The Curse of Jerry Hairston, Jr./Eric Hinske:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Bernie Williams Falls Off Hall of Fame Ballot After His First Year

While I think there is at least somewhat of a case to be made that Bernie Williams should be in the Hall of Fame, I understood going into today’s ballot results that the odds were extremely thin that it would ever happen. However, I was taken aback when the actual results came out and not only did Williams not make it, but he only received 3.3% of the vote, making him ineligible for any more standard Hall of Fame ballots (he can still theoretically be elected by the Veteran’s Committee decades from now, but I don’t know if he’ll even make the ballot).

That is quite a disappointment, almost as disappointing at how awful the voters for the Hall of Fame are in voting in players (seriously, no selections this year? And the second-highest vote-getter was Jack Morris? For serious?).

Here are the results.

Other notable former Yankees are Don Mattingly with 13.2%, Roger Clemens with 37.6% and Tim Raines with 52.2% (that’s actually pretty good news for Raines. I think that the odds are that he gets in now).

--Posted at 5:44 pm by Brian Cronin / 110 Comments | - (0)


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well,. if the options were a couple of inductees including Morris or no one,  I go for NO ONE.

And yeah, Bernie was a really good player to only get 3%. Boo HOF voters.  And I guess Biggio did not make it becasue he played with Bagwell, who did not make it because he was good and therefore must have cheated. Double boo, HOF voters.

It’s kind of sad that Bernie will only be on the ballot for 1 year, but he’s not a Hall of Famer so I don’t care all that much. The bigger issue is, why are deserving Hall of Famers not getting in? What is going to happen with next year’s class (including Maddux, Glavine, Thomas and Mussina)

Maddux gets in, Glavine maybe gets in, Thomas gets the shaft, and I think that with the clogged ballot Moose never gets in until the Vets committee.

Biggio’s second most comp player (b-ref) is Derek Jeter.  Derek who is a sure fire first ballot HOFer who should get 90% of the vote if not higher. Biggio with 3000 hits and 400 steals, etc. etc.

So why is Biggio not in? Because the voters are throwing a hissy fit about steroids - the steroids that many of them knew about well before we did (they are in the clubhouse and have a good view of things growing and shrinking, as well as access to ‘player talk’) but said nothing in order to keep their access and friendship with the players they were covering.  Now that they’ve been exposed as partisan hacks - in the non-political sense - they are taking it out on the players they covered.  OK, I cant say for sure this is true, but give me a better reason.

If Maddux is not elected next year I propose we never mention the HOF again (or at least until they come up with a better way of deciding who gets in).
And is Glavine only a maybe? 300 wins, 100 games > 500, 2 Cy youngs. Wow.

I’ve long since given up worrying about their HOF.
I have my HOF and I know who’s in it.

[4] First year eligible players tend not to get in immediately due to voters who think only inner-circle HOFs should do so.  Maybe [3] thinks they cut at 70 WAR.

Thomas will get in. He spoke out against steroids a long time ago. I bet Glavine will as well. Like much of his career, Moose will run into some bad timing and luck.

[3] I think if HOF voters don’t get over themselves by next year, there’ll be some major changes in voting and that will allow Moose to get in.  Personally, I’d be in favor of minimum of 2 players in every year.  Even though that may have resulted in Morris getting in…would still be better than no one getting in, IMHO.

[8] If Morris got in any year where Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Bagwell, Biggio, etc. didn’t that would be even worse.

Yanks 11th in BA preliminary farm system ratings.  Cards 1st, townies 5th.

[8] Really?  I have no problem with no one making it.  In fact, I wish that would happen more often.
And I’m not sure, Mike, why you think that’s likely.  I don’t see any rising groundswell of support for that kind of thing.

[11]I have no problem with no one making it. But only when no one deserves to. Certainly not this case this year.

I like one of the ideas mentioned in this article about hall of fame voting:

Create a Hall of Fame Congress, consisting of 24 members (or any number divisible by four) to select the winners from the nominated candidates. The members of this Congress can be appointed by other bodies to represent them. We could use some of the ideas in the previous section, such as fans voting for other fans to represent them. Have the members serve on a rotating basis.

Let them meet in Cooperstown in January. Anyone willing to travel to Cooperstown in the dead of winter deserves a vote. Have them hole up in the Otesaga until they have selected at least two, but no more than four, new members to the Hall. Any player receiving at least 75 percent of the Congress’ vote makes it. When the players are selected, have smoke rise from the Otesaga chimney.

