Writers Who Refuse to Vote for the Hall of Fame

In a week, on Jan. 9, the Hall of Fame will announce its newest inductees. We can predict one thing: Few people will make it in, so the logjam of deserving players will only get longer. The Hall is a nebulous institution, and no two people have quite the same understanding of who qualifies, which means it’s awfully hard for any candidate to get the minimum 75% of required ballots needed for entry.

But some voters are having so much trouble making up their minds they’ve decided not to vote at all — in particular, ESPN’s T.J. Quinn and the Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay — which means the denominator is getting smaller. Though not by much.

The list of Hall of Fame voters is already relatively small, compared to the overall number of people who write about baseball. Only people who have been members of the BBWAA for 10 years qualify to vote. The BBWAA is an ancient organization, as these things go: It was founded in 1908, during the fifth World Series, and it has always been a newspaper-centric organization. So there’s a serious generation gap when it comes to the people who vote on baseball and the people who write about it on the internet.

But the aged don’t age out. Retirement is voluntary. As Jack O’Connell, the BBWAA’s secretary-treasurer, told David Laurila two years ago:

Every year, I get back about half a dozen ballots that are not filled out, and on the bottom the person has written, ”Take me off the list; I’m no longer qualified to vote.” … A few years ago, an older guy told me that the ballot that showed up included a bunch of guys that he hadn’t covered, so he didn’t feel qualified to vote. So there is self-policing that goes on.

Some writers may indeed police themselves. But we can all think of at least one aging sportswriter on the newspaper that we grew up with who stayed on for far too long. Quinn and Fay are clearly policing themselves here. Fay says, “I feel woefully unqualified to judge the `integrity, sportsmanship and character’ of players in the steroid era.” And Quinn says, “I haven’t covered games on a regular basis since 2002. Too many eligible voters like me have been away from the game for too long, and I think we undermine the integrity of the process.”

That’s certainly a more honorable stance than turning in a blank ballot and penalizing everyone. Everyone had to vote by New Year’s Eve, as Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes:

Almost 600 voters are expected to submit their response by Tuesday. Others will abstain from voting as protest over an issue they don’t feel comfortable deciding. Still others will submit a blank ballot, penalizing all candidates clean or dirty because of the gray area they believe makes the two sides indistinguishable.

One of those blank ballot returners was Mark Faller, of the Arizona Republic, who’s making a protest by not filling out a ballot. As Strauss points out, he doesn’t have to: he could just refuse to return it in. Faller says he’s doing it to protest the fact baseball was silent for so long about steroids. So he’s hurting deserving Hall candidates because he wants to draw attention.

It seems likely that this year, a number of writers will choose to protest the Steroid Era by means of their ballot. Dale Murphy and his children have expressed their hope he will receive some protest votes. I sympathize, but I actually think there is a serious case to be made for Murphy (as Mac Thomason has done) and I wish they would have left off the self-righteous politicking.

Of course, there are real questions when it comes to the ballot. There are PED users in the Hall, from Pud Galvin (who used the “Elixir of Brown-Sequard“) to Willie Mays, who took amphetamines, like most every other player over the past 60 years.

Perhaps steroids are different from other forms of cheating. As Quinn writes, “A player who used banned drugs did not simply disgrace himself, he altered himself.” Steroids allow the production of muscle tissue that would not be generated without its use: They literally can help a player change the size and shape of his body. The true on-field effect of steroids is unknown, but a player on speed looks different than a player on anabolic steroids, and I can understand why a writer might choose to treat them differently.

Ultimately any Hall of Fame vote comes down to just two questions: What are the criteria by which a player merits inclusion in the Hall of Fame, and does this player meet or exceed those criteria? Everything about a player, including evidence or admission of steroid use, should be used in answering those questions. If a writer is unable to determine how to answer those two questions, then he or she should ask to be taken off the list. Inability to determine the criteria for election for the Hall of Fame should obviously disqualify one from voting for the Hall of Fame.

Certainly, this election is just one more point in a long series of moralizing silliness on the part of baseball writers, many of whom refused to ask questions about steroids during the Steroid Era and then discovered their sanctimony only after the fact.

There were writers who acknowledged steroid use at the time, including Quinn. But many more just hyped the cartoon character notion of musclemen hitting homers like never before, and then turned on them almost as soon as Jose Canseco wrote Juiced. Those writers will never be able to write rationally about steroids because they were complicit in hyping the Steroid Era. To attempt to develop rational criteria — criteria by which Barry Bonds is a Hall of Famer but Gary Sheffield, say, is not — would admit the irrationality of what they’ve written for the past 10 years.

It may be too much to ask baseball writers to be rational. If they were, then we never would have had FireJoeMorgan. But we should never stop asking. Every baseball writer who can’t figure out how to think rationally about steroids should voluntarily give up their Hall of Fame vote. Because they don’t deserve to vote if they can’t think rationally.




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Alex is a writer for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times, and is a product manager for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @alexremington.


127 Responses to “Writers Who Refuse to Vote for the Hall of Fame”

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  1. Colin says:

    I sympathize with Fay, though I don’t totally agree with him. His is not a protest but more of a frustration with the nebulous criteria of the hall. If writers with the power to vote don’t voice those frustrations. The Hall will never get the changes it needs.

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    • I’m not sure what official changes to the criteria would really resolve the problem, though. It’s not like the Hall is going to wade into the numbers and try to create its own objective algorithms for who deserves to be a Hall of Famer.

      Ultimately, the voters have to make their own decisions. The basic criterion is this: “Cheating is bad, but these players are still eligible for induction, and other cheaters have already been inducted. So it’s up to you to decide just how bad this cheating was, and whether they deserve to make it into the Hall of Fame, next to Gaylord Perry.”

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      • clark duke says:

        Agreed. Cheating has always been a part of the game.

        This is the most glorified and open cheating that has taken place in the game but there has always been cheating. Atleast it was so widespread in the steroid era that it was almost a level playing field.

        Greenies and other amphetamines have been part of the game for a very long time…. in the 80’s it was cocaine , in the 90’s it was anabolic steroids and after testing started in 2004 it moved on to adderol, HGH and designer steroids that players are still finding ways to get away with (see Cabrera , Melky).

        The MLB season is a 182 day physical grind with stretches of 20 straight game days in a row and akward travel times to boot. When Atlanta was in the NL west flying coast to coast all season it would have been nearly impossible to fight off the urge to use an amphetamine here or there.

        I don’t blame the players and I believe that if every player in the hall of fame had to admit to everything they had done during their career , under todays election standards ,there would be hardly anyone in the HOF at all.

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      • Spunky says:

        The basic criterion is this: “Cheating is bad, but these players are still eligible for induction, and other cheaters have already been inducted. So it’s up to you to decide just how bad this cheating was, and whether they deserve to make it into the Hall of Fame, next to Gaylord Perry.”

        I completely agree with this. The main fact that would establish this for me is: “What proportion of baseball players used steroids during the steroid era?” It wouldn’t tell us the degree to which steroids help baseball players, but it would give a sense of how immoral it was to have used during that time. Of course, there would and should be a million follow-up questions (“How often did you use?” “How much did you improve when you used?” “How long did you used?” “Exactly what did you use?”), but I think those are less important, at least for now.

        Just wondering, did you mention Gaylord Perry as an example of a cheater who got into the Hall of Fame because of the voters’ ignorance and didn’t deserve it? Or was it based on the idea that his cheating represents the amount a player could break the rules and still expect HoF entry if he was good enough?

