I’ve always been kind of obsessed with the Hall of Fame. As a kid, I always dreamt of being there one day. I loved the idea of being “immortal” in the eyes of baseball fans everywhere. Eventually reality set in and it turned out a lot of other kids were better than me. But even after my subsequent baseball retirement, the idea of the Hall of Fame and who gets in has always fascinated me.
Every January, the Hall welcomes its newest members, and me and many others await patiently for the results, when controversy over who makes it or not is always present and part of the fun. In the last couple of years, though, the biggest names of the steroid-generation have surfaced on the ballots and created a much more polemic situation than ever before. There’s doubt over most, especially if they were power hitters. All it takes is some begrudged former teammate or beat writer to spread a rumor and no one knows for sure what’ll happen to that player.
In the western world, we’re basically taught to compete. A lot more if you play sports. And even more so if you’re playing sports professionally. As fans, we ask for nothing but the best effort from players. We want them to win no matter what; to have a killer instinct; to play through injuries; to do everything in their power to be the best. So can we really blame someone for desperately trying to perform under that heavy scrutiny and using something that would ease up the exhausting 162 game schedule?
Let’s remember steroids were not illegal for years; maybe frowned upon, sure, but the testing didn’t begin till 2003, which is why the process of evaluating a whole generation that lived its heyday in the 80s and 90s is absolutely ridiculous.
Many big names already in Cooperstown have done amphetamines and other substances in the past. Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt admitted using them a couple of times and claimed “amphetamine use in baseball is both far more common and has been going on a lot longer than steroid abuse.”
It’s also easier to romanticize the past and look at it as a cleaner era, where people played the right way, when being a baseball player meant something more. But is that true, or is it an idealized version of the past? Grass is always greener, even in sepia tones.
Hundreds of players have reportedly been caught using steroids, but only a small percentage has been really good. Steroids don’t make you a good player, nor hit home runs miraculously. Neifi Perez was juiced and suspended several times for it, and he played in power-friendly Coors Field, and never hit more than 12 home runs (and that was leading the league in at-bats.)
Barry Bonds is perhaps the greatest hitter of all time. Roger Clemens may be the greatest pitcher of all time. Whatever they took, they took. It’s a product of the times they played in, just as much as the amphetamine-filled past decades. We can’t judge just a few scapegoats and pretend the rest is fine, and we also can’t judge an entire generation for a stigma that old-timers want to stick on it for the sake of saying their time was better. The truth is we live in the most advanced era in sports. Ridiculously talented players of all races come to the Majors from all over the world; athleticism is at its highest ever; there are all kinds of video analyses and advanced statistics. This is as good as it’s ever been.
And yes, I’m excited that Maddux, Glavine and Thomas made the Hall. They’re all very worthy members, but so are several other guys from the generation I grew up watching and wanting to be like. They deserve to be in there, and us, the fans, deserve the chance to see them enshrined in Cooperstown.