I think having ridiculousness built into the process is better than counting on baseball writers to come up with it for us.

In my opinion, the credibility of Hall of Fame genuinely reflecting the history of the game of baseball and its elite players after this year’s vote is diminished. If this is about a Hall of Fame of Pure players, then I want a different Hall of Fame constructed, where I get to poke holes in the choices made by baseball writers.

But if I am really thinking about it, as long as there is Baseball Reference, why do I need to look up the Hall of Fame to identify the game’s greats?

I understand the arguments against Bonds and Clemens even though I do not agree with them. I absolutely do not get the arguments against Bagwell, Piazza and Biggio.

Steroids were around long before the 90s, despite what the writers want to believe.  And judging by the comments and behavior of past greats like Ruth & Mantle, if steroids were available way back then, those players would have taken them.  No doubt in my mind.  Does anyone honestly believe Ty Cobb would NOT have taken a shot or a pill if he thought it would have given him an edge over other players? Probably drank tiger blood or something back then…

And is Biggio the first 3000 hit guy to not get elected on his first ballot?

I’d let in all the Steroid Era (SE) players who were truly the most dominant players of that era.  (I wouldn’t let in a Palmeiro, for example, because even if his numbers were better than those of many HoFers from other eras, I don’t think he was THAT good compared to other elite SE hitters.)

The problem I have with excluding players based on the “character” clause is that I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically immoral about using steroids.  Yes, it was illegal in the U.S., but there are a lot of things that are illegal that aren’t immoral.  And, of course, it isn’t immoral per se to break the law.  (And I don’t think steroids even should have been illegal: there may be risks involved in using them, but a rational, sane adult could decide those risks were worth the reward.  In a free society, he or she should have that choice.)

The difference is not one of character.
The difference is that steroids were taken specifically to warp the performance curve - specifically to cheat.
That’s not true of alcohol, etc. (There’s probably an argument re: greenies, but do we need to trot out the “two wrongs don’t make a right” argument?)
Is Pete Rose’s problem a general accusation of “bad character”? Or is it that he intentionally compromised the integrity of the game? In any event, it SHOULD be the latter.

From our POV, the reasoning could be slightly different.  *IF* steroids had a very predictable result (and had been taken equally by everyone), then the effects on analysis of the players would be minimal and possibly we could compensate for them.  But medicines do not work as well on everyone, sometimes a given medicine doesn’t work at all on a given patient.  Combined with variances in use, the result is a warping of player talent that we have no way of dealing with.  They intentional cheating has cheated us of the ability to know how good these players really were (or weren’t).  Maybe the stars would have been the stars and would be comfortably in the HOF if steroids had never been invented.  But we don’t know that, and it’s their fault that we don’t know that.  It seems reasonable that they pay this rather reasonable price for that decision.

The question then becomes: how do we determine who pays this price?

I have no problem keeping players out where there the voters believe their performance was enhanced by steroid use.  This is NOT a court of law or a “hu, man right,” the labor union is cleverly and somewhat dishonestly implying we’d all have to agree that the burden of proof to be demonstrated is here is “beyond a reasonable doubt” - but that’s not even the most commonly applied burden of proof at law, which is “a preponderance of the evidence.” (And that burden can apply even when there’s relatively little evidence.)

I tend to agree that there’s little reason to apply all this to a player like Biggio.

If MLB had banned anabolic steroids, even without testing, around the time they became common in weightlifting (the 1970s, afaik), I might feel differently, but MLB pretty clearly didn’t care until it was too late.

[9] Well, this year it would have been Biggio and Morris.  It’s better that BOTH are not in?  It’s also better that now both are on the ballot next year (and Morris will probably get in anyway) taking votes away from others who are deserving? 

Basically, some of the “bad” candidates we think may sneak in if there is a minimum of two elected will probably get in anyway, eventually.  I’d rather they get in a year or two early, in order to insure that 1) there aren’t years where no one is elected and 2) we keep whittling down the backlog.

[11 & 12] Well, I’m not a small-Hall guy.  Though I don’t think we should do anything to further lower the standards of the Hall, there is already precedent set, and I don’t think we should be excluding players from future enshrinement just because the CURRENT HOF doesn’t have as high a standard as we would like.

Fun exercise if you’ve never done it, read the Joe Posnanski piece on “The Willie Mays HOF”.

What’s the advantage of *not* electing anyone?  How many years are there really NO deserving candidates?  Maybe the number of minimum indicutees is one instead of two, but really, it’s better if at least one player gets in every year.  Not having players elected actually makes the HOF *less* relevent, NOT more relevent.

