In light of Barry Bonds’ breaking the home run record, it will be interesting to see how the baseball Hall of Fame responds to the steroid scandal that has plaugued professional sports for the past decade and a half.
When Hank Aaron broke the Babe’s record in 1974, it was pretty much a given that anyone with 500 or more home runs would be in the Hall of Fame. You had players like Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, Eddie Matthews and Mel Ott. They were soon joined by Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Willie McCovey and Eddie Murray.
The Hall also opened its doors to players who were just shy of the 500 mark such as Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, Willie Stargell, Dave Winfield and Carl Yastrezemski. In fact, you had to go all the way down the list to poor old Dave Kingman at 442 to find someone who apparently did not pass muster with the high priests of the Hall of Fame.
Since then, however, there have been a whole slew of ballplayers who have raced past Kingman into the elite realm of baseball power hitting. Along with Bonds, the list now includes Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr., Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Frank Thomas, Alex Rodriguez, Fred McGriff, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Jose Canseco and Jeff Bagwell. Will any or all of these players be locks for the Hall of Fame? Or have they all been too tainted by the steroids scandal? We already saw Mark McGwire get passed over last time during his first year of eligibility. What about Slammin’ Sammy and Griffey Jr.?
Some of the players such as Palmeiro and Canseco have openly admitted to past steroid use. Would it be fair to keep them out of the Hall because they were honest, while possibly enshrining others who may have lied or covered up past use? And what if a player just worked out at the gym a lot and never used steroids, but now people are suspicious and won’t vote for him? What a mess.
We may just have to look back at the 1990s as the Juiced-ball era and just accept that it was a period when steroids were rampant and may have impacted players’ performances, similar to the way we view the Dead-ball era during the early 1900s.