        If you answer the former, I wold argue two wrongs don’t make a right–just because someone got in when he didn’t deserve it doesn’t mean we should elect more undeserving candidates. If you answer the latter, I think that’s a good thing to compare to steroid use.

        Great article, Alex!

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      • The latter. Perry’s spitball was widely known — while he was playing, he released his autobiography, “Me and the Spitter.”

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  2. Hurtlockertwo says:

    I think the guys that didn’t feel qualified to vote should not vote. The protest no-vote guys are likely self motivated, it takes no courage on their part to take that stand. Maybe the people that played the game should vote instead of the writers?

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    • If you think the writers are sanctimonious, wait’ll you get a load of the players.

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      • clark duke says:

        I think the players are only sanctimonious now because so few players are on anything. It is nearly impossible to get away with cheating now.

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      • Bhaakon says:

        The most sanctimonious player at the Congressional hearing was Palmeiro, and we all know what happened to him. Some people who make a show of their innocence are truly scandalized, and some of them are covering up their guilt; good luck telling the two apart.

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  3. The Humber Games says:

    Some people are turning in blank votes for valid reasons. Others are turning them in because they’re either stuck up curmudgeons or shameless attention seekers. The sad thing about this year is that you’ve got some guys who very clearly weren’t juicing (Biggio, Raines, Trammel). In that case, isn’t voting for the ‘good guys’ a better protest than punishing everyone?

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    • Well-Beered Englishman says:

      +1 for genius username

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    • Synovia says:

      How were these guys clearly not juicing? There’s no evidence either way. Being skinny doesn’t mean you’re clean.

      That being said, anyone who turns in a blank ballot should have their right to vote removed.

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      • The Humber Games says:

        Ok, ‘clearly’ may be a strong word.

        Let’s say instead – they neither were implicated nor did they possess the skillsets that are traditionally believed to be helped by steroids.

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      • dafuq says:

        That is mostly a sign that people are idiots. Not that these people did or did not do steroids/PEDs.

        This random witchhunt against “brown people with muscles” is ridiculous.

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      • LTG says:

        I’m sympathetic to the claim that many baseball words are racially coded (e.g., ‘gritty’), but ‘steroid-user’ probably isn’t one of them. The list of HoF-candidates being excluded by writers for suspicion of use covers many races. But I’m open to hearing evidence to the contrary if you’d like to provide it.

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      • Al Dimond says:

        If there’s really a racial bias to steroid speculation, we wouldn’t look for it with Clemens, Pettite, or Braun. We’d look at guys where there’s a “steroid cloud” with no real evidence. Bagwell, Piazza, maybe Griffey. Sosa before his name was leaked off that list that was supposed to be secret. Were these people treated differently on the basis of their race?

        I think there’s a different perception of players from Latin America; there’s a presumption that they had an easier time hiding offseason drug use outside the US. That was certainly said of Sosa before the leak. I think (without proof) that had Sosa’s name not been leaked he would have been hurt more by steroid suspicion than Bagwell or Piazza or Griffey.

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      • maguro says:

        No way is Ken Griffey Jr under a “steroid cloud” like Bagwell and Piazza are. Junior is always one of the guys who’s presumed clean and he’s frequently invoked by sportswriters as someone who definitely didn’t do steroids.

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      • stan says:

        I think anyone who didn’t bulk up, didn’t see their power numbers suddenly escalate and didn’t continue to play at a high level until they were 40 is free of suspicion. Everyone else you have to look at very closely. I would put all three of those guys in the “above suspicion” category (Raines because he was only a complementary player late in his career).

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      • One of the major effects of steroids is that it cuts the recovery time from injury, so players can play more games every year. That’s not necessarily something that you would see from looking at the back of the baseball card. It’s hard to know if the guy played 150 games every year because his body was naturally durable, or because he was taking a banned substance that helped.

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      • Jim says:

        Stan, you’d be very, very wrong. Chuck Knoblauch never hit 20 HR in his life, never bulked up, and was out of baseball by age 33, but he was a steroid user.

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    • What are the valid reasons for turning in blank votes?

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      • The Humber Games says:

        I’m sorry dafuq, but I must’ve missed when Andy Pettite, Ryan Braun, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens or Mike Piazza became ‘brown people’.

        I agree that there is some witch hunt-ery going on here, but trying to turn this into a race issue is a little disingenuous.

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    • david says:

      i’m pretty sure tim raines was one of the best-known cocaine users in baseball history. he’d be on my list after fergie jenkins (also in the hall) and steve howe, but before dwight gooden and keith hernandez.

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  4. grant says:

    The writers aren’t perfect, but they’re probably better than the people that played the game – they gave Palmerio a Gold Glove when he was almost exclusively DH. At least the writers give it some thought, even if their rationale isn’t always sound.

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    • HuskerDru says:

      No, the coaches and managers who vote for Rawlings gave Palmeiro an undeserved GG, not the BBWAA writers.

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  5. TKDC says:

    There won’t be change until at least a couple years go by with no inductions (and old timers, managers, etc. don’t count). As long as at least one person is voted in almost every year, there will not be enough incentive to change. And yes, “incentive” is green and has dead people’s faces on it.

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  6. Anon21 says:

    But some voters are having so much trouble making up their minds they’ve decided not to vote at all — in particular, ESPN’s T.J. Quinn and the Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay — which means the denominator is getting smaller. Though not by much.

    Quinn and Fay received ballots and won’t turn them in, right? So the denominator has not shrunk, and they’ve effectively voted against everyone.

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  7. LTG says:

    Is it just me, or does that guy’s case for Murphy depend on 1) arbitrary end-point comps; 2) unquantified claims about marginal effects on performance value; 3) too much emphasis on a 5-year peak that is not as good as it is made out to be? For example, the comparison to Rice strikes me as not helpful to his case, especially because Rice is a candidate who should not set a precedent. Murphy is certainly a borderline candidate, but I’m not convinced.

    I think Utley is a HoFer on the basis of a 5-year peak. But Utley’s peak is much higher than Murphy’s.

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    • Fundamentally, his case for Murphy boils down to:

      1) Dale Murphy had a “Hall of Fame” peak — most players who had a peak as good as Dale Murphy’s peak are in the Hall of Fame.
      2) Comparable players, like Jim Rice and Andre Dawson, are in the Hall of Fame. Murphy is probably better than Rice and worse than Dawson, but he is in their peer group, and multiple members of that peer group are in the Hall. (Many of the members of that peer group who are not in the Hall of Fame, like Jimmy Wynn, Reggie Smith, and Dwight Evans, are reasonable candidates for the Hall.)

      The writer is a self-described “Big Hall” guy, so he tends to have broader criteria for who should be in the Hall. But the fundamental point is this: Dale Murphy had a great peak, but a relatively short career as an effective player. He basically went from peak to atrocious with almost no time in between. If Dale Murphy had aged normally, he would be a no-doubt Hall of Famer. As Mac writes:

      Most Hall of Famers have a career path similar to Dale’s through about 31. It’s just that then they have a phase of being average that lasts a few years and builds up their stats. Murph didn’t do that. Personally, I can’t see keeping a guy out of the Hall of Fame because he didn’t have enough average years.

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      • LTG says:

        “He basically went from peak to atrocious with almost no time in between. If Dale Murphy had aged normally, he would be a no-doubt Hall of Famer.”

        Right. But to finish the argument he should provide a reason why Murphy’s lacking the usual padding should be overlooked. To that question he gives no answer. Just calling yourself a “big Hall” guy doesn’t explain how the Hall’s bigness is crafted.