And is Biggio the first 3000 hit guy to not get elected on his first ballot?

Palmeiro isn’t even going to get in.  Paul Waner didn’t get in until his 4th or 5th ballot.  That’s off the top of my head, but there are probably other 3000 hit guys who didn’t get in first ballot either.

The question then becomes: how do we determine who pays this price?

Well, your solution is that everyone pays the price.  Right now Mike Piazza pays the price; people say he must of used therefore it’s enough suspicion.  My grandkids (if not my kids) will pay the price; the HOF they go to won’t have some of the greatest players in history in it.  Why?  Well they cheated.  But why are these other cheaters in?  Well, they cheated in an *acceptable* way.  It’s okay to cheat some ways, but not others, after all.  You can copy the answers from the person next to you - that’s the way *my* Dad cheated after all! - but you can’t have the person who took the test in 1st period send you a picture of the test on your phone so you can Google the answers before class.  That kind of cheating isn’t acceptable, since no one before 1998 could do that.

I agree that we should take the person’s “character” - including cheating, partaking of criminal activity (illegal drugs, DUI, etc), racism, etc - into account when putting people in the HOF.  But it should *not* be the overriding factor.  It shouldn’t be 90% of the criteria.  It should be like 5%.  So if you say you have a 1000 point scale, and a person needs at least 700 points to get your vote, maybe Palmeiro has 660 points.  When you give him “character” points, you can only give him 10.  Sorry, he’s close but no cigar.  Maybe years later Pettitte is on the ballot and you have him at 680 points - a little better than Palmeiro - but you feel he gets 25 points for character.  He loses some for the HGH but otherwise he’s a pretty good guy.  He’s in.

But putting Dale Murphy in - not saying you would be some are - since he’s “clean” but keeping Bonds out?

[23] Well, he’s ineligible so I didn’t think we had to mention him (I’m assuming you’re responding to 22).

The “intentionally & systematically warping the game” and “character” issues seem to me to be rather different, and perhaps even only distantly related.
When you talk about prior forms of intentionally warping the game (cheating), you’re raising this spitball issue?  Certainly not gambling, as that has been treated in exactly this way.  Or perhaps we’re talking about the performance-enhancing potention of hot dogs and alcohol?
I need clarification here!

(There’s probably an argument re: greenies, but do we need to trot out the “two wrongs don’t make a right” argument?)

Even if you don’t want to use amphetamines as a way to rationalize steroids, I think they are still a pretty important point to bring up. The difference in how they have been treated and how steroids have been treated indicates that there has been a cultural shift with regards to how people are thinking about PEDs.

Thanks for clarifying.

Tree, I don’t disagree.  And it is a difficult issue to deal with.  But I don’t see that as a reason simpy not to deal at all with the questions raised by the situation we’re facing now.

[26] Well definitely amphetimines right?  But yes, doctoring the baseball for sure.  In some ways that’s worse than steriods isn’t it?  After all, you’ve modified the baseball to give yourself an advantage, but there isn’t something the batter can do to give himself the same advantage.

What about other things in the past that have done that?  Sign stealing - not the garden variety of the guy on 2nd but ones were guys with binoculars were in the bleachers.  Or teams that modified the field (watered differently for certain basestealers or pitchers, altered mound height, etc)?  Players probably knew about that stuff and got benefit from it, even if they weren’t the ones doing it.

I think that “intentionally & systematically warping the game” is a character issue, just like other cheating.  If you want to say that someone that used steriods has no character at all, and gets 0 points (assuming my 1000 point scale) in that category - but that someone who threw spitballs still has some and can get at most 20 points - fine.  I don’t necessarily agree with that ranking, but we’re in the realm of quibbling about small amounts, like whether Cano or Cabrerra was the 2nd best player in the AL last year.  But you seem to be saying that not only should these people get 0 points for character, they should get -500 points.  So even if they have 950 points in the other categories (Bonds and Clemens are close), they can’t possibly earn enough to get in.  I just can’t get behind that.

Now, to relate to the gambling…I think there’s a 3 strikes and you’re out rule for steriod use.  If you wanted to make it even stricter and say 2 strikes and you’re out - or even say HOF should say any PED suspension and you’re out - then okay.  I’d still argue but okay.  Going forward.  Not retroactive.  Because yes, some players who did steriods may have not done them if they knew they would be banned from the HOF.  Clemens is a good example as he already was a HOF pitcher.  Maybe he’s arrogant enough he would have done anyway.

