The Steroids in the Hall of Fame Debate… The Steroid Era: Innocence Abandoned

January 11, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

Steroids are dangerous, self-destructive, and unethical. Society has become well aware of these facts, and has thoroughly – and appropriately – vilified known steroid users. While professional sports as whole have been slow to deal with the issue of how to punish steroids users, at the urging of society and Congress leagues have taken active steps over the past half decade to address the problem. But America’s great steroid purge has also created new problems of its own.

The purge has transformed an entire generation of fans into skeptics, doubting Thomas-es that scrutinize and distrust any and every above average athlete out of fear that success might be the result of a bottle and not hard work. The MLB Hall of Fame has mirrored fan skepticism, essentially locking the door to anyone who was even accused of using steroids. While I understand the HOF’s need to make wise decisions in order to protect its integrity and validity, banning every player with even a modicum of unsubstantiated accusation against them is simply an act of unabashed paranoia. The MLB Hall of Fame should allow in worthy players who have not been proven guilty.

Everyone is a Suspect

In the wake of the Steroid Era EVERYONE is a suspect. I’m sure some readers are trying to qualify that last statement thinking, “He can’t really mean everyone is a suspect,” but that is indeed actually what I meant. Every single MLB player that was in the majors from the 1990s through the mid 2000s can uniformly be lumped into the Steroid Era, and is thus viewed through a lens of doubt that opens them to accusations of guilt. Isn’t this doubt an accusation in and of itself?

Sure not every player is mentioned by name in the Mitchell Report or by informant testimony, but what if they were? Suppose in Jose Conseco’s next tell all book he boldly claims that no one in baseball is clean (after all, Jose has been right about a lot of guys in the past – McGwire, A-Rod, and more). Would that be cause enough to ban the entire player universe during this dark age for baseball?

My opposition in today’s debate, Loyal Homer, would say “Yes!” He would believes that anyone who is accused of steroid use should be banned from enshrinement in the Hall of Fame, regardless of evidence or credibility of the testimony. Banned, remind you, not because of an admission of guilt or proof, but because of an allegation. I don’t know about you, but I find something patently un-American about finding someone guilty until proven innocent.

Loyal Homer’s steadfast rule of zero tolerance for the accused would not just target the usual suspects like the big and bulky Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire. It also accuses the slim and nimble players, too. We know that designer PEDs exist that help players build lean muscle, the way A-Rod did, so even small guys like Ichiro Suzuki, Dustin Pedroia, and Derek Jeter could have used them (although I HIGHLY doubt it). But Loyal Homer’s zero tolerance policy would ban these guys solely based off of accusations. Even if they vehemently deny the charge and there is no hard evidence to prove otherwise, Loyal Homer would exclude guys who revolutionized the sport simply because they playing in baseball’s darkest hours.

A New McCarthyism

The worst part about this rise in skepticism is the fact that it actively encourages abandoning the American principle of innocence of the accused until proven guilty. This is not a new phenomenon, however, as we have seen it at least twice before in America – once in colonial Salem, Massachusetts and again in Congressional Red Scare of the 1950s. Each time Americans were prone to hysteria over unsubstantiated claims, and each time the lives and reputations of the innocent were ruined. It should not be allowed to happen again.

I realize that someone not completely sold on my argument will think I am haplessly appealing to patriotic rhetoric (subliminal message – USA! USA! USA! Bald Eagle, Constitution, Statue of Liberty), but we should give players the benefit of the doubt. Certainly it is not an unalienable right to play professional baseball, much less be commemorated in its holiest shrine, but it should not be so difficult of a task that even unproven accusations of guilt keep an individual out either.

Take Roger Clemens, for example. The man has already lost most popular support in the fight to clear his name, yet he maintains his innocence. If current trends continue, this seven time Cy Young winner will never see Cooperstown without buying a ticket. But his case highlights the most ludicrous aspect of this whole episode of paranoid skepticism – it has become impossible to prove a person’s innocence.

Just for argument’s sake, re-examine the Clemens saga with a fresh, unbiased perspective. A man faces 30 years in prison and a $1.5M perjury charge simply because he maintains innocence. This man could have admitted to wrong doing, if any existed, and been forgiven as he has seen former friends Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte successfully do, yet he continues to tell anyone that will listen that he did not use PEDs. Still the man’s reputation and legacy are defamed because the accusations of an admitted HGH user (Pettitte) and a guy accused of sexual assault with the date-rape drug (former trainer Brian McNamee). Does that sound fair? While Clemens specific guilt or innocence is immaterial, it highlights the greater need to give people a fair chance, which Loyal Homer’s stance does not.

Guys like Clemens should be let in, at least until they are proven to be guilty. Then, you can Reggie Bush-Heisman them all you want.

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