        At any rate, we agree on what the argument is supposed to be. I find it unconvincing for the reasons given above and in this post. If you or anyone else can address those objections, I’d love to listen to your replies.

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      • Right. Normally, you wouldn’t expect to see that sort of expectation waived except in exigent circumstances — Kirby Puckett’s glaucoma, say. It’s unclear exactly why Dale Murphy got so bad so quickly. On this thread, a commenter who claims to have inside information says that Murphy “lost the passion for baseball.”

        But I think that the point that Mac makes is an interesting one. “Having enough average years” is rarely thought of as important, but it is clear that Murphy’s lack of average years is the one thing that keeps him out of the Hall — and he may be the one of the only healthy players for whom that’s the case. Sandy Koufax, of course, lacked average years after his peak, because his arm was wrecked. Campanella. Lou Gehrig. I’m hard-pressed to think of another player who had a Hall of Fame trajectory and then kept out of the hall because of the precipitous speed with which he began to suck.

        The only other player who comes to mind is Andruw Jones.

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      • LTG says:

        Aren’t Parker and Wynne guys who have Murphy-like peaks but lack the good years and are not in the HoF? I’m just taking those from the comps on the site, but I’m sure we could find others pretty quickly. Don Mattingly jumps to mind.

        To argue for Murphy you have to argue that his peak outweighs his lack of merely good years. I think his peak would have to be a bit higher to make that case. (Kirby Puckett, like Rice, is not a persuasive comp.) Murphy was not nearly as dominant as Koufax. Few have been. But he wasn’t even as superior as Chase Utley during his 5-year peak amassing 39.2 fWAR.

        Still, you have not addressed my objections to the merits of the argument as presented. It is not clear that Murphy has a better peak than Rice because that depends on the vague claim that Fenway was better to Rice than Fulton County was to Murphy. It is not clear how to weigh Murphy’s defense, especially in comps to guys like Rice, Wynn, and Parker. And it is not clear that taking a sample of 1980-89 to compare runs created is the proper way to measure Murphy against his peers. (Notice this is the only time Murphy gets compared to non-controversial members of the HoF.)

        Finally, we might not think of HoFers as needing some good years along with their great years, under that particular description. But the way voters and fans behave indicates that this is a criterion with strong defenses against defeasibility. Why else do people care about counting stats? Why else make the tenure requirement 10 years and not 5? And certainly some people cite the lack of merely good-years as a reason to exclude players.

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      • bstar says:

        Rice and Murphy had similar home/road splits based on OPS.

        tOPS+ from B-Ref (a player’s split relative to his overall OPS) has Rice as 115/85 home/away and Murphy at 113/88.

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      • Eric R says:

        “like Jimmy Wynn”

        And guess how many votes he got for the HoF… ZERO. Is that freakin’ unbelievable? I’m not saying he’s an inner circle HoFer or anything, but ZERO?

        Boog Powell got five votes that same year… similar offensive numbers, but Wynn was a CF and Powell a LF/1B. ZERO??

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      • The pro-Wynn argument is essentially park-based. Playing in the Astrodome depressed offense more than anyone realized at the time. Wynn had 60 fWAR in his career — and for me, anyone who receives 60 should at least be considered on the bubble.

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      • Also, “The Toy Cannon” is a freakin’ great nickname.

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    • Wil says:

      A lot of the focus on Dale Murphy to outside the numbers have focused on Rule 5 for HOF selection. The rule that emphasizes that character and such should be taken into account when voting for HOF inductees. Most people seem to agree that Murphy was about as high character as you get in a sports player.

      Whether that should be part of the criteria for the HOF or even a consideration in Dale Murphy’s case, is not for me to say.

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  8. Calvin says:

    If you see some actual ballots and the actual thought process behind them at http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/newsstand/discussion/the_2012_hall_of_fame_ballot_collecting_gizmo (if link is censored/missing google repoz hof)

    and manage not to claw your eyes out, you’ll see how mind-numbingly stupid the whole exercise is. It’s a collection of obvious imbeciles not even trying to make logically consistent choices (yes, with a small npercentage of exceptions). And people still eat it up every year as though it should have relevance, but the only relevance is because people insist on giving it such relevance even though they know how stupid the whole thing is.

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  9. AK7007 says:

    I find Quinn’s point that steroids are different from all forms of cheating that come before indefensible, and it is the one that seems most often used by writers that are voting for “the integrity of the game.” I am unable to persecute a group of players for figuring out how to cheat well (steroids), while simultaneously celebrating other players who weren’t at good at cheating (amphetamines, old-timey steroids). They were all trying to do the same thing, but one group figured out how to cheat in a way that made them really good. I wish the writers in question could at least see this moral conundrum, that cheating is okay as long as it doesn’t give you too big an advantage, and there is an invisible line that you cross once the drug you take is filled with steroids instead of speed.

    Bottom line, players who took steroids cheated just as players before them did, and instead of deciding to keep a major part of the game’s history from being told in one of the greatest venues we have for telling history, we should be trying to celebrate them just as we celebrate all the dirty rotten cheats that came before.

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    • Your opinion is that all forms of cheating are morally equivalent. I understand your point. But others disagree.

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    • B N says:

      You’re actually stumbling onto one of the great debates of morality: actions (deontologism) or consequences (consequentialism)? On the far end of deontologism would be absolutism: some actions are wrong, some are right. On the other polar opposite is extreme utilitarianism: no actions are wrong if they result in good outcomes (even if you very much intended to do wrong!).

      People have different intuitive senses of which kind of ethics make sense to them. In this case, many people believe that being good at cheating is worse than being bad at cheating (despite the intent being the same). If you extend this to something like murder, the legal system of most countries agrees: kill a person is punished much more harshly than unsuccessfully trying to kill someone. By reframing the issue, it is obviously not quite as cut and dry: people will have different views on these issues.

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      • B N says:

        Grammar correction: “killing a person,” not “kill a person.” Rephrased and didn’t fix up the earlier phrase.

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      • I gotta give props to this, I hate the comparision to murder but it fits the idea perfectly. In a baseball example, it seems that Jose Canseco is more respected than Palmerio or other players who lied about their cheating (and didn’t at least become a rat). I’m on the side of the fence that thinks that steroids, although a possible blemish in baseball history, happened and that most players were either using it or if not their skill set provided no reason to cheat. I don’t think we should penalize them for that because although it was allowed and nothing was done about it until it came to be accepted that this IS cheating.
        I also agree with AK7007’s point that cheating, no matter what form, is the same morally.

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      • *because although it was illegal, it was allowed and nothing was done until it became accepted that this IS cheating.

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      • Bhaakon says:

        Came to be viewed as cheating? I seriously doubt that anyone ever viewed it as anything but cheating. There’s been testing in the Olympics since the 60’s, and probably pressure to put it in place since before then. It’s strange to think that baseball existed in some vacuum where things considered cheating in most other sports was somehow kosher, particularly when players seemed to be better at hiding their use of steroids than, say, cocaine.

        There was no serious effort to eliminate steroids because the ownership-union relationship in professional sports strongly discourages dealing with any contentious issue that doesn’t result in monetary gains for one or both sides, not because no one thought it was cheating.

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      • Well, yes it was against the rules. I was alluding to the fact that, although it was against the rules, it was allowed to happen.

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      • Thinking about it about more I misunderstood with my first response. Yes, it was cheating and to the players they probably felt that way too, at least some did. However, a blind eye was turned. It was allowed to happen and not until it became widely public did the “persecution” of steroids users occur. This is what I was talking about. It may not have been clear, but whatever, man.