I think the Hall of Fame selection process is fine for now.  The results reflect the current thinking about PED’s in baseball—that the use of them is either cheating and/or a cardinal sin against the game, and the Hall instructs voters to consider such behavior in making their choices.  This is not some extreme point of view.  Many fans, broadcasters, and current and former players share this opinion.

If public opinion evolves over the coming years or decades, it will still be possible to enshrine players through the standard ballot or the veterans committee, or, if needed, a special “steroid era” committee to be established at some point.

But for now, it’s a bit of a mess, which is more the fault of the players and owners than of the voters.

I agree that we should take the person’s “character” - including cheating, partaking of criminal activity (illegal drugs, DUI, etc), racism, etc - into account when putting people in the HOF.

Can we go back and remove all the racists in The Hall ? ‘cause that would involve probably between 75-90% of those who played prior to, oh, say…1950 ? 1960 ? 1970 ? 1980 ? Jump right in here, anyone. 1990…?

I feel comfortable in saying that any Hall of Fame for baseball that does not include Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens is not a Hall of Fame that means anything.

Keep in mind, neither has admitted or been punished/convicted of knowingly taking PEDs. There is evidence that points to them using PEDs but they are being treated as guilty without definitive proof.

[33] I feel comfortable saying that I feel cheated of the possibility of knowing how good either of those players really was relative to his peers.
That’s the issue as I see it - not a matter of character, since one can have a lousy character and nevertheless not take systematic steps to create this problem (e.g., as far as I know, Ty Cobb).

Mike, I don’t agree with the argument that there should be no penalty for this because they didn’t know about the penalty in advance.  That makes no sense to me.  I’m not worried about whether this was a deal they’d have signed off on in advance.  I’m worried about the fact that we can’t know how good they really were, and that’s their fault.

Also, for what it’s worth, I don’t see the same problem, Mike, with the field alterations you bring up.

“Definitive proof” - see the discussion of burdens of proof, above.  Definitive proof is not required for most legal proceedings (only those where we’re talking about extremely serious sentences - many years to life imprisonment, the death sentence, etc.), and this doesn’t even rise to the level of a legal proceeding.  You don’t have definitive proof either way, and you do have clear knowledge of the problem existing.  In that case, you do the best you can, because that’s all you can do.  Various people will arrive at various results (within reason, one hopes).  But a blanket “not guilty” is not a good approximation of the best guess we can make.  In fact, it seems pretty clearly to be a cop-out.

[33]  I agree with that.  Also, Bagwell clearly passes the threshold for enshrinement, and he’s being punished just for being a power-hitting 1B during the steriods era, when there isn’t ANY evidence against him.  Piazza is being punished for a skin condition that people claim is a sign of steriod use.

Cheating is a much broader topic. For me, a cheater is someone who knowingly and obviously tried to gain an unfair advantage to distort the result of the game. So, a catcher who frames pitches knowingly cheats the umpire and the opponent, Derek Jeter knowingly cheats the umpire and the opponent when he applies the phantom tag. It is very likely that these things causally impact the outcome of a game.

Steroids do not directly impact a game. It likely helps athletes train harder, perhaps allows them to stay on the field, maybe add more muscle. Heck, maybe even hit more home runs. But I cannot point towards a particular dose of steroid injected (or, for that matter, performance enhancer of your chosen variety) that causally changed the outcome of a game.

Secondly, and perhaps more troublingly for me, even if I were to concede that steroids constitute cheating, at this time the norm seems to be that all it needs to implicate someone is a fertile mind. I simply look at a person’s physique, the person’s performance, and immediately apply my mental shotgun (ok, I borrowed this from Daniel Kahneman) to establish causality. A certain reporter saw some acne on the backs of Mike Piazza, so he must be a juicer. Jeff Bagwell breathed the same air as Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco? Shoot, he gotta be a juicer. Craig Biggio? He played at the same time those other guys played? Screw him! No Hall for You! This is a slippery slope that can be applied to keep almost anyone out of Hall. So, in the end, the Hall of Fame selection becomes a popularity contest among certain “experts” whose understanding of how to separate skill from luck is incredibly suspect, but whose claim to fame is writing tons of bogus “causal” stories of baseball where none existed (I remember Buster Olney writing a piece called “Behind the Rise of Emilio Bonifacio” when he had about half a week of white hot streak. In two weeks time, he duly became the Bonifacio everyone knows).

