Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.
With last week’s results of the 2011 Baseball Hall of Fame class, it became increasingly apparently to me that anyone remotely tied to the steroid era was going to have an extremely difficult time gaining an invitation to Cooperstown. We all knew there was no reason for Mark McGwire to begin work on any type of induction speech. We were fairly certain that, despite the lasting image of seeing Rafael Palmeiro in Congress saying that he had “Never used steroids – period” he’ll never be portrayed in baseball history as anything but a steroid user, fair or not. What made last week’s results interesting, was the low vote total for Jeff Bagwell.
By all accounts, Jeff Bagwell was a stand up guy both on and off the field. He was the consummate professional. You never really heard a negative peep out of him from his playing days as a Houston Astro, at least not on a national level. He, along with Craig Biggio, helped make professional baseball relevant in Houston for over a decade. He made Larry Anderson relevant to a baseball transaction junkie like myself (he was traded from the Red Sox to the Astros for Anderson… oops, Boston!). But the fact that he played in the so-called Steroid Era is playing against him, and is likely going to keep him out of the Hall of Fame, despite his Hall of Fame worthy credentials. Well, that and the fact that you look at him and think, “How did this guy hit 449 home runs?” Keeping guys like Jeff Bagwell out of Cooperstown is unfortunate, but it’s necessary to keep the integrity of baseball’s most sacred membership.
As I type this, I have yet to read the argument written by Babe Ruthless. But if I had to guess, I’m going to step out on a pretty stable limb and say that he is going to hide behind that “innocent until proven guilty” line of reasoning. That line of defense may work in our judicial system, theoretically, and it may have worked for the likes of O.J. Simpson and his legal Dream Team back during his murder trial in the mid 1990s. But that’s just not the way it works with public perception, and it’s not the way it works in the mind of Hall of Fame voters.
We live in a time where you are often lumped together by who you “hang” with, for lack of a better term. It’s called “guilt by association.” It’s an indirect mindset that we humans deal with on a daily basis. Parents deal with it every day with rebellious teenagers. Police deal with it when investigating potential criminals and drug dealers. Translating to baseball, guys like Jeff Bagwell played during the Steroid Era during the prime of their careers. While it’s true that it was never proven that he took steroids, the dark cloud still hangs over that era, and, quite frankly, it’s an era that Major League Baseball as a whole would prefer to forget. What better way to forget than not elect anyone with any assumed guilt?
When you think Cooperstown, you think of a place to honor and respect baseball’s greatest, both past and present. You don’t think about steroids and needles and ‘roid rages. The integrity of the Hall of Fame must be preserved to help continue the “moving-on” era. To do so, all clouds and suspicions must be kept in the sky – outside the halls of Cooperstown.