Major League Baseball: Hall of Fame Hopefuls at the Mercy of the Steroid Era

David A. CucchiaraCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2013

Fred McGriff and Sammy Sosa during their stints in the windy city.
Fred McGriff and Sammy Sosa during their stints in the windy city.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The steroid era in Major League Baseball is deteriorating and coming to an end, but many players are still feeling the effects with denials from baseball’s hallowed hall.

With Commissioner Bud Selig implementing strict in-season drug testing, baseball will see a decrease in PED (performance enhancing drug) users as it begins to heal from a troubled era.

An ominous cloud still lingers over not just admitted or convicted PED users, but all who played during the 1990s and 2000s. Through the thick smoke lies players like Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Mike Piazza, who played well during the steroid era and are denied access to baseball’s Hall of Fame simply based off speculation.

The 2013 voting results make it clear that players who were accused or convicted of steroid use have no business being in the Hall of Fame. It also told us that players with no link to steroid use are illegitimately affected by the actions of others during that era.

Craig Biggio, an almost sure Hall of Famer with over 3000 hits, seven All-Star selections and four Gold Gloves, received just 68.2 percent of the votes, missing being a first ballot Hall of Famer by 6.8 percent.

There’s little doubt in my mind that Biggio will be admitted to the Hall of Fame in the upcoming election, but anything can happen in terms of accusations. Anything that even remotely links Biggio to steroid use will likely be the end of his Hall of Fame candidacy.

So, in a society that believes in innocent before proven guilty, where’s the justification in Biggio being denied first ballot Hall of Fame status?

Take Mike Piazza as another example. Piazza, whose fielding behind the plate did cost the New York Mets some games at times, is statistically the best hitting catcher to ever play the game.

Piazza is a career .308 hitter with 427 home runs and 2127 hits. He sits in the top five of almost every offensive category amongst catchers.

While it may be a biased opinion, the co-author of Mike Piazza’s biography claims the veteran catcher did not use PEDs at all during his career, reported Steve Dilbeck of the LA Times.

Yes, the co-author’s opinion is surely biased, but looking back, Piazza’s numbers are quite consistent over his career. Unlike most players, he began his career strong, winning Rookie of the Year honors, and, like clockwork, his numbers tapered off during the twilight of his career.

Consistency is the best judge of whether or not a player obviously used steroids.

Bonds, who has never admitted to steroid use, received just 36.2 percent of the vote based off speculation. Speculation that is warranted no less.

Steroids tipped the scale off balance for Bonds. He began his career as a speedy outfielder, averaging 34 stolen bases a season from 1986 to 1995 when he turned 30.

But, from 1996 to 2007, Bonds averaged just 14 stolen bases a season as his home run numbers went through the roof. It wouldn’t be taboo to make the rather obvious assumption Bonds was juicing during the latter half of his career.

What’s next for Major League Baseball and Hall of Fame voting?

The 2014 ballot will have names like Frank Thomas, Jeff Kent, Luis Gonzalez and Ray Durham—more names who shared success during the steroid era but were never convicted of usage.

Another name that really jumps off the ballot is Fred McGriff. McGriff has a lifetime batting average of .284, 2490 hits and 493 home runs.

Of the players elected in the last 10 years, it wouldn’t be difficult to pick out 10 guys whose numbers can’t compare to McGriff's. Yet, speculation held McGriff to just 20.7 percent of the vote.

Craig Biggio and 1980s pitcher Jack Morris will likely enter baseball’s hallowed ground in 2014, but next year’s ballot will resemble 2013’s. Convicted, accused and obvious PED users will once again be denied admittance to Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame, while other players during that era will continue to suffer unwarranted consequences.


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