So, more power to Hall of Fame voters and their self-righteous indignation. I will from now on refer to the top 150 or so list of players on baseball reference. That to me would be true test of greatness. A decidedly arbitrary criteria as a Hall of Fame selection is no guarantee of finding an elite baseball player.

I’m on Wombat’s side in this debate.  I view PED use as a form of cheating that causes suffering to those who did not cheat and to the integrity of play.  Pete has made numerous points with which I essentially agree, including the burden of proof issue.  The HOF vote is not a court of law with burdens of proof that one party or the other must satisfy.  At the same time, however, I recognize that we are confronted with what seems to be an impossible line drawing problem.  For every distinction made, someone will unfairly suffer.  Additionally, the hypocrisy of mlb, the union, and the writers stinks and probably makes the whole voting exercise a sham. On the other hand, making no distinctions excuses everything and is itself a slippery slope.  Why should we exclude roiders when Ty Cobb is in the hall et cetera goes the logic.  The view that there has always been cheating in baseball, why do anything is what Sartre would have called “bad faith.”

[34] And if I take my kids to the HOF I’ll feel cheated for not seeing Bonds and Clemens and a host of others there.  So where does that leave us?

What if some of those great players like Cobb also contributed directly to keeping some of the best non-white - or even non-Christian - players out of the game?  Would that be systematically warping it?  Because I’m pretty sure some of those HOF used their influence to keep integration from happening earlier.  Or - like Cobb - intentionally injured other players, potentially keeping us from seeing another HOF talent on the field?

Why are the field alterations not relevent?  Are we not (potentially) being robbed of knowing how good some players would have been if the playing field weren’t (sometimes literally) slanted to help - or hurt - them?  Is stealing signs from the stands - which I believe the Blue Jays were even guilty of a few years ago no? - not creating an unfair advantage?

What about a player that goes to another country for surgery that isn’t yet approved in US, and that surgery is successful and allows them to keep playing at a high-level?  Would you ban that player?  Would you ban Kobe from the bball HOF because he went to Germany for the treatment on his knees?  After all, some players may not have the resources - like an 18 year old in the minors - to get that surgery so it isn’t fair.

Mike, I don’t agree with the argument that there should be no penalty for this because they didn’t know about the penalty in advance.

There are so many things wrong with this I find it hard to argue.  Here’s one.  If in college you had a class that required a paper.  You wrote it early, turned it in, and then went on vacation.  While on vacation they decided that something that wasn’t explicitly against the rules but was frowned on, is now cause to be banned from the class and an immediate fail.  You get back and are told you flunked the class.  You’d be fine with that right?  After all, you *knew* what you were doing was frowned on - even if lots of other people were doing it, and had done it for years and got good grades.  But since there’s a better policy in place now, it’s fine to punish you…even if it means you aren’t graduating on time and that job offer you had is now pulled.

It’s. The. Same.

It’s. The. Same.

No. It’s. Not.
If you and I play poker and you use marked cards, and we haven’t stipulated specifically either that you’re not supposed to use marked cards, or mirrors to see what cards the other person has, or some quantum trick to learn what cards they’ll play before they play them… you still know it’s cheating.  It doesn’t have to be in explicitly spelled-out rules.  The case is even more obvious when it simply comes to the consequences of the actions.  Are you really so sure it’s obvious that the problem is just that the punishment might have been made clear in advance?  So there can’t be any consequences for cheating unless we make sure that you’re able to calculate precisely whether you’re willing to pay that consequence for cheating?  Really, Mike?

Also, your last point seems to presume that the HOF is some career perk that these players have a right to rather than an honor you may or may not be deemed worthy of in retrospect.  If they didn’t show us what they were really able to do, it seems to me that this ought to make the argument that they’re worthy of the honor harder to make.

On a side note, re: working the field - ok, I guess, but since every player on each team has to play on the same field, it’s a relatively weak case that seems to go more to team records and construction than consistently to a given player’s performance over the years, esp. as this kind of thing could well end up being part of the park factor for that park.

Bonds has already been punished. No one would re-sign him during his perjury case (or afterwards) when he most likely still would have played at a high level.

If you really wanted to exclude Bonds, his conviction for obstruction of justice is probably a better reason than steroid supsicions.

