Baseball Hall vote a 'roid raging debate

CHRIS TOMAN, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 10:17 AM ET

TORONTO -- With each passing year, more players appear on baseball's Hall of Fame ballot who have either been linked to performance-enhancing drugs or played during the era, which, sadly enough, has become a form of scrutiny in itself.

There is still an ever-present gray area in the whole steroids saga, and, despite what information has been made public over the years, there's more to it that remains unknown -- from what those in higher positions within baseball knew to which players were using.

Unfortunately, these are questions that may never be answered or unearthed, and, as a result, the voters are left with the responsibility of weighing this factor when submitting their ballots. With names such as Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez and returning-hopeful Mark McGwire on the 2011 ballot, it's a debate not likely to go away anytime soon.

There are three ways that voters should decide on how to vote for those linked to PEDs:

First, if a writer feels steroid users have no place in the Hall, then he/she should never vote for an admitted user.

Basically, if steroids can be a singular factor behind not voting someone into the Hall, then it has to be consistent across the board regardless of statistics.

Second, a writer can completely turn a blind eye to steroids, decide that it was part of the culture and cast a vote for a player who has Hall-of-Fame-type numbers regardless of PED usage. In this line of thinking, perhaps old standards such as 500 home runs would become legitimate benchmarks again.

Third, a writer can turn this into a subjective war and permit acceptance to some that were juicing while punishing others for doing so. They may create their own benchmarks or try to figure out how many years a player was juicing, deduct his numbers during those years and decide if he still would have been a Hall of Famer (Barry Bonds). Perhaps, those like Alex Rodriguez will be accepted based on admission of guilt, while those who insistently deny their usage will suffer.

Maybe some writers will hold a personal grudge against some users while having sympathy for others and let that factor into their decision making.

The reality of it is this: The writers can vote however way they want, as there are no guidelines on how to treat those that have been implicated during this dark age for baseball. We don't know everyone who juiced, and there may be certain players that the public suspects; the writers could penalize a player based on simple prejudice. Those that cast the ballot are human and such are free-spirited individuals who all have the difficult task of deciding what type of stance they will take regarding this subject. Perhaps they don't vote a suspected juicer on the first ballot to allow more time to consider the allegations, but what if every voter were to do this and a player didn't get the 5% minimum amount of votes required to stay on the ballot?

Ultimately, it's a complex situation and, for those voting, isn't as black and white as some people may make it out to be. The voters are in a difficult position, but all we can ask for is some level of consistency.

McGwire is the first real example of a player to be associated with PEDs who had a chance at the Hall, and his fortunes may be a sign of things to come for his peers next in line.

Despite hitting a major league rookie record 49 home runs while capturing AL Rookie of the Year honours in 1987, having the best career home-run-to-at-bat ratio in history (10.6) and sitting 10th on the all-time home run list with 583, McGwire has failed to receive more than 24% of the vote (75% is required) in each of his four years on the ballot.

It will be interesting to see his numbers this time around, a full year after his admission to taking steroids, as well as one season on his resume as the St. Louis Cardinals' hitting coach. He won't get nearly enough votes to get in, but his numbers could very well see a boost.

Like McGwire, Palmeiro's reputation took a hit following the 2005 congressional hearings on performance-enhancing drug use in baseball. After infamously denying his usage of steroids before failing a drug test later that year that resulted in a 10-game suspension, these black marks have cost Palmeiro a chance at being selected his first time around -- if at all.

The four-time All-Star who ranks 12th on the all-time career home runs list with 569 and is one of only four players who have hit more than 500 home runs and 3,000 hits during his career, joining the likes of Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray.

Palmeiro's career numbers are more impressive than McGwire's, but the writers haven't taken kindly to those that continue to deny PED use when the evidence suggests otherwise. Simply put, if McGwire was PED-free, his 583 career home runs would have got him into the Hall before his fifth crack at the honour.

There are 25 players who have hit more than 500 career home runs -- 15 of whom are in the Hall of Fame, three who are still playing, five who remain ineligible, one appearing for the first time and, of course, McGwire. Of the seven who are retired and waiting for entrance into Cooperstown, Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas are the only two who have not been linked to PEDs.

Meanwhile, there are 27 players who have amassed 3,000 career hits and only three of whom are not in Cooperstown. Palmeiro is one of them, Craig Biggio, who remains ineligible, is another, while the last is all-time hits leader Pete Rose, who has been barred entry for gambling on baseball.

Other first-time candidates on this year's ballot include Gonzalez, Jeff Bagwell and Larry Walker.

Bagwell and Walker, two former NL MVPs, were offensive forces in the 1990s, but, despite great numbers, weren't the best players of the decade. Will they be scrutinized for the mere fact that they played during the 'steroid era' or will they be applauded for impressive careers, which have not yet been tainted with a linkage to PEDs? Both have a strong case regardless of if they get in on the first time around.

Another interesting case is Gonzalez, who figures to stand no chance on the ballot as a result of his link to steroids. Gonzalez was one of the most feared hitters of the 90s, having hit 40 or more homers on five different occasions and winning the AL MVP in 1996 and '98.

If McGwire is going to be the first example of a player to face the fallout, then the rest of those that appear on the ballot after him must face a similar fate if steroids is the sole reason behind his omission.


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