, it may be an old-fashioned baseball debate, not one about steroids.

Sammy Sosa -- Sosa will likely be remembered as much for his sudden inability to speak English when facing Congress as his 609 home runs. He's the only player to hit 60 or more home runs in three different seasons, but he didn't lead the league in homers in any of those three seasons. He reportedly tested positive during the 2003 PED survey test. On sheer numbers, he's tough to pass up, but with the steroid question, he's unlikely to get in.

David Wells -- Wells no doubt got bigger throughout his career, but the belief is he did it the old fashioned way -- by eating. Never small, Wells went 239-157 for nine different teams in parts of 21 seasons, but his 4.13 ERA will make him easy to keep out of the Hall of Fame. He was 10-5 with a 3.17 ERA in 27 postseason games and 17 starts.

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Since: Nov 27, 2008
Posted on: January 27, 2012 11:53 pm

2013 Hall class to raise questions

How likely is a Biggo-Bagwell duo entering the Hall?

I put Steve Finley in the same category as Jim Edmonds, I'd want him on my team for sure, but I'd never call him a HOFer.

Since: Mar 17, 2008
Posted on: January 12, 2012 7:24 pm

2013 Hall class to raise questions

Barry Bonds was the most feared hitter since Babe Ruth. I don't know what they had back in the thirties, but I gaurantee most players would have taken enhancers in a heartbeat. I really am sick of all the whiners and "old school" writers complaining about steroids. Most everyone was doing it, proof or no proof. The game was very exciting. Everyone knew what was going on. You don't punish a dog or child for something they did yesterday or the day before. Why do it now? A steroid-less Bonds or Clemens is better than Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, and the rest of this year's ballot combined. Get over it people.

Since: Dec 29, 2011
Posted on: January 12, 2012 3:26 pm

2013 Hall class to raise questions

All the flaws you pointed out in other players from past generations, the ones you learned about when you grew up, were flaws of humanity that don't manifest themselves glaringly in the record books. The steroid era players "transgressions" are right there in black ink though, and are called to your attention when you discuss them as players, not as men.
I'm one of the people who thinks the hall of fame is for honoring the achievements ofplayers, which is just what it does in practice.
I'm one of the people who was disappointed to see 30 players  go .300 40 and 120 or whatever every year in that era because part of the enjoyment of baseball for me is the general sense of statistical continuity, where certain numbers have value based on who had reached them before.
I like talking about baseball with people from older generations and younger ones, but now every time I do, steroids is part of that conversation.
I don't want it to be so I'm bent about that, too. That's their fault. Selig, players, managers. All of them.

In the end, you play by the rules on the field. The league let so many guys get away with it that it got to a point where it was accepted. It was obvious. You can't really blame players for doing it. but if doing steroids is what got them over those historical numbers that I so naively cherished, the ones guys point to and say, he belongs in the hall of fame, then they shouldn't be honored for that, that's no real achievement.


Since: Nov 2, 2008
Posted on: January 11, 2012 6:41 pm

2013 Hall class to raise questions

oh so only the druggies get held out , well there where drugs in the 70's also, I believe it was Tom Seaver that said that alot of the players in that time did greenies, and you know there where lots of players doing steriods but to only get the one that were great is wronge,  what of the other 103 positive test that somehow only ARods name was seen,  lets be fair  these players were the best of there time competing against players doing the same thing.  Bonds, Clemens were great players even if you don't like them. you sure as loved what they did for the game back then , now you want to bash them. There will always be something used to inhance power it was steriods now they will develope aomething else

Since: Feb 25, 2009
Posted on: January 11, 2012 6:15 pm

2013 Hall class to raise questions

Make all the excuses you want but the decision has alredy been made by the writers, NO to ANYONE linked to steriods.
Yeah that might be well the case. But what it does mean ? It only says two things :

1, baseball writers are total morons. Where they get their voting privileges from ? Everybody, including the writers, knew for a long time, that without the testing, there might be a lot of steroid users. Now they want to play the almighty judges ? This is crystal clear hypocrisis. Just to mind you, most of the names mentioned here never failed any test (as there were none).