[40]  I think your situation is a little different though.  It’s more like, these things weren’t spelled out.  But I had marked cards.  Clay had mirrors.  SG always has cards up his sleeve.  Etc.  And everyone but you is cheating, and everyone - including you - knows everyone else is cheating, but no one is ever caught.  After 15 years of playing, there’s a big party at a club.  Everyone who has won more than $10K in playing poker is invited.  The club has no rules about cheaters - in fact, some known cheaters have been invited to the party yearly.  But Clay admitted he’s been cheating.  And you claim that you’re the only one who should go to the party since you didn’t.  The place says we’re all invited.  But you raise a stink and get a lot of the others in the party to say we can’t go; the cheaters who have been going for years still can but we can’t.  Only you.  Oh and rilke didn’t cheat, and he only one $9K, but he can go now since he was clean and probably *would* have won more if it weren’t for us cheaters.

Clay, I respectfully disagree.
I’d think Biggio and Piazza are good cases for leniency in making our best estimations of performance enhancing drug usage, but Bonds?  “Suspicions?” Even he doesn’t declare that he didn’t use them, only that he didn’t know what he was using.
In any event, Bonds is the poster boy for the case i resent - I’d love to know how good he really was.  And we can’t, we never will.
If there’s anyone on the list of people to be reasonably excluded on this basis, it’s surely Mr. Bonds.

First of all, Rilke would have fleeced you all if you hadn’t been cheating.
Any fool can plainly see that!
But don’t go making this all about me! I’m an admitted cheater. But if I get caught, at least I don’t go asking for leniency because no one made an explicit and exhaustive list (surely impossible) of everything that would obviously be cheating.
And whether the punishment might be one I didn’t care enough about for it to be an effective restraint on my desire to cheat.

Also, I had no idea that you were all cheating.
I’m SHOCKED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Shocked, I say!

[41] If they didn’t show us what they were really able to do

Really?  We’re pretty sure Clemens didn’t start using steroids until after 1996, and Bonds until after 1998.  These guys didn’t already “show us” a HOF career before that?  How about Pettitte, so used HGH for a short time while hurt? 

What about players who used steriods before they were illegal (I think 1987?)  Are they okay?  Or are they still suspect?

[46] So it’s okay if we take Aaron out of the HOF, correct?

The problem is that there are no criteria—selections are essentially arbitrary, and now that’s been okay for a long time, because Ty Cobb was long dead before people started to think that his horribleness should have prevented him from being in the Hall, and we didn’t know about greenies at the time they were being used, and mostly the arbitrary nature of Hall votes in the present day just gave us something to argue about.  Now we see or seem to see that “innocents” are being tarred with the same brush as the “guilty.”

Me, I don’t see how you can hand-wave away amphetamines but come down on steroids.  There is no way to determine who was helped or how much by amphetamines, and no way to do it for the steroid era either. 

What if some guys took steroids but were harmed by them?  Jason Giambi missed time with that weird cancer.  I say it’s because of steroids, so we should we should mentally inflate his numbers for time missed.  I don’t really believe that, but we’re in a world where what we don’t know outweighs what we do. 

What we should do is celebrate is baseball accomplishments.  If we’re concerned with how those are achieved, than we need to agitate for some kind of strict rules going forward, not try to litigate the past.

Pete Rose is out of the discussion.  Steroid users, like amphetamine users, were trying to win.

I believe I made it clear that there would be cases that could be argued, and that many would be disputed.  It’s often going to be a difficult determination because this is the situation with which we’re confronted.
As to Bonds and Clemens before they started - maybe, sure.  Without projecting things further?  Probably. What do we do with that? I’m not sure.
But I do know that ignoring the issue simply because it’s difficult isn’t the right answer.


Pete Rose apparently bet FOR his time, giving him an incentive to win, too.
Possibly at the expense of future wins… much like steroid use.

Pete Rose says Pete Rose bet on his teams.  How credible is he?

So you mean to tell me that I could have had a HOF career if it weren’t for Bonds, Clemens, et al.?

There are a lot of slippery slope arguments here, but it’s a pretty lively debate. Haven’t read a whole thread in a while.

I agree with the sentiment that measuring the impact of PEDs is not realistic, but penalizing *just* the steroid users is unfair.

I also really liked the cheating on a test comparison.

This is how I look at it: in 40 or 50 years, will anyone care that Bonds used steroids or will we celebrate his baseball card and tell stories about watching him play to our grandchildren or great grandchildren? Imagine watching Mantle or Ruth. Who cares how it was done?

I think it is a situation in which the past is always measured by the stories that survive, and not the truth. Reporting and archiving in 2012 is better than in 1962. The same will be true in 2062 and there will be another HOF debate in which deserving players will not get in because sportswriters my age with a vote will deny them (or something similar). “Look at Barry Bonds! He was the best player since Babe Ruth and he didn’t get in on the first try! There’s no way Derek Jeter Jr. is getting in!”

