Will a Steroid User Ever Make it to the Hall of Fame?

As A-Rod continues to pass baseball legends in the record books despite the best efforts of former Commissioner Bud Selig, I marvel at his persistence.  A-Rod was the MLB’s cockroach. No one wanted him there, and they did everything they could to get rid of him. When A-Rod was handed a 162 game suspension, it was effectively a death sentence to his career. There’s no way A-Rod, with two busted hips, can come back and resume his career at age 40 after a full year out of the league, right? But like the cockroach that lives for two weeks with its head cut off, A-Rod returns and positively rakes. He’s on pace for over 30 home runs and a .286 average. How many 40 year old dudes can do that? It’s all pretty much a moot point for Alex Rodriguez at this point. He’ll show up on the record books, but it will always be with an asterisk next to his name. As for his Hall of Fame chances, forget it. His pathological lying tendencies soured much of the baseball world on him. There are very few people out there who would enshrine A-Rod in Cooperstown, mostly due to his PED use. This raises certain questions. Do people have a vendetta against A-Rod, or are all PED users similarly condemned? Will a Steroid User Ever Make it to the Hall of Fame?

To date, none have, after several years on the ballot. A few of the most discussed names include Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Roger Clemens.

Bonds’ case is simple-how can a 14 time All-Star, seven(!!) time MVP, and the Home Run King with 762 not be in the Hall of Fame? Additionally, Bonds has never been officially named a steroid user. But anyone with half a brain can see that the skinny kid swiping 50 bases a year for the Pittsburgh Pirates was not the same man as the behemoth that mashed 73 home runs and made pitches so weak at the knees that he was once walked 232 times in a single season. That, paired with Bond’s perjury conviction and involvement in the BALCO scandal, has tainted his reputation forever. Still, there are baseball pundits out there that make a case for Bonds’ immortalization in the Hall of Fame. If the era is truly known as the “Steroid Era” and 80% of players were truly using it (as Jose Canseco claims), then Bonds’ numbers should stand as they are among the all time greats. It’s understandable that some people may feel this way-you can’t win a footrace against someone on a bicycle, after all. The natural thing to do would be to even the playing field.

However, the logic of the people that believe Bonds’ records aren’t tainted is flawed in several aspects. First of all, everything Canseco says should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s unlikely that 80% of players truly used steroids. Second of all, using an illegal substance to gain an advantage is morally corrupt. While it was not illegal while many players used it, many of those players continued to use it when it was banned and it’s simply unfair to compare players who have been assisted by chemicals to those who have not. The final nail in Barry’s Hall of Fame coffin is the fact that he received just 36.8% of the vote last year, when 75% is required for entry. It will be difficult to make up 40% of the votes over the next fifteen years as other, more deserving players enter the ballot.

In or Out: Out.

All that hard work for a disappointing end to his story.

Mark McGwire is an interesting case. Surely, if Bonds is out, how would Mark McGwire make it into the Hall of Fame? McGwire’s only hope is if the committee decides to take into consideration the impact McGwire had on the MLB and his contributions its revival.

Following the 1994 strike, an ugly incident, many baseball fans turned their back on baseball. They wouldn’t return until 1998, with McGwire and Sammy Sosa going down to the wire to overcome Roger Maris and capture the single-season home run record. McGwire and Sosa’s race brought in millions of dollars in revenue and sparked baseball’s return to America’s Game. So, his impact on the game of baseball and the MLB is arguably greater than Bonds’ impact on the game.

Additionally, he admitted to using steroids and apologized. In stark contrast to A-Rod, who lied about his steroid usage multiple times, McGwire paints himself as a contrite figure who deeply regrets his mistake. People are lenient when someone is honest with them. It’s easier to forgive someone if they appear to be well and truly sorry for their actions. Of course, it could be an act. But it’s certainly better than Bonds’ improbable denial and the circus A-Rod led baseball fans through.

You want to forgive McGwire, but he made a choice and therefore must suffer the consequences. McGwire does fall into the category of players who used steroids before they were banned, but it’s unlikely that he stopped using them once they were outlawed.

McGwire’s Hall of Fame chances are basically pushing up daisies. He received just 23.7% of the vote in his best year, 2010.

In or Out: Out

Roger Clemens is an intriguing case as well. While most of the steroid controversy has been focused on hitters, Clemens is the most prominent pitcher linked to steroids. Clemens’ accomplishments are unbelievable. Seven Cy Young Awards, over 4,000 strikeouts, 300 wins…his statistics, at first glance, seem to make him a shoo-in.

There is so much more to Roger Clemens, though, that it is paramount that he be recognized for all he is, good and bad.

Clemens is a central piece of baseball history. He was the MVP in 1986 and the ace of the Boston Red Sox team that hoped to break the then 68 year Curse of the Bambino. The 1986 Series is widely recognized as one of the greatest ever. The Red Sox were one strike away, but it was not to be. Bill Buckner will forever live in infamy, though his pain must be eased with the Red Sox finally breaking the curse in 2004. Clemens was also a vital piece of the Yankees modern dynasty, serving as the ace for two of their four championships in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s. He was on the losing end of another World Series Classic in 2001, as the underdog Diamondbacks defeated the Yankees in seven games. He also led Houston to their first and only World Series appearance in 2005. Three decades of the league’s history have Clemens’ fingerprints on them. He was the dominant right-hander of his era, fiery and aggressive, challenged only by a lanky lefty with the nastiest slider ever, Randy Johnson.

Yet, the steroids. Always the steroids. Clemens was one of 82 players named in the Mitchell Report. Perhaps one day a player will do enough to overcome the black mark on their resume that is Performance Enhancing Drugs. It’s unlikely that it will be Clemens, who didn’t make too many friends during his time in the league, developing a penchant for hitting batters, making inflammatory remarks, and his infamous bat throw at Mike Piazza. Clemens’ percentage rests at 37.5%, interestingly above Bonds but not so much so that his chances are any better. In or Out: Out.

Clemens’ Hall of Fame chances are similar to what he made many hitters do over his 24 year career: A swing and a miss.

Well, if I’m counting correctly, that’s three outs to zero ins. And as we all know, three strikes in baseball-you’re out. Perhaps these three players of baseball’s darkest hour can take some solace in the fact that they will be remembered. But they will never receive a plaque in Cooperstown.





None of these photos are mine and all credit goes to the website and photographer.

Hall of Fame Percent Numbers:

“2014 Hall of Fame Profile: Mark McGwire.” SBNation.com. N.p., 07 Jan. 2014. Web. 30 June 2015.

“Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens Still Facing Long Hall of Fame Odds.”CBSSports.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 June 2015.

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