Widgets Magazine

Hall of Fame Thoughts

Written By on 9th January, 2013

The Hall of Fame’s announced they will not induct any players in 2013. I do not care for the process and I find the discussion of a player’s merits for enshrinement to be irrelevant. But, after I read piece after piece by voters laying out their rationale, I was compelled to address the issues surrounding this class’s nominees.

Cheating is unacceptable. If you cheat or plagiarize in school you will fail your exam and could be subject to failing the class or expulsion from school. Cheating and its derivative behaviors are prohibited in the majority of the activates we engage in. Actions have repercussions and it should come as no surprise that one who partook in dishonest actions may suffer adverse consequences.

There is no question in my mind that if a Major League Baseball player took steroids that he has cheated. In 2009, Manny Ramirez was suspended for failing his first of two drug tests. Ramirez cheated and was punished severally. The suspension cost him 50 games and upwards of $7 million.

But, Ramirez, as an active player, was subject to punishment under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Agreement , a compromise between Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association contains both disciplinary mechanisms and protections. Recently Ryan Braun relied on these projections to avoid a lengthy suspension.

However, the Hall of Fame has no policy, written or otherwise, on users of performance enhancing drugs. Without policy questions of whether policy should be created and who should create the policy are raised. Precedent suggests that the Hall of Fame, not the Baseball Writers who annually vote for players induction, control said decisions. In 1991, the Hall of Fame voted[1] to exclude on who were banned by Major League Baseball from induction. Thus, if the Hall of Fame wanted to prevent performance enhancing drug users from enshrinement they could have done so.

Without a policy on the matter the members of the 570 person electorate unilaterally decided they were charged with punishing cheaters. While I applaud just punishment for cheaters, I want to see the policy supporting the punishment. Without guidelines, the punishment was arbitrarily created by the electorate, a power which they do not have and is subject to abuse and inconsistency.

As a student of the law, the decisions of members of the electorate to create this punishment bothers me. However, I understand the desire to punish cheaters. It’s violates our sensibilities to honor cheaters. But, far more worrisome is the application of ad hoc discipline.

For instance, yesterday Tom Verducci wrote an article entitled, “Why I’ll never vote for a known steroids user for the Hall of Fame,” which includes a history of Jeff Bagwell’s workout regime, trainers and comments,

[H]ere are some facts about Bagwell: he hired a bodybuilder (later hired by Luis Gonzalez) in 1995 to make him “as big as I can,” flexibility be damned; took the steroid precursor andro (as well as supplements such as creatine, HMB, zinc, etc.), underwent a massive body change; maintained a bodybuilder weightlifting regimen; called the whistle-blowing in 2002 by Caminiti “a shame” and the one in 2005 by Jose Canseco “very disappointing . . . whether it’s true or not;” promulgated the red herring that drugs don’t help baseball players (“Hand-eye coordination is something you can’t get from a bottle,” he said of his andro use); and as recently as 2010 in an ESPN interview openly endorsed steroid use by anyone from a fringe player (“I have no problem with that”) to superstars such as Bonds and McGwire (“I know you took it but it doesn’t matter”) as well as the HGH use by an injured Andy Pettitte (“That’s not a performance enhancer”).

Verducci concludes that while Bagwell and he have different views on steroids, he did not know that Bagwell used steroids. It’s admirable that Verducci laid out what he knew about Bagwell and determined the information did not meet his self-imposed arbitrary evidentiary burden. Recall, in the title of his piece Verducci claimed he wouldn’t vote for “known” steroid users. Thus, follows that the veracity of Bagwell’s steroid use was unknown to Verducci and that players that did not receive his vote were either not talented enough to garner attention or were “known” steroid users.

Of course, Verducci did not present the evidence he used to omit “known” steroid users. He set an arbitrary threshold for himself and failed to meet or even address it.[1].

The self-imposed edict to ban steroid users from the Hall of Fame is wrong; simply having a vote doesn’t confer such authority. Further, the ban is especially inappropriate when premised on the objectively unproven belief that steroids improved performance. If they do, and the likely do, know one knows to what degree performance was improved. But, even after all that, if one is still going to wield their cardboard sword of self-righteousness and justice, they should applied their standards fairly and base their allegations on sound evidence.


[1] Verducci didn’t include Mike Piazza on his ballot. There are many players who are deserving but one could claim they weren’t subjectively talented enough to garner his/her vote (although, I don’t believe Verducci is a “small hall” guy after voting for Morris and Schilling). Mike Piazza isn’t one of them. I can respect if Verducci (and others) want to wait for more information on Piazza. But that should be explained. There is certainly no credible evidence indicating Piazza at this point.

JD Sussman
JD Sussman
About JD Sussman

JD is a co-founder of Bullpen Banter and muses about prospects, sabermetrics, and often intermingles law and baseball in his work. In addition to managing the site, JD is awaiting admission to the New York Bar. Additionally, he sporadically contributes a prospect column toFangraphs. Be wise and follow him on Twitter. He can be reached via e-mail at jdsussman@bullpenbanter.com.


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