Steroids, amphetamines, LSD, cocaine, alcohol, marijuana, spitballs, racism, the list goes on and on. Some are worse than others, I agree.

The only deserving member of the Hall of Fame, as I’ve learned in the last 4 years, is Jim Rice. Most feared hitter of his time. Ever, really.

I think a lot of people in the steroids debate are victims of their own sloppy thinking.  Many people a treating steroids use as synonymous with cheating, ignoring the fact that there was no rule against playing baseball with steroids in one’s body.

Look at it this way:  Let’s say a certain substance—it could be a banned pesticide—is illegal to possess according to U.S. law.  Let’s say I illegally acquire some, and then discover that consuming it sharpens my analytical abilities and therefore makes me a better chess player.  If I then go and beat someone in a game of chess, you wouldn’t say I “cheated” at chess.  The only way I cheated at chess is if I took an illegal move.

By the same token, if I run several traffic lights to get to the golf course so as not to be late for a tee time, you wouldn’t say I cheated at golf because I broke the law in order to be able to post a better score than I would have posted if I had arrived a couple minutes late.  Likewise, if I stole a new driver from the pro shop and used it to play better, that doesn’t equate with cheating at golf. 

Cheating is breaking the rules of a game, not breaking federal or state laws in order to prepare oneself to play the game better. 

Until MLB adopted rules against PED use, baseball’s steroids users weren’t cheaters, they just broke laws in order to better prepare themselves to play. 

(It’s also worth keeping in mind that steroids aren’t illegal in this country because they give athletes a competitive advantage.  The purpose of steroids’ being illegal ISN’T to keep somebody from hitting 70 HRs in a season.  It’s strictly a nanny-state assertion of lawmakers’ supposed right to tell adults what they can do with their bodies.)

Once you get past the idea that steroids use = cheating, then it’s not that difficult to deal with the Steroids Era.  In terms of the HoF, it should still be a matter of identifying those handful of players whose on-field performances represented the best of their era.  It’s not about—it’s NEVER been about—sorting out who had the most intrinsic talent.  Therefore whether certain players used PEDs shouldn’t matter to the HoF analysis any more than whether a player had TJ surgery, lifted weights, used sports psychologists, had better coaches, better nutrition, etc. It’s not a Hall of Natural Talent.

As far as the “warping” of the competition that resulted from some players’ using and some players’ not using PEDs during the SE, so what?  Some players chose not to risk legal consequences or bodily harm in order to be the very best ballplayers they could be.  Players make similar choices all the time.  Great as they were Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle could have been better players if they had been willing to have less fun off the field.  Clearly, any player who WASN’T using PEDs in the 1990s understood they were putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage.  They should either live with that decision or they should have done more to try to get anti-doping rules established in MLB at the time, which very few did (as I understand it).

I think part of the aversion to gambling on baseball is that it could potentially put you in a situation where you throw a game to payoff debts, or at least bring you too close to people interested in fixing games.

Also, unless you bet on all of your games evenly, you are effectively betting that sometimes you are more likely to lose than other times.

In 50 years we’ll be arguing about allowing mechanically (cyborg) enhanced players into the Hall, and 50 years after that, genetically engineered baseball players.

Clearly the voters need to simply acknowledge the “Steroid Era” and if they truly believe a player did not use, then they can give them a bit of a boost. I have a hard time believing that PEDs have such an effect to lift a player into sure-fire HOF status. Players like Bonds and Clemens would still have been dominant players (as they proved before they started using). I have a hard time believing Mark McGwire was a huge, power hitting dude because he juiced. Maybe it gave him a few more HRs, but probably not enough to make a huge difference in his career.

The biggiest problem with punishing players for using steroids is that we don’t actually know how much of an impact they have on a player’s performance. Which is also why we can’t really punish players for using greenies. FWIW, the Air Force has stopped issuing amphetamines to pilots because they do not believe the benefits to outweigh the risks.

I would argue that a player like Gaylord Perry benefitted a lot more from a baseball rule grey-area (doctored baseballs) than the players of the Steroid Era.

[57] Fortunately, the Mariano Rivera clones will have already been inducted by proxy.

And also FWIW, the worst case scenario for the Air Force is losing a billion dollar aircraft, worst case for baseball is nothing worse than what already happens, so as long as there is a general positive baseball effect (ie, ignoring health etc) it is worth it.

