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Steroid Publicity & Hall Voting

2009 February 12
by Brian Goff

Whatever readers and contributors to TSE think about publicity given to MLB steroid use, it continues to hammer the chances of Hall of Fame inductions for an increasing set of players. Two years back, I posted regarding Mark McGwire’s chances in view of his low first year ballot relative to his peers on the all-time home run list. In his third year of eligibility, McGwire’s vote dropped just a hair from 23.6 to 21.9. Such dips are not without precedent. Duke Snider’s numbers were in the same range and dipped to 21% in his third year only to rise steadily until his induction in his 11th year.

Beyond McGwire, what will be the fate of others caught up in the bad press? A Cincinnati Enquirer piece by John Erardi poses this question for A-Rod along with Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, Clemens and others. In a very small sample (10) of baseball writers who have Hall of Fame votes, 7 came out against any of the players while 2 were willing to consider a partiucular guy from their city — roughly the same percentages currently seen in McGwire votes. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine that no players or very, very few from this era will be inducted. Phil Hagan (who votes uncomitted) of the Philadelphia Inquirer makes this Joe Morgan-esque point in the article:

“In the next several years, there are going to be many players becoming eligible who are suspected of or have admitted using steroids … Either you vote for a player or players who used performance-enhancing substances or you don’t vote for anybody … I think it’s fair to assume at this point that there was, in fact, a Steroid Era and that most players – and pitchers – probably at least tried the stuff … And, honestly, I don’t know where I stand on that right now.”

The trouble with that view is that players who did not use such substances stand at a disadvantage, albeit an arguable one. The Astros ace, Roy Oswalt, speaks very forcefully to the views of at least one impacted non-users on MLB.com:

“A-Rod’s numbers shouldn’t count for anything,” Oswalt said in a phone interview with MLB.com. “I feel like he cheated me out of the game.” … “The ones that have come out and admitted it, and are proven guilty, [their numbers] should not count. I’ve been cheated out of the game,” Oswalt continued. “This is my ninth year, and I’ve done nothing to enhance my performance, other than work my butt off to get guys out. These guys [who took PEDs] have all the talent in the world. All-Star talent. And they put times two on it.

Of course, like the writers, Oswalt is more gracious to a former teammate, Roger Clemens, than he is toward others.

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