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    • Hurtlockertwo says:

      In the very old days of baseball when there were only 1-2 umpires, players would run across the diamond from first base to third if they thought the umpire didn’t see them.
      This blatant cheating seems as offensive as any cheating in my view.

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  10. pft says:

    Writers have been voting for years with most only seeing a handful of games of the other league, and this having hardly seen players on the ballot from the other league. Once retired, presumably writers have plenty of time to watch more baseball games for pleasure, and with mlb.tv etc they can watch any game they want (presumably these writers are still fans). I would think most of the players on the ballot played in seasons that younger writers never covered. In that sense , older writers are better equipped to vote than younger writers. For example, where the writer retired in 2002, he would have covered the sport for almost every season of every player on the ballot, except some newer entries latter years.

    ” “I feel woefully unqualified to judge the `integrity, sportsmanship and character’ of players in the steroid era.”

    They are unqualified to do so in any era. I would not trust my kids alone with most of them. What makes the steroid era different anyways. Is spousal abuse, DUI, racism, use of cocaine during games ok? The Babe drank alcohol in the prohibition era, cheated on his wife, played games half drunk (lingered from the night before) and injected himself with an extract of sheep testicles looking for a testosterone boost.

    If MLB or the HOF want to evaluate the character and integrity of players, they may do so before putting players on the ballot (like Rose whose name was removed from the ballot). They can set up a screening committee made up of theologians, teachers, parents, anyone but sportswriters to review those issues. Let writers focus on what happened on the field.

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    • clark duke says:

      Very good stuff

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    • I completely understand your sentiment, and that was the basic idea behind ESPN’s Hall of 100. But I don’t like the idea that writers should willfully ignore anything. I would prefer that they be able to consider everything and render a well-reasoned judgment.

      This is how I feel about it:

      I simply think their career should be viewed through the prism of what they did to succeed. So, to deal with instances of alleged cheating, I propose a gradient: at one end would be the players whose cheating violated the rules and improved their results far beyond what they could have done fairly, and at the other end would be the players whose attempts to get an edge were legal and ineffectual. The former should have their career stats discounted the most; the latter should have their stats discounted the least.

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  11. Stringer Bell says:

    Douchebag old guys are gonna act the way they act. Just hope the rest of the voters make up for their stupidity and arrogance.

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  12. bkgeneral says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    I have zero sympathy for the writers in this situation. The Steroid Era took 3 groups working in concert to exist. The teams, which cared not to look or question. They only wanted the cash and the bounce back to popularity after the nuclear winter of 1994. The players who saw an opportunity to increase the earnings potential, in what is a short window of earning power. And finally the media that chose to look the other way. It seems to me this blame should be dealt out equally to the 3 groups. But instead both teams and writers have decided to only blame players. To hear writers cry about a situation they created is ridiculous. Do what you expect the players to do, take the blame for your role in this situation.

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    • chuckb says:

      I agree wholeheartedly but feel that the fans were complicit as well. Perhaps we can plead some sense of ignorance since neither the media nor MLB did their jobs but we certainly reveled in the system as much as the players and teams did.

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      • Breadbaker says:

        The difference, of course, is the players and owners and media were all paid for closing their eyes, while it was the fans’ money that was taken from them. Since none of the owners are planning to refund the money we paid to watch what were apparently dishonest athletic contests, I don’t care to figure out which of the players I rooted for may have been cheating. The example I usually use is the game when Rafael Palmeiro hit his 3000th hit, where baseball both promoted it and stopped the game for a ceremony (on an opponent’s field, Safeco Field) knowing all the while he had already failed a drug test. If you believe his suspension coming after that occurred is just a coincidence, I have a bridge to nowhere to sell you.

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  13. Nick D says:

    The sanctity of the HOF vote is somewhat amusing. What does the HOF even stand for? Each era of baseball is distinctly different than the last (and the next). Babe Ruth only played against white guys. The all-time hits leader is no where to be found. People of terrible personal character (at least from second-hand accounts) are included in the hallowed Hall. Players have been popping pills, injecting substances, and god knows what else since the beginning of pro ball. Set guidelines seem impossibly limited by differences in era.

    Are baseball writers really the most qualified people to make decisions of this kind? Do baseball players vote on sports journalism awards?

    My solution: change the HOF to the Hall of On-Field Greatness. Divide the building up by decade. Let past and present players decide how one gets voted in.

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    • david says:

      the veteran’s committee has made some pretty horrible selections in their day (see rube marquard). all it takes apparently is 1 crusader (frankie frisch), and average, anonymous (even in their day) players crack the walls.

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      • The Veterans Committee has kind of gone back and forth over the decades. In some eras it seems like they just start letting everybody in. And in some eras — like the last couple of years — they’re extraordinarily tight-fisted with their approval. It was disgraceful that they did not induct Marvin Miller, and there just is no good reason that they wouldn’t induct Ron Santo until after his death.

        But yes, way too many of those old John McGraw Giants are in the Hall. Christy Mathewson deserved it, obviously. Carl Hubbell, “The Meal Ticket,” was a hell of a pitcher. Bill Terry was a fine hitter, and he won three pennants as a manager. But Marquard, High Pockets Kelly, Freddie Lindstrom, Burleigh Grimes, Dave Bancroft, and Edd Roush are all pretty questionable choices.

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  14. Tim says:

    Not much to say about this (good) article, except that I’m beyond shocked I’m seeing the Joe Strauss name being featured prominently in a Fangraphs article.

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  15. PackBob says:

    Yeah, the PED issue is different than other forms of cheating because there were suddenly guys launching homers like Babe Ruth in his prime, breaking records, with nothing close before or after. That’s not just gaining an edge, that’s bashing the system.

    When Bonds at age 36 with a neck as thick as a bull hits 24 more home runs than he ever had before, setting the single-season record, wearing body armor that allowed him to lean over the plate, that’s a rare level of cheating.

    And Bud Selig’s condoning the cheating during his tenure and allowing the tainted stats to stand just exacerbates the problem of trying to address the issue in a thoughtful manner. It would be a whole different argument if Selig had denied proven PED users standing.

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    • pft says:

      But then you have his maple bat, juiced balls, smaller parks and global warming (LOL), so whose to say it was the juice.

      In 1967 Yaz hit 24 more HR than he ever did in any season in his career at age 28. This was in the years of the pitcher before they moved the mounds back or lowered the mound, and before major
      expansion. He attributed his power surge to dedicating himself in the offseason to strength training.

      One of my theories about steroids is what I call a placebo effect. Its not really the steroids completely responsible for the improved performance, its the motivation that led to taking the steroids that also resulted in more time spent in the weight room, much like with Yaz. Not to say steroids did not help, but how much?.

      Many power hitters have been skinny guys like Ted Williams, Yaz, Griffey and a number of thick neck muscle bound hitters could not hit their way out of a paper bag. Besides, when you are hitting against pitchers who have been using steroids and throwing 3-5 mph faster than they used to, whose to say they did not just level the playing field.

      Furthermore, for all we know, it was the majority of players using steroids, even if we only know a few of the unlucky ones who got caught.

      Power hitting surged across the board in the mid 90’s. Guys like Gwynn known for his singles hitting hit a career number of HR at age 37 in 1997 and came close to matching it the next year. Was he juicing too?

      ,
      expansion

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      • bstar says:

        “But then you have his maple bat, juiced balls, smaller parks, and global warming, so whose to say it was the juice.”

        Bonds had his maple bat, the ball was juiced, the parks were smaller, and global warming was in full effect the years prior to Bonds showing up in spring training with a brand new body and a Shrek head.