2, as a result of point 1, the entire HOF is putting a huge asterisk on itself. Without BigMac, Clemens and Bonds, they can also close it down, it is irrelevant.

But this is going to be just a small episode. Cheating is here to stay. Can't wait till 2040 when first generation of genetically modified players will be 5 years in retirement. Not sure if the first wave will consist of pitchers who will have ERA under 0.1 thanks to their 130 MPH heaters or it would be hitters with 500 HRs per season with their Matrix-like ability to see exactly where pitch will be thrown.


Since: Jan 17, 2008
Posted on: January 11, 2012 3:10 pm

2013 Hall class to raise questions

The voting for the Baseball Hall of fame is a JOKE. There are morons that didn't vote for Cal Ripken or George Brett on their first ballot. Those people should have their voting priviledge permanently removed.

Any idiot that doesn't vote Bonds, Clemens or Piazza in on the first ballot should also have their voting rights removed. This isn't a popularity contest. They were the VERY BEST of the best over the course of their careers. Don't give me the BS about steroids. Players have been chemically enhancing their performance since the '60s and '70s.

Since: Feb 27, 2010
Posted on: January 11, 2012 3:02 pm

2013 Hall class to raise questions

The sad thing about admission to the HAll is the writers can bar entry to players for their own, PERSONAL, reasons that are unrelated to what happened on the field. Barry was unpopular with the press because he was aloof and difficult. Now it's biting him...personal animus to be hidden behind the cloak of steroids. I don't mean that EVERY sportswriter is out to get revenge, but the issue provides a way out from voting for him now, while he's young/alive. You have to KNOW that the veterans committee will fix it later...

I understand the records part of baseball and it's role with diehard fans. I'm one...and I played my share of ball as well. I love baseball. There's nothing quite as perfect feeling in your hands than that sphere with raised stitches, when standing on a pile of dirt. It has a beauty to it, an essence that the casual fan can't understand. The Hall should be able to promote that wonder, and the busts of the best practitioners of the game should stare back at you as you walk through. Rascals or saints, played in the early days, or more recently, to me, the Hall should be about the game.

I wish the steroid era never took place, but it did, and it is really no different than the raised mound era of Bob Gibson's time...if you think about it. Pitching numbers were inflated artificially, not hitting numbers. Steroids did the opposite, for the most part. Viewed in that light, higher ERA's caused by the deluge of homeruns AND the DH impacted the pitching stats. Some ballparks played HUGE, some played small. Then there is Coors Field, pre-humidor. Even now, we sift through and place filters on the numbers. They matter, and they don't. The best players of each generation, the true standouts, belong in the Hall of Fame.

I'm glad there are people like Fred and Cleveland who can see past the negativity fueled by baseball writers. It's cool if others disagree about what the hall "should" be, it's the anticipation of the YEARS of this rhetoric continuing as stars from that era become eligible that's difficult to stomach. When AROD gets in, how do you keep other steroid guys OUT? You can't...not on the basis of steroid use.

Next year's headline: 2014 Hall class to raise questions... (and 2015, 2016, 2017...)

Since: Mar 8, 2011
Posted on: January 11, 2012 2:46 pm

2013 Hall class to raise questions

Damn fine post Fred - success without honor is empty

Since: Jun 16, 2011
Posted on: January 11, 2012 1:34 pm

2013 Hall class to raise questions

That's the fact Jack!  Couldn't agree more . 

Since: Sep 5, 2008
Posted on: January 11, 2012 12:54 pm

2013 Hall class to raise questions

Make all the excuses you want but the decision has alredy been made by the writers, NO to ANYONE linked to steriods.  Sorry but if Big Mac can't get more than 20% of the voting , he was never 100% proven to use steriods, but his testimony left him guilty, so the same holds true for Bonds, and I know Shilling has been the media hero but a 216-146 record does not deserve the HOF.  If his post season stunts get him in then Morris shold have been in years ago.  Sorry, but let's at least be consistant.  Sosa is the same as Big Mac.  Biggio is the only one on this list that deserves to get in, 3000 hits is still 3000 hits and as you said above, he is squeeky clean.

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