Tampa Bay Sports Day

Are Baseball Writers Capable of Legitimate HOF/Steroid Proposal?

At least give them credit for trying. The steroid issue has been so prevalent in Major League Baseball for a number of years now and  the questions surrounding Hall of Fame inductions gets deeper every time one of the accused and/or proven hits the five-year mark and get placed on the ballot.

Mark McGwire may have been the first to feel the wrath of the Baseball Writers Association of America the past few years but he certainly will not be the last. The group that votes in the candidates annually met in St. Louis during the All-Star break and turned down a proposal that would have established guidelines on player evaluation during the steroid era.

Rick Telander, a Chicago Sun-Times columnist, first brought up the topic at a local BBWAA gathering and then made a formal proposal in St.Louis at a national meeting, which was voted down 30-25. The rules in place now state that voters must consider a player’s “record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

That can be interpreted in many different ways and it would not be the worst idea to amend that rule slightly with the recent addition of performance-enhancing drugs into the equation. But there are two ways to look at this and it would not be a stretch to say that neither include the obvious.

Initially, would these journalists, who for the most part do not have any independent knowledge of the use and effects of PEDs besides what has come out post-McGwire, actually take the time to speak to people who are more knowledgeable in the subject before coming to a conclusion on this new set of criteria?

Secondly, if things remain the same, are these writers going to be consistent in their vote for all of the players that have been proven to or suspected of using PEDs that would have otherwise deserved to get into Cooperstown? This also brings the consultation into the equation with personnel from the medical profession or another qualified field.

Judging by the low percentage of votes McGwire has received in his first three years of eligibility, the BBWAA may be against the so-called “cheaters.” Big Mac was never a sure thing to make the Hall anyway, so it will be very interesting when the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are on the ballot. The unofficial ‘automatic’ entry statistics such as 500 home runs and 300 wins may go by the wayside if some of these numbers may be viewed as being tainted.

Ken Davidoff, a columnist for New York Newsday and BBWAA member, voted against the proposal. He explained in today’s edition, “Why would we as a group discuss guidelines for PED use – rather than have every voter make that value judgement on his or her own – when we don’t discuss guidelines for closers, or designated hitter, or the merits of on-base percentage versus RBI?”

While Davidoff  does make a valid point, the main objective here is if the members of the BBWAA can make a value judgement on their own without the full knowledge necessary.  Will they hold a certain degree of prejudice against someone who may have used such a limited amount of steroids that it did not even make any difference in his performance?

When anyone – especially an athlete – begins using a PED, it takes more than just one needle in the ass to change warning track power. An entire regimen that includes a proper diet, sleep and intense training must accompany a cycle of steroids for it to have any effect on the user. Most people who take these substances without knowing what they are doing end up just retaining water and getting fat – certainly not a performance enhancer in those situations.

For this Hall of Fame steroid proposal to work, there are many more questions that need to be answered. Some of them will be next to impossible to attain, such as exactly what was administered and what else was done during these cycles. But for this to have any merit, there needs to be an attempt to ascertain those answers.

Sure, it’s easy to broad brush it and say steroids were against the rules and anyone who even tried them once should be sent to the brig. But it is more complicated than that and the idea of certain criteria concerning the Hall of Fame and PEDs is a noble one that can be honed to actually have some validity to it. Before we scoff at the notion, more information, such as what exactly was proposed in St. Louis, is needed to come to a conclusion.