        What reasonable person wouldn’t say it was the juice that caused Bonds to start putting up Babe Ruth numbers at age 35? If the juice had nothing to do with it, why did his numbers get so over-the-top once he started taking The Cream and The Clear?

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    • Stringer Bell says:

      Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong

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  16. BrendanT says:

    I used to be mad at the players for using PEDs. In a way it’s silly to keep them out of the hall though. If Musial, Mays, or Ruth had played in this era, who knows if they would have used steroids or not. When your competition is using PEDs, you are almost cheating yourself if you don’t. Plus when you are voting you never know how many players got away with it completely: Piazza? Helton? Ripken? I think eventually Bonds will get in, and the floodgates will open for other PED users and suspects.

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  17. HMK says:

    I was 8 years old in the summer of 1998, and I can remember how incredible that season was. I also, though, remember a segment on ESPN about Mark McGwire and his workout regiment. They detailed his substance use, even showing bottles of pills or whatever in his locker. The stuff wasn’t illegal in baseball (at least what they were showing on TV), and it wasn’t viewed as cheating, it was shown like he was a smart guy for maxing out his potential. I remember watching this and thinking that he wasn’t as good because of his substance use. Essentially, this segment made me gravitate towards Sammy Sosa, who had no such segment or documentation of substance use. My 8 year old mind assumed that one Mr. Universe sized slugger was on steroids but another wasn’t. What a strange juxtaposition. I certainly had some idea of how steroids are a form of ‘cheating’, yet I began to root for a guy who possibly benefitted more from PED’s than Big Mac ever did. This whole situation is thoroughly fucked.

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  18. PhillR says:

    I would rather see a bunch of aged reporters making fools of themselves the give up great sites like fjm.

    Frankly if the BBWA wants to make a spectacle of themselves thats their business, and not entirely a bad thing for the rest of us.

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  19. rjackson says:

    People seem to forget that steroids were not banned while these guys were playing.

    “So he’s hurting deserving Hall candidates because he wants to draw attention.” That’s a very subject and assumptive statement, but I LOVED IT!!!

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    • Anabolic steroids were, and are, illegal without a prescription.

      I’m actually not sure what is subjective about that statement; it seems reasonably descriptive to me. He explicitly wrote a column in which he explained that he is protesting the steroid era by turning in a blank ballot. It wouldn’t have been a protest if he hadn’t drawn attention to it.

      Second, the writer specifically says that he’s making his protest because he realizes that he won’t keep anyone out of the Hall of Fame — there are no players that he would vote for who are currently in their 15th year of eligibility. (That implies that he wouldn’t vote for Dale Murphy, which is defensible.) So that means that he’s specifically considered the possible harms of his protest and determined that they are not excessive. There may be deserving players that he is refusing to vote for, but because they are not in their 15th year, he judges that to be acceptable.

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    • dafuq says:

      Do you have any records of steroid related convictions?

      Again, you stray into the realm of speculation. Some compounds are illegal. Some aren’t.

      I think Babe Ruth should be nixed because he drank. Actually we should prob just eliminate everyone who played during Prohibition, since there is the “alcohol cloud” hanging over the era. Do you realize how absurd it is when you make blanket statements (which are factually wrong as well)?

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      • Records of steroid related convictions? Look, I’m trying to avoid snark here, but yes. They’re not hard to find. Most of the cases brought are for sales than for use, but there have been raids, and arrests, and they’re pretty easy to Google.

        http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/men-get-prison-time-for-steroid-sales-in-st-louis/article_098bb0f1-5cdf-5030-bbe6-6cd824610439.html

        http://www.newsherald.com/news/crime-public-safety/homemade-steroids-could-hurt-users-1.63044

        Meso-RX, a site that features information on steroid use, asks and answers the question this way:

        How am I most likely to get arrested for steroids?

        Traditionally, the most likely way to get arrested for any drug charge, including steroids, was probably for selling them to someone who has his own legal problems and is secretly cooperating with law enforcement.

        What are my chances of being arrested just for personal use possession of anabolic steroids?

        Small-time arrests for personal possession are occurring more and more frequently. Sometimes these arrests arise out of car stops for traffic violations and the steroids are found during a search of the car. Car searches are frequent at border crossings, where law enforcement authorities searching for drugs are less restricted by Fourth Amendment constraints.

        I don’t think players should be excluded because they used steroids, as I have written numerous times. But I think that their use should be acknowledged. It seems that you are completely unwilling to consider any evidence other than a test or a confession, which seems unnecessarily restrictive to me.

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      • dafuq says:

        I mean specifically baseball players who have been arrested. Not the general populace.

        Again, you dip into conjecture and wanton imagination to support your view. If someone was arrested for having steroids, then it seems pretty justifiable to conclude they used them. (Unless it seemed to be with an intent to distribute, but that is rather nitty.)

        I’m not saying that I don’t think players used PEDs. I know that greenie use is rampant. But if we want to single out specific players on the basis of shoddy evidence because of size and skin color, that is clearly absurd. Suddenly if you’re a power pitcher or slugger, you get smacked with some ridiculous “steroid cloud” when in reality relief pitchers have the most marginal utility from steroids. (You like to cite leaked test results. Look at them!) If we’re going to impugn a man’s character and exclude him from some honor on the basis of a lack of character, I’d like to be sure of it rather than relying on speculation. You know, the whole “guilty until proven innocent”. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Duke Lacrosse case, this type of witch hunt reminds me of the Group of 88.

        Again, I’d like to encourage you to learn more about the subject. You seem to rely on pop culture and the media to understand chemistry, which makes your understanding… poor.

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  20. I have no problem with those abstaining from this HoF election, however, as some pointed out, I do have a problem with those who turn in a blank ballot. To me that’s a slap in the face to the players, the game, and the fans in general. I would love to have that vote for the HoF and I would take my time to research other opinions and vote wisely, to just send in a ballot blank to vote for no one is insulting to me and my desires.
    The game of baseball has long celebrated careers and moments of greatness, though it is very much also a game of hatred, separation, and struggles. When you turn in a blank ballot, how can you claim a love for this game? Sure if your choices were only Bernie Williams, Jim Rice, and Jack Morris I can see a blank ballot justified by their skill level. I can even see a disagreement with steroids. However, did Tim Raines use? How about the aforementioned Jack Morris? How about Bernie Williams? Why not just send in a ballot of nothing but older players you are more confident in their likelihood of taking steroids than being a stuck-up piece of trash? I feel like that is insulting to the game of baseball.
    Finally, the players worked hard their entire careers, whether that was enhanced doesn’t change the fact that they did work hard. I can understand how some people would wish to find a way to allow only “clean” players into the HoF. However, if we did find that way, would it still be fair to the guys that cheated who happened to put so much into the career of baseball and tried so hard, but succumbed to the pressure of steroids simply because of the environment in which they worked. I know its not apples to apples, but in Engineering I see many classmates cheat on tests. Are they alone in the blame for having the desire/need to cheat? I feel bad because I feel that, although I’m honest and I’m sure a lot of these candidates for HoF election are, I cannot begin to figure how much blame any person deserves for trying to figuring out how to cheat and keep either a career going or a career goal alive. It sucks and I feel like a blank ballot is just punishing/insulting the innocent for no reason other than a personal vendetta against everyone else who cheated.

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  21. Doug says:

    I think that all players in all sports try to get an edge any way they can. I would think that half the HOFers in the NFL took something. Everyone knows what was taken in this era, Greenies and other PEDs which many HOFers took. Let the players in on their merit, most of the players they were playing agains’t were doing the same thing.

