The Steroids in the Hall of Fame Debate Verdict

January 13, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

If ever the game of baseball found itself in a lose-lose situation, this would be it. Let me once again sarcastically thank the dirtbags who introduced steroids into the game for ruining it for EVERYONE!

Thanks to greed, egotism, and self-service over fair play and competition, an entire generation of baseball is forever sullied. And what angers me the most about the whole thing is that it was MY era that was ruined!

Ignorance Was Bliss

Our fathers got to grow up watching Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Reggie Jackson. Their fathers grew up watching Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Walter Johnson. These were titans. They were larger-than-life baseball stars turned legends.

Yes, there were “bad guys” back then, too. Ty Cobb was no saint on the base path, and the Black Sox made sure to leave a mark on history. But the actions of those few did not destroy the luster of an entire generation. In fact, for some players (like Cobb), it actually added to their legend.

I, on the other hand, grew up watching cheaters and drug users. The players I idolized during my youth – Canseco and McGwire, Strawberry, and Gooden… and now even more recent stars like Manny and A-Rod – have one-by-one toppled from grace.

At first, it hurt. It was the death of my innocence as a boy. I used to imagine myself in the same dugout as The Bash Brothers, or The Killer B’s. Now the curtain has been pulled back on those moments of herculean accomplishment that I witnessed, and with that action, the illusion of greatness vanished.

At one time I celebrated with these legends. I carried with me what I thought were indelible images, like those of McGwire and Sosa crossing home plate during their great 1998 homerun chase, or Roger Clemens’ twenty strike-out night against the Mariners in 1986, or of rookie sensation Wally Joyner winning the 1986 homerun derby.

Those have all been replaced by images of sad and broken men, none of whom are celebrating now.

Instead of wearing baseball uniforms they are now clad in business suits, standing before Congress or the cameras. Some are making tearful apologies, others making impassioned pleas. But they are all addressing the same problem – destroyed legacies.

The Time for Debate is Over

It is time for history to officially begin passing judgment on the actions of these athletes. Accomplishments that surely would have otherwise merited immediate induction into Cooperstown are now besmirched with an ugly (albeit implied) asterisk. Like a good pair of concrete shoes, no one with an asterisk has managed to break through the barrier that is the collection of HOF voters yet. None have been able to overcome the stigma of being a cheater.

So why do I include Roger Clemens in the same ranks as McGwire, Sosa, and Joyner? He has never been PROVEN to have cheated, and he vehemently denies any and all accusations.

The problem that faces Clemens, Jeff Bagwell, and many other players who are sure to follow after them comes in the form of a very simple question – Do I believe them? My answer is “not really.”

Here is where we find that lose-lose situation. Should the voters of baseball’s Hall of Fame ignore accusations and allegations of cheating and vote players like Roger Clemens into the Hall, knowing that there is a possibility of their being proven guilty after induction? Or do they preclude anyone shrouded in suspicion from ever being inducted, knowing that there will surely be innocent players unfairly denied an honor that they truly deserved?

In defense of those players still only suspected of steroid use, Babe Ruthless calls upon a predictable, but no less valuable, defense. The insistence that a player is “innocent until proven guilty” is one that is hard to deny, and Babe Ruthless wastes no time in applying it to this situation.

As much as I hate the overuse of that adage, I cannot deny its value. While a comparison to McCarthyism or the Salem Witch Trials may be a bit extreme (we are just talking about baseball), the notion that mere accusation could bar someone an otherwise deserved honor is very unpleasant to consider.

But that is nonetheless where Loyal Homer chimes in with hi argument.

There is already a cloud of unpleasantness surrounding this infamous era, and so avoidance is an impossibility. According to Loyal Homer, it is the integrity of the hall itself, not the integrity of the athletes, that is really at stake. Fairness to a player is secondary when you consider the virtues that the Baseball Hall of Fame embodies.

Induction into the Hall is a privilege, not a right. The voters each year want to ensure that only the greatest of baseball’s ambassadors are the ones chosen for immortality.

So do you risk the integrity of the Hall, or sacrifice good faith at the expense of the individual athlete’s legacy?

Preserving the Institution

I am awarding this verdict to Loyal Homer for one reason – the Baseball Hall of Fame is the last piece of the game not yet tainted by steroids.

Records may be called into question and athletes’ resumes may be cheapened, but the Hall remains a bastion where the very best that baseball has to offer can still be respected and honored without question. As Loyal Homer states, the Hall must remain free from the cloud of suspicion.

