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New Hall of Fame Voting Policy Hurts 'Steroid-era' Players

by Photo of Matthew Golda

Why cutting the eligibility down to ten years is a double standard for baseball.

New Hall of Fame Voting Policy Hurts 'Steroid-era' Players

The baseball Hall of Fame had a very busy weekend. On Sunday, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas were inducted into Cooperstown. However, just a day earlier with significantly less media attention, the baseball Hall of Fame ruled to cut down the eligibility on making the Hall from 15 years to 10. It's a rule the Hall of Fame says makes the voting more "relevant," but it seems more geared towards stopping the steroid-era players from being elected.

Baseball was very kind to home run kings Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds, as all were involved in the apex of popularity for the sport. Their awesome ability to hit the long ball, their epic home-run races, and their record-breaking chases captivated the sporting world. Then "the steroid-era" was born as facts emerged about PEDs and those same players who were glorified by the media became vilified. It's your classic double standard. Everybody who could profit profited, but when the going got tough, everyone who could bail bailed, leaving the players to fend for themselves. Now, baseball is expediting the process of distancing themselves from this "black-eye" that they themselves helped create.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not condoning cheating. And let's not forget about the long-term consequences of some of these drugs, which have their own drastic downsides, - even Jose Canseco regrets using steroids - but when these players were taking whatever drugs they could, there were no rules in place yet to prohibit that sort of behavior. A lot like the Wild West, the players governed themselves.

Thus the homer-happy players freely injected PEDs into their bodies without repercussions and were hailed as home-run heroes by the media. Every baseball fan who was around in 1998 remembers the home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. It reinvigorated a sport that recently came off a player lockout, which saw the 1994 World Series cancelled. "America's pastime" needed all the positive publicity it could get and the home runs, which were coming at an alarming rate, were an easy out. Chicks dig the long ball, remember? Home-run derbies looked more like freak shows, with the biggest muscles on display. Never has Ken Griffey Jr. looked so small. (To be fair, Roger Clemens, a pitcher, has also been linked to steroid use and is in the same boat as all the prolific home-run hitters).

Just watch this video on McGwire's 70th home-run. Joe Buck has never shown more emotion:

And just like that, America was all-in on baseball again and coverage of the sport reached unprecedented levels. Baseball writers made a name covering the sport, but they essentially looked the other way when it came to the the dramatic increases in player size and the rise in home-run rates. Why question something when it's working? This looks normal, right? Everybody was winning. That was until Congress got involved. Then all the members of the media  who once praised the likes of McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds spurned them to save their own skin. And alas, the distancing began.

So, to say now that the cheaters don't belong in the Hall of Fame is flawed. Players can only be fairly compared to the players in their own generation. It's an even playing field for everybody. Drug use was running rampant, but some players stood out over others in an era where apparently many players were using PEDs. 

Now, will these players get voted in? Doubtful, even if the policy was still at 15 years, but that doesn't take away from the fact there are players who have Hall of Fame credentials who are going to be left out. Former manager Tony La Russa, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame this past weekend, has said they should be let in, but with asterisks. He says their records shouldn't stand over guys like Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, which makes sense, but feels they have Hall of Fame numbers irregardless, and should be recognized in some capacity. What I'm saying is, he makes valid points.

This whole 'Steroid Era' of baseball is no doubt a blemish to the sport, but to throw away years of records and players seems foolish, especially taking into the fact as how we, as a nation, covered the sport and the players. There's no rule in the books to say you have to be a good guy to be voted in (just look up Ty Cobb or Cap Anson), so when it comes down to it, cheaters or not, the deserving players of the 'Steroid Era' deserve a spot in Cooperstown, even if it is in a separate wing. That way, generations of people who visit Cooperstown will see their "tainted" records and remember a different, darker time in baseball's history, but remember it nonetheless. To forget about a generation of players is like repressing a bad memory. It's unhealthy. Accept the bad with the good and move on.

As it stands now, McGwire only has two years of eligibility left, instead of seven. Bonds, Sosa, and Clemens still have eight years left. Steroids or not, they had impressive careers and deserve some sort of recognition.

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