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  22. Chicago Mark says:

    Why don’t the writers get together and set their own rules for election? No time to continue but maybe some reaction?

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  23. dafuq says:

    It if isn’t explicitly banned, why the witch hunt?

    Do we think Hank Aaron/Willie Mays/etc are all despicable and loathsome cheaters? Aaron is clearly much more of a cheat than Bonds or anyone where there is only speculation as opposed to a confirmed test and/or confession.

    Is caffeine a PED?

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    • What form of confirmation are you looking for? The book Game of Shadows lays out the evidence against Bonds in a fairly comprehensive manner. It isn’t just “speculation.”

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      • dafuq says:

        I think I was pretty clear with a positive test result and/or a personal confession.

        Can you explain the substance he took, the rule it violated, and the procedures MLB had in place to test for it?

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      • Barry Bonds took the cream and the clear, obviously, among many other drugs. The book has documentation from BALCO, taken during the BALCO raid, that shows what he took and when he took it. Will documentary proof suffice?

        http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/baseball/mlb/03/06/news.excerpt/

        Of course, MLB had no procedures in place to test for the cream and the clear, designer drugs whose purpose was to be untestable. But that’s a separate argument.

        You are making two claims. One, you are saying that because Bonds did not confess or take an MLB-sanctioned test, that means that you do not believe that he took a performance-enhancing drug. I believe that the documents the book lays out are sufficient evidence even in the absence of a confession or an MLB-sanctioned test.

        Two, you are implying that PEDs are all the same; that steroids and caffeine and amphetamines are all more or less morally equivalent. I disagree with you, but that’s a second argument.

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      • dafuq says:

        You’re confusing what I’m saying and having trouble understanding. Instead of letting you come to the correct conclusions, let me be more clear:

        1) Are designer steroids banned? The answer is no. Should he be punished for something that isn’t tested and isn’t banned? Obviously not. That is fucking absurd.
        2) Different drugs have different effects. No one thinks coffee is bad. Everyone thinks meth is bad. Steroids are far closer to coffee than meth. There is little conclusive evidence of even long term health consequences in heavy users.
        3) Jive words and citing SI.com is a pretty ridiculous standard of “proof”. Why don’t you cite the REPEATED US Gov inquisition of Mr. Bonds as proof of his innocence? He’s been persecuted for years and yet no one has stuck him with a case? Seems pretty damning for the racists.

        Lets try another thought experiment. Player A takes Substance X. Substance X makes him better at baseball. No one knows why. There is no rule against it. In fact its a unique compound. Is he in the wrong? What if its something like hard work (To compare him to Griffey who was and is considered absurdly lazy) and innovative training?

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      • “Jive words”?

        Designer steroids are banned now, as best as they can be. The text of the Joint Drug Agreement states the following:

        Any and all anabolic androgenic steroids covered by Schedule III of the Code of Federal Regulations’ Schedule of Controlled Substances (“Schedule III”), as amended from time to time, and the categories of hormones and agents with antiestrogenic activity that are set forth in Nos. 68 – 73 below, shall be considered Performance Enhancing Substances covered by the Program.

        http://mlb.mlb.com/pa/pdf/jda.pdf
        During the Steroid Era, use of designer drugs was not explicitly prohibited by a collectively bargained agreement. So you may argue that players who used these substances — such as Gary Sheffield, who admitted it — were not culpable as far as the rules are concerned. If you were given a Hall of Fame ballot you might decide that he should not be punished retroactively. That would be your choice.

        I really don’t know what you’re talking about when you say “jive words,” especially when you refer to Ken Griffey as “lazy.” Anyway, here is the case against Barry Bonds, as near as I can manage it:

        Per the Mitchell Report:
        According to an IRS memorandum from 2003, BALCO president Victor Conte stated: “Bonds takes “the clear” and “the cream” on a regular basis.”
        http://files.mlb.com/mitchrpt.pdf
        According to an IRS memorandum from 2003, BALCO vice-president Jim Valente stated: “Bonds has received “the clear” and “the cream” from Balco on a
        “couple of occasions”.”
        As the report states: “In his grand jury testimony, Bonds admitted that during the 2003 season he had received substances sounding like the “clear” and the “cream” from his personal strength trainer, Greg Anderson, and that he had used those substances. He reportedly testified, however, that he was told “they were the nutritional supplement flaxseed oil and a rubbing balm for arthritis.””
        According to Gary Sheffield, Bonds “had arranged for him to receive ‘the cream,’ ‘the clear’ and ‘red beans,’ which the prosecutors identified as steroid pills manufactured in Mexico.”
        According to an interview George Mitchell conducted with Giants owner Peter Magowan, “Magowan said that at the conclusion of the phone call he said to Bonds “I’ve really got to know, did you take steroids?” According to Magowan, Bonds responded that when he took the substances he did not know they were steroids but he later learned they were.”

        For what it’s worth, since you’re interested in failed tests, sources indicated that Barry Bonds tested positive for amphetamines in 2006. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/nl/giants/2007-01-11-bonds-usat_x.htm

        Here’s the Mitchell Report: http://files.mlb.com/mitchrpt.pdf
        Here’s a timeline of the BALCO case: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/balco-timeline.htm
        You can read through a good bit of the book Game of Shadows here: http://www.amazon.com/Game-Shadows-Steroids-Scandal-Professional/dp/B002HRELGI and here: http://books.google.com/books?id=AtXm74CbIJoC&pg=PP1

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      • dafuq says:

        So… Lets cover it:

        1) No admission. (Hank Aaron levels of cheating.)
        2) No test. Other than your speculative nonsense.

        I’m not sure what you’re trying to prove with those random quotes. You’ve linked a bunch of newspapers and magazines. Aside from the whole fact that you acknowledge that designer steroids do not even fall under the rule that Bonds supposedly “broke”. I’m not sure how you can’t understand this. The mind of a bigot is curious.

        It is pretty well known that Ken Griffey never took care of his body and (shockingly) suffered a multitude of injuries. Why do you think that the weight room is an integral part of athletic preparedness? Or maybe you don’t even realize this. In the other discussion you seem blissfully unaware of what steroids do instead relying on a portrait painted by the media and pop culture to cover your ignorance.

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      • “The mind of a bigot.” In what way am I bigoted?

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  24. supershredder says:

    Bottom line – put my f-ing Astros in already!!!!!!

    Bags and Bigs all the way!

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  25. philosofool says:

    It’s easy to judge people for how they use a responsibility you don’t have.

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  26. Jason H says:

    I have a difficult time reading this column as anything other than an extension of the false dichotomy between “old school, stupid, ignorant, sportswriters” and “enlightened, smart, rational, bloggers”. The inferiority complex of the SABR people with regard to the sportswriters really detracts from the whole enterprise. It is unnecessary.

    It is obviously the case that there can be perfectly rational reasons for returning a blank ballot. In fact, the HOF allows for this possibility because there are obviously good reasons why a voter might not feel any eligible players are deserving. Any person who has earned the right to vote gets to decide for themselves who to vote for and who not to vote for. You can’t take that right away from them, just because you have decided that you are more rational than them. The whole point of the ballot is to find a consensus from the diversity of opinion.

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    • I agree on the diversity of opinion, but when it comes to hating that someone would turn in a blank ballot, it’s not if they have a rational reason, it’s when they have an irrational reason like punishing all of the steroid era when there’s older athletes who came prior to it or have little evidence to suggest steroids.