Do I feel for the wrongfully accused? Absolutely. They are innocent victims, simply caught in the cross-fire of a witch hunt to clean up baseball. But that is not the concern of the Hall of Fame.

Cooperstown does not have to solve the problem of steroids. It does not have to pass judgment on players like Clemens or Bagwell. The only function which the Hall and its voters must perform is to honor the game’s greatest.

Unfortunately for players like Clemens, suspicion is all it takes. How can voters confidently induct him into the Hall of Fame if there are very real doubts as to the legitimacy of how he accomplished many of the things which would have made him great?

Let’s be honest, this would not be the first time that suspicion deprived someone from induction into the Hall (e.g. Shoeless Joe Jackson).

Voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to preserving the purity of the game. If there is even a shred of doubt as to the validity of a players’ accomplishments, the voters cannot let him in. To do so would irresponsibly risk the legacy of the entire history of the game.

If just one Hall of Famer is found to have cheated AFTER the fact of his induction, the integrity of the entire Hall is lost forever.

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The Steroids in the Hall of Fame Debate

January 11, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

Boy is it nice to be back! (A huge thanks to everyone here at TSD for picking up the slack while I was gone!)

What better way to get back into the swing of things than to tackle a debate that has probably been a long time coming – steroids and the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Although it feels like we have been talking about steroids in baseball for ever, the issue of steroids in the Hall of Fame is really a problem that is still in its infancy. We are just now at a point where players from the notorious “Steroid Era” such as Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro are eligible for Hall of Fame candidacy.

With each year of voting, it becomes clearer – steroids are a black mark that simply cannot be erased from an athlete’s resume. Voters are sending a message loud and clear that they will not reward any steroid-tainted player with baseball’s highest honor.

I think it is safe to assume that most people are in agreement with those voters when it comes to an athlete who has either admitted to steroid use, or some other form of proof has been provided to definitively confirm that fact.

But what about players who are only SUSPECTED or ACCUSED of steroid use? Should a player who has never admitted to using or been a proven user of steroids be shunned from the Hall of Fame by voters?

The cloud of suspicion around steroids can itself be a powerful influence in how the public perceives an athlete. Loyal Homer believes that suspicion alone should be enough to justify banishment for HOF voters while Babe Ruthless feels that mere suspicion should have no bearing whatsoever on a HOF vote.

How will history look back on the Steroid Era? It’s time to find out…

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The HGH Testing in the Minor Leagues Debate – A Minor Solution to a Major Problem

March 5, 2010

Read the opposing arguments by Bleacher Fan and Babe Ruthless.

Two different sets of three letters together bring frustration into the minds of baseball followers and those who work in some aspect of the game. They are ‘PED’ (performance-enhancing drugs) and ‘HGH’ (human growth hormone). Major League Baseball is trying to find the best way to clean up the game, but in today’s innovative society it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so. That brings us to our debate, which centered on the question of whether baseball should begin testing at the major league level or whether testing should begin in the minor leagues.

Babe Ruthless explains that testing in the majors right away is a knee-jerk reaction. The Babe also argues that using HGH really does not provide that big of an advantage to the player and that it actually has a high level of risk. It is suggested that baseball move forward with caution, as the act of testing HGH through blood samples is not “universally seen as trustworthy.”

Bleacher Fan, meanwhile, makes an interesting analogy comparing the implementation of HGH testing at the major league level to the act of monitoring one’s speed behind the wheel with a radar gun. It is a fair analogy, and it is highlighted that misplaced attention, foolish resistance, and fan opinion all back up the thought that testing should begin at the major league level now.

Another interesting point was brought up by Bleacher Fan. If you aren’t familiar with Dr. Anthony Galea, let me give you a quick run-through. Dr. Galea is a sports physician who is known for using a blood-spinning technique designed to speed recovery from injuries, and who is currently being investigated by the FBI for selling an unapproved drug to athletes – Actovegin. Besides the players mentioned by Bleacher Fan, athletes from other sports have visited him, including Tiger Woods. All have denied any wrongdoing by visiting Dr. Galea, or have denied receiving anything illegal from him, but keep in mind we are in a time where any suggestion of ANY type of illegal or immoral activity brings outrage and skepticism from fans. This applies to baseball players and it certainly applies to Tiger Woods.

The fact that this was brought up in the debate is what leads me to name Bleacher Fan the winner. The uncertainty regarding the allegations against Dr. Galea hangs over the minds of many baseball fans, including me. The mere mention of “baseball players” and “illegal drugs” in the same sentence raises an eyebrow, and fair or not, that is the perception of many out there. When I first saw the stories on Dr. Galea with Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, I immediately linked them to illegal activity in my mind. That is the thought process of many fans right now. It is “guilt by association”, and we need to get away from that frame of mind.

