PEDs, Steroids and Cooperstown

By William Coppola

The results of the voting for the 2018 class of new inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown will be announced next Wednesday.  Heading the list are Chipper Jones and Jim Thome, who are on the ballot for the first time, and Vladimir Guerrero who missed by 15 votes in his first try last year.  All three are sure to be elected.
Jack Morris and Alan Trammell have already been voted in by the Modern Baseball Era Committee. That is a comfortable five new members, after that the list becomes quite interesting. Trevor Hoffman only missed by five votes last year and qualifies as the first pitcher to get 500 saves, then 600 before finishing his career with 601 career saves. Only future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera with 652 saves has more. Other famed closing pitchers: Dennis Eckersley (390), Rollie Fingers (341), Goose Gossage (310) and Bruce Sutter (300) are all in the Hall of Fame. Rivera had a saves rate of 89.1 and Hoffman’s second with 88.8 in his career with the San Diego Padres.

Will there be a sixth inductee this year? Will DH Edgar Martinez get elected? He would follow in the footsteps of Paul Molitor and Frank Thomas, who also spent most of their careers as a DH. Or do we see seven new members?

Those are legitimate thoughts on who gets in. Here is where it gets complicated again. How many more years will the most honored enshrinement of our baseball heroes be sullied by the likes of all the suspected performance-enhancing drug (PED) users on the ballot? Except for Alex Roidriguez, the rest of those suspected users weren’t tested/never tested positive for PEDs.

Barry Bonds – MLB Baseball Home Run Leader. (Credit: YouTube)

There are 10 players who averaged 45 homers a year over five consecutive seasons in the big leagues, Sammy Sosa 1998-2002, Mark McGwire 1995-99, Barry Bonds, 2000-04, Babe Ruth, 1926-30, Ken Griffey JR, 96-2000, Alex Rodriguez, 2001-05, Ralph Kiner, 1947-51, Ryan Howard, 2006-10, Jim Thome, 2000-04 and Jimmie Foxx, 1932-36.

The first three on this list are questionable PED users and are getting closer to being elected along with Roger Clemens. Was it a coincidence that Bonds, Sosa and McGuire were able to hit more home runs than any one in the history of baseball over this short period of time? Was it a coincidence that when questions and investigation about possible PED use, MLB home runs went down to what was always normal for sluggers for over a century of baseball?

If we look at stats,  other than those already in the Hall, have a legitimate chance to get in. With no confirmed evidence of cheating other than Rodriguez and their eye-popping stats, how can you keep them out? They talk about character, Sammy Sosa is one of the nicest people you would ever meet. Ty Cobb was one if not the nastiest people ever to play the game, on and off the field. So that character thing is baloney. Does that mean they should get in?

I don’t like cheaters and all things point to these guys as being PED users. Griffey and Thome played during the same era as Bonds, Sosa and McGuire. So why do they get a pass? My gut feeling tells me that Griffey and Thome are clean because over that time period they were not hitting 65 to 73 home runs every year.

Sosa hit over 60 homers three times and he never won the home run title. Yikes! Is that evidence good enough in a court of law? Good enough for me.

Voting ballplayers suspected of using PEDs into Cooperstown would be akin to a wine stain on an expensive tablecloth. We can try to clean it off but when held up to the light we can still see a trace of a stain and it is all we can think about. It will never be the same beautiful tablecloth ever again.

Some of these guys will eventually get inducted into the Hall of Fame. One reason is that stats have become the only way ballplayers are judged today. Gut feeling is becoming old-fashioned to the new wave of Cooperstown voters.

If and when the cheaters get voted in, I will have a tough time visiting that amazing and hallowed place. The whole thing stinks and the stench will be with baseball forever.

William Coppola has 40 years in the game of baseball as a player, coach, umpire, and scout. 

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