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  27. Jason H says:

    With regard to the steroids issue, steroids in baseball may have effected older fans in different ways than younger fans. When I became a baseball fan, the numbers were sacred. 714, 755, 60, 61*, 56, .406, 500, 3000, 300. These numbers need no explanation, they are baseball lore. Steroids largely robbed this magic. I don’t get the sense that people who became fans during the steroid era have any emotional attachment to the numbers the way older fans do. Maybe it’s stupid, but its a part of my love for the game that I developed as a young boy. It was very hard to watch Bonds go past Aaron, with no one caring or respecting the accomplishment. I can understand if the older baseball writers resent the steroid era. I can understand if older baseball writers think the accomplishments of the steroid players are entirely fake. These players were not just surpassing, they were making a mockery or feats we grew up believing were already superhuman, accomplished only by the sporting equivalent of superheros.

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    • Not to change the subject, but I grew up in the steroid but what may not care about those numbers in particular was the sabermetric movement that showed how misleading the counting stats are.

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    • Look, I grew up in Atlanta in the ’80s and ’90s, and Hank Aaron was my idol. I thought he was the greatest player ever. I didn’t start getting into saber till later – but I still love Hank, and I think it’s absurd that he didn’t get a hundred percent of the vote.

      I think that many of the writers are well-meaning. All I ask is that they apply rational criteria to their vote. What are the rational criteria by which Henry Aaron is not a Hall of Famer? What are the criteria by which no one on this year’s ballot – not Raines, not Bagwell, not Bonds, not Clemens, not Trammell – is a Hall of Famer? That’s not a rhetorical question. I want writers to be able to answer that question. That’s the responsibility of the vote. They don’t have to vote the way I would, they just have to be consistent in their logic.

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      • Jason H says:

        There can be perfectly ration reasons not to vote for all those players you listed. You might rationally conclude that Raines and Trammell weren’t quite good enough and that the others were likely steroid cheats. Not hard to imagine, honestly.

        Besides, why shouldn’t emotion be a part of a voter’s decision process if they feel it important? …honestly, if emotion keeps the likes of Scott Rolen out of the HOF, I’m all for it!

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      • If you don’t believe that Raines and Trammell weren’t quite good enough, fine. Those are very restrictive criteria, and they would exclude a lot of existing Hall of Famers, but again, all I care about is internally consistent logic. What are the criteria by which Henry Aaron wasn’t good enough for the Hall of Fame?

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      • Jason H says:

        Alex,

        Henry Aaron is in the Hall of Fame, so it seems there was (and is) a consensus that he was good enough for the Hall of Fame. He was a first balloter who received one of the highest HOF vote percentages. I honestly don’t understand the point you are trying to make.

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  28. Joe F. says:

    What I’m more surprised by is the lack of an effort to rally around any one specific player as a protest vote.

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  29. Sam Hutcheson says:

    You write:

    Perhaps steroids are different from other forms of cheating. As Quinn writes, “A player who used banned drugs did not simply disgrace himself, he altered himself.” Steroids allow the production of muscle tissue that would not be generated without its use: They literally can help a player change the size and shape of his body. The true on-field effect of steroids is unknown, but a player on speed looks different than a player on anabolic steroids, and I can understand why a writer might choose to treat them differently.

    I can understand _why_ a writer might treat them differently, but the “why” in question is utterly irrational. The fact that the physiological changes generated by uppers occur internal to the brain, while the physiological changes attributable to PED assisted weight training* are visible outside of the skull casing is completely irrelevant.

    *it’s also false to attribute changes in physique to “PEDs.” Any major change to musculature and body composition that involves PEDs is derived from using them _in combination with an strict weight and cardio training regimen._ Bonds didn’t put on muscle by rubbing HGH creme on his thighs. He put on muscle by working his ass off in the weight room. He then used The Creme to recover more quickly from the physical toil of those weight room sessions, so that he could go back and work more, more quickly than he would have been able to without the help healing provided by HGH.

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    • I don’t think it’s irrational. I think that reasonable people may differ. But mind-altering drugs are different than body-altering drugs, and Altoids are different than aspirin is different than amphetamines. All of these things produce a chemical effect on the body. But the magnitude of that effect is vastly different, and I think that the magnitude is relevant when assessing a player’s accomplishments.

      And of course Bonds worked his ass off in the weight room. But had he worked his ass off without the drug, he physically could not have gained that much muscle mass. Similarly, if your doctor tells you to take antibiotics for two weeks and not drink alcohol because it will negatively interact with the drug, then you’d better take the drug for two weeks and not drink alcohol. Drugs are activated in different ways. But the drug is used to build muscle mass — that’s what it’s for, and that’s why he took it. The workout was ultimately part of the drug regimen.

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      • AK7007 says:

        It’s really frustrating to read over and over “reasonable people may differ in their opinion” without a defense of why one form of cheating is worse than others outside of “different drugs do different things.” Future column perhaps?

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      • dafuq says:

        That isn’t what steroids are for. I’d suggest more learning and less of what you’re passing for “discussion”.

        In earnest, if you think people in the MLB are taking steroids to “build muscle mass”, you have no idea what you’re talking about.

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      • Sam Hutcheson says:

        Steroids and HGH are “for” healing the body more quickly and efficiently. They are popular in weight training because they help the body heal from major workout and the bodily damage major workouts create, quickly and efficiently. This allows the athlete to train more rigorously, more often, with fewer “rest days.”

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      • Yes, I agree, as I stated above. But they are also “for” building muscle mass, and they first came to prominence in pop culture through their association with bodybuilding. Many players believed at the time that adding muscle would help them hit the ball further — remember Ron Gant? Baseball-wise, steroids may be most effective in their ability to help the body heal faster. But their image is most associated with muscles. And, honestly, what Bonds wanted to do was to hit more homers. He wanted to hit more homers than McGwire and Sosa so that he would be recognized as the best player in baseball.

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      • How are different forms of cheating different? Okay, here’s one example: the Phillies were accused of sign-stealing a few years ago. It is explicitly forbidden to use electronic equipment to steal signs, but stealing signs by analog means is generally considered to violate of an unwritten rule.

        http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/apparently-the-phillies-cheated-so-what/

        Here’s another one: A.J. Pierzynski and Derek Jeter both lied their way to first base by claiming they got hit when they knew they weren’t; for Pierzynski, the ball was nowhere near him, and Jeter’s admitted after the game that it hit his bat.

        http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/should-a-j-pierzynski-be-punished-for-lying-to-an-ump/
        http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/derek-jeter-cheated-so-what/

        All of these cases are violations of sportsmanship, even if they are not violations of the rules. Generally speaking, in any game, there is a concept of “unfair play” above and beyond the letter of the law. As I have written elsewhere:

        I don’t think that everything that hasn’t been expressly forbidden should be permitted — it’s often possible to violate the spirit of the law without violating its letter — but the letter of the law should matter, and it should probably be considered worse to break a written rule than an unwritten one.

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      • Jason H says:

        Alex,

        Stealing signs is as much a part of the game as is changing signs when runners are on second. Stealing signs the traditional way is not cheating, its good baseball.

        Also, what Jeter and AJ did was not cheating. It is the umpire’s job to make judgement calls. ….is pitch framing cheating? ….should batters and catchers argue ball and strike calls when the bad call goes in their favor? ….dishonesty is not cheating. Cheating involves breaking an actual rule.