We are at a time where everyone assumes the worst about PEDs and HGH, and I see no valid reason for baseball to hold back the testing of HGH as soon as possible. These allegations have to stop and this era of uncertainty in the game of baseball has to be put in the distant past NOW. Testing for human growth hormone NOW, on the major league level, is a way to help speed up that process.

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The HGH Testing in the Minor Leagues Debate – To Test or Not To Test? That is the Question For MLB

March 4, 2010

Read the debate intro and the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

Recently, Terry Newton—a rugby player from the United Kingdom—made headlines as the world’s first professional athlete to receive a suspension for using human growth hormones (HGH). What is even more shocking is the fact that he actually owned up to it. While on the surface this looks to be a giant leap forward in the battle against performance enhancing drugs, the truth is a test for HGH has been around since the Athens Olympics in 2004. Now, however, baseball officials seem to be chomping at the bit to start testing players. Bud Selig’s current plan is to experiment with the blood based test in the minor leagues and then potentially bring it to the major league. Today’s debate addresses the issue, should Major League Baseball (MLB) bother with beginning testing for HGH in the minor leagues or just go straight to testing in the Majors?

Suggesting that HGH testing move straight to the Bigs is a knee-jerk reaction at best. Baseball officials have been functioning in damage control mode because of performance enhancing drug scandals for so long that they seem to have forgotten how to address issues – with a plan. Nothing would be gained from rushing the implementation of the test, except a shallow perception that baseball is somehow tougher on performance enhancing drugs. Testing for HGH would not change the weak suspensions that MLB issues for offenders. So what is to gain by hastily implementing a controversial “new” test that baseball has previously criticized? Absolutely nothing!

Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment by posing the questions, what is the big deal about HGH use in the first place? Is it really that bad? Dr. Richard Hellman, the president of the board of directors for the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) states that, “careful scientific studies show that the effect of the growth hormone on improving muscle strength [to a professional athlete] is relatively small and much less important than their training regiment.” Hellman also states that, “When a healthy adult male takes growth hormone either to improve athletic performance, or to improve muscle building, or to prevent aging, he is always making a mistake and wasting his money…There is little benefit from these substances [HGH and androgens], and unlimited risk.” The side effects of excessive HGH use include changes in temperament, anger problems, excessive sweating, arthritis, and even diabetes. These side effects are most certainly a punishment in their own right, not to mention the fact that they could actually shorten a player’s career. In my opinion the negatives far outweigh the positives and the athlete engaging in the risky behavior is in reality cheating himself.

There is also a matter of timing to consider. Baseball’s current labor contract does not expire until 2011. Taking action at the major league level before that time would require the consent of the players’ union. Supposing that the players union rejects the proposal to test in the majors in 2010, which both the MLB and NFL players unions have done previously, the media backlash would be monumental. Baseball already has a tarnished image, due in no small part to performance enhancing drug scandals. The last thing Bud Selig wants right now is to have to explain away why baseball players do not want to submit to more drug testing. If HGH testing is something MLB deems essential, then they should test it in the minor leagues this year and make it a sticking point for the Majors under the next labor agreement. We are seriously talking about the difference of waiting one season at the major league level. Anything more drastic could potentially cause a work stoppage. Can baseball afford that right now, during the current economic recession? I do not think so. Certainly baseball has a responsibility to clean up the game, but that does not mean that they should sacrifice good business sense to do it.

Plus this debate hangs on a very fine point–should HGH blood testing be instituted at the major league level this year. No one is suggesting that baseball bury its head in the ground like it did during the steroid era of the 1990s. I merely suggest that MLB use caution moving forward. HGH blood testing is not universally seen as trustworthy. Although an HGH blood test has been around for nearly 6 years, baseball officials have previously questioned the tests validity. Now, in the wake of one suspension issued because of one unchallenged, positive test on a different continent in another sport, and baseball officials are starting to sing a different tune. It just does not seem like a well thought out plan to jump head first into full blown, major league 40-man roster testing without at least trying it at the minor league level first. Imagine the publicity nightmare that would ensue if a high profile all-star, like Albert Pujols, tests positive and then publicly disputes the validity of a test which the league also previously questioned. That would require some major back peddling from Bud Selig. Baseball has a plan in place, and there is no justification to push this on the Majors without having tested it at the minor league level first.

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