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      • Stealing signs the traditional way is a good way to get a fastball in your ear. If you’re going to do it, you’d better not get caught doing it. Ballplayers don’t like having their signs stolen.

        http://bfc.sfsu.edu/cgi-bin/unwritten.pl?Never_steal_the_catcher_signs._-_Baseball
        http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/chipper-jones-jamie-moyer-accused-stealing-signs-162811837.html
        http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/post/_/id/1862/get-you-own-damn-man-in-white-sign-stealing-the-jays-and-so-called-cheating-in-baseball

        Stealing signs and trying to lie your way onto first base is gamesmanship, and it’s a violation of an unwritten rule, rather than a violation of a written rule. As such, I’d think of it as low-grade cheating. Loading up the ball — throwing a spitball, gunkball, or a ball that’s been cut with fingernails, sandpaper, or an emery board — is mid-grade cheating. It’s explicitly prohibited, but it is the kind of violation that a player’s reputation can recover from. Bat-corking would be the equivalent for hitters.

        Gambling on baseball is baseball’s ultimate sin — that is simply the worst form of cheating that baseball has ever recognized. Now that scrutiny has increased so highly, use of a banned substance appears to be seen as high-grade cheating as well. It isn’t as bad as gambling — on your first conviction, you only get a 50-game ban, while gambling on baseball results in a lifetime ban — but it’s bad, and player reactions to the allegations about Ryan Braun and Melky Cabrera’s positive tests were revealing.

        (I’m not arguing about Braun’s guilt on this thread. I’m just referring to players’ reactions to the allegations. I wrote about both cases here:
        http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/ryan-braun-case-ped-attitudes-changing/
        http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/melky-cabrera-50-games-ped-punishment/
        )

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      • Jason H says:

        Stealing signs the traditional way is also a great way to get congratulated by your teammates. ARod’s teammates often talk with great approval of his sign stealing abilities. Just because the other team doesn’t like it does not make it cheating. Of course the other team doesn’t like it! There is no unwritten rule about not stealing signs. It is a real part of the game. MLB could end sign stealing by having players wear ear pieces like NFL quarterbacks. No more sign stealing, no more signs, faster game. …wouldn’t be baseball though, would it? Because giving, and stealing signs is a part of the game. So much so that part of the stereotype of a baseball player or coach is flashing hand signals.

        Trying to lie your way onto first base is not a violation of an unwritten rule either. Trying to lie your way onto first base is no different than any other attempt at influencing the umpire’s jugement.

        …all these supposed unwritten rules.

        Should a shortstop tell the umpire that he missed the tag when a swipe tag is missed?! No, they are taught to throw the ball around the infield as if the tag was plain as day. There is absolutely no “unwritten rule” that players have to help the umpires to make the correct judgement. If there is actually any unwritten rule, it is that players will only try to “help” the umpires to the benefit of the team only.

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      • There is not a consensus on the topic, but many people believe that stealing signs is against the unwritten rules.

        http://thebaseballcodes.com/category/sign-stealing/

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      • dafuq says:

        Alex,

        Do you hear yourself? You sound ridiculous. Speculating on the inner thoughts of baseball players. What about all the pitchers? The skinny middle infielders?

        You clearly have no clue what you’re talking about. Before you return to your keyboard and hammer out some more speculative nonsense based on: 1) voodoo 2) bigotry, try to learn about the topic.

        Thanks!

        NB: Your idea of a secondary (arbitrary) set of rules beyond the actual rules is ridiculous. You should read Play to Win. It just further shows how increasingly ridiculous your viewpoint is.

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      • Jason H says:

        Alex,

        Did you read that link? Because no where in it does anyone claim sign stealing is anything but a part of the game. No one thinks its cheating. No one thinks if a batter hits a homerun after stealing a sign, the pitcher should get a do-over or the batter should be called out. No body thinks that. Everyone would think that if sign stealing was cheating.

        Pitchers don’t like sign stealing because it hurts them. But they still don’t think its cheating. They like to make known that they will throw at batters they think are stealing signs, because, in addition to changing the signs, they really have no other recourse. But they don’t think a sign stealer is cheating. They think they are douche bags that got the better of them. They also think this about batters that smack a pitcher’s pitch for a homerun. They don’t like it. But they don’t think its cheating.

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      • Clearly, you and I disagree about what constitutes “cheating,” because I simply disagree that players would request a “do over” on all forms of cheating. I think “cheating” means anything a player does to get an edge that most other players think is against the rules. Many of those things may not require a do over – they may be able to be solved on the field with rough justice, like a beanball or a high spike. You seem to view the kind of low-grade things that can be resolved by beanball as not constituting cheating per se. We disagree.

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      • Jason H says:

        Alex,

        The problem is that nobody thinks sign stealing is against the rules (and if they do, they are simply wrong). We don’t disagree on the definition of cheating. We disagree on what the rules of baseball are, I think.

        Ironically, an example of mildly tolerated cheating is the beanball and high spikes. Both of those are actually against the rules. I say “mildly tolerated” because, while undoubtedly part of the game, they are not actually tolerated very well. The league doesn’t like it, the managers don’t like it, and the players generally don’t like it. It is also widely acknowledged as against the rules, and players and managers will complain to the umpires if they think they have been victimized (umpires are the initial arbitrators of what is cheating and what is not). ….note that no one ever complained to an umpire that someone was stealing signs (since it is not against the rules).

        If there actually are any meaningful “unwritten rules”, it is the unwritten, but implied rules. For example, steroid use was not originally outlawed by MLB. It was not in their written rules. However, the ban was certainly implicit, since steroid use is illegal in the US without a doctor’s prescription. Everyone always accepted steroids as against the rules of baseball, since they were illegal period.

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      • Chicago Mark says:

        dafuq; you are judgemental and insulting. I don’t like you.
        Jason H; Were steroids legal in baseball prior to inclusion in the collective bargaining agreement? I don’t know the answer. But I think their illigalness in US law(I know, junky word and probably spelling too) probably made them illegal in MLB. I thought steroids were used in building muscle mass. Aren’t they?

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      • dafuq says:

        Alex,

        You have to be clearly trolling. High spikes and beanballs? So you’d prefer to potentially kill someone?

        lol

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  30. shthar says:

    How many ballots come back marked, DECEASED

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  31. JC Collins says:

    The worst part to me as a fan of the game is that people that were not accused, tried, or mentioned in the Mitchell report are suffering the PED outfall simply for playing at a time that it was going on. Take for instance Jeff Bagwell. He was a lifelong Astro when that was unheard of. He was also the face of that franchise for several years. He had 449 home runs in his career while playing about half of it in the Astrodome. But because he did alot of work in the offseason and maintained his muscles or built upon them he falls into the shadow of a PED user. Never was he ever mentioned in any reports or brought before Congresz but yet he only got 56% of the votes last year. Votes should be based on facts, not speculation or personal vendetta.

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    • I’m sympathetic to your point, but it’s a little jarring to read that “it was unheard of” for people to be lifelong Astros, considering that Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio are both on the ballot this year.

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      • JC Collins says:

        What I was referring to was that in this day and age of following the all mighty dollar, most players do not stay with one team for there entire careers. Especially with a mid market team that had an owner( Drayton McClain) that was unwilling to go over the salary cap for fear of angering the commissioner. They both had plenty of offers from other teams that wanted them during there brief free agency periods and they took less money to stay “a hometown guy”. They wanted to finish there career where they started it. As a Houston Astros fan,( obviously) I am truly appalled by what took place today with the BBWAA by not voting ANYONE in. At the very least Craig Biggio should have went. What is your opinion Alex?

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  32. AK7007 says:

    I loved Brisbee’s comment today:

    “The Hall of Players Who Never Had the Chance to Take Steroids

    The Hall of Players Who Were Lucky Enough to Avoid This Specific Era”

    Because the line of thinking that steroid users are somehow different really does make this exact statement without ever realizing it.

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