[58] Billion dollar aircraft and millions of training dollars. Obviously the aircraft is a major concern, but the pilots themselves are still a significant investment, if the Air Force is trying to keep their pilots in better shape for longer, perhaps the benefits of amphetemines for baseball are similarly not work the risk.

[57] Is doctoring a baseball really a “gray area”?  I think it’s clearly spelled out in the rules that you can’t do that. 

As for Pete Rose, my main problem with his case is the insistence of most people of equating what he did with the ‘19 White Sox players who deliberately threw the WS in exchange for cash.  That’s literally the worst thing a player could do to undermine the integrity of the game. 

What Rose did was simply behave like a compulsive gambler.  He bet every day on games: basketball, hockey, baseball, college sports, whatever.  We’re talking pretty small dollars: typically $100, I believe.  There’s no evidence he bet against the Reds or (I believe) that he ever bet on baseball while he was a player. 

Rose broke the rules, but there’s no comparison between a player’s betting $100 on Detroit to beat the Angels and a player conspiring with other players and big-time money interests to deliberately lose WS games.  Therefore, it doesn’t follow that they should necessarily receive the same punishment.  Yet, people say, “Well, Rose bet on baseball, so of course he should get a lifetime ban just like the Black Sox.”

My other big grievance regarding Rose is that, after the ban was imposed, the HoF changed the rules so as to prevent his name from appearing on the ballot.  They already had the “character” clause, but the people who didn’t want him in the HoF couldn’t stand the idea that somebody might want to vote for him and explain their reasons why, so they just took that possibility right off the table.  This was seemingly unfair to Rose, btw because he only agreed to the ban in order to try to salvage his HoF chances.  We’re supposed to believe that the folks who run the HoF are completely independent of MLB, but who really believes that?

I think they should just remove the character clause. Who goes to the Hall of Fame to see players with the “best character,” especially when we know for a fact that it is filled with plenty of guys (like Ty Cobb) with awful character? It is a useless term.

You remove that term from the voting requirements and you just vote in the best players of all-time. Then you trust the parents taking their kids to the museum to fill in the back story.

There’s no “Ty Cobb was a racist asshole” exhibit at the Hall of Fame, but everyone still knows it, because people pass it along in the collective memory. The same will go for the steroid guys. And for the fearsome qualities of Jim Rice.

There’s also about a 99.9999999% chance that there’s already a player in the Hall of Fame who knowingly took steroids in the late 1980s/early 1990s.

There’s no “Ty Cobb was a racist asshole” exhibit at the Hall of Fame

But it would greatly amuse me if there were.

I’m guessing that the Air Force’s calculations are based on how to get the most killing out of the men and machines, not whether it’s bad for the pilot’s health or a few planes crash.  But those calculations are not the same as those made by a baseball player.

Why is ok to use cortisone in sports that ban steroids?

[62] If I had to guess, I would say that it would not surprise me to find out that Roberto Alomar, Ricky Henderson, and/or Kirby Puckett dabbled in the juice.

[65] When people say “steroids” what they mean (whether they know it or not) is anabolic steroids, which basically means testosterone and its variations.

[66] Yeah, Alomar would be my best guess, as well, but I wouldn’t be surprised at plenty of guys. Heck, with his brittle bones, are we sure Paul Molitor never took HGH to heal better?


I don’t remember clearly.  I think I was making a point about how if cheating is cheating and we need to punish them, then Aaron (I believe admitted using greenies) needs to be punished, even retroactively.

[60] Doctoring isn’t a gray area as far as cheating, excepting some players pre-1940.  It was legal in the early days of baseball, and some players were “grandfathered” in to allow them to keep pitching.  E.g. Jack Chesbro.  But say Perry…clearly broke the rules.  Probably every game after a certain age.

I think the HOF is independent from MLB.  They did it for their own reasons.  I think the big issue with the gambling - as Tree mentions - is that it leaves Rose open to further manipulation later.  For example, that NBA referee a few years back.

[60]  MLB has made a decision, which is clear to all who participate in the sport, that there is a zero-tolerance policy for betting on baseball.  There are good and valid reasons for this policy:  fans must not suspect that players are throwing games, players can not put themselves at risk of owing bookies money, bookies cannot have access to clubhouses, etc.  Rose broke this rule, he didn’t come clean about it, and left MLB no choice but to impose the punishment.

FWIW, people cheat at chess not infrequently by using computers, which are now a lot stronger than humans.  It’s changed the way the game is played - e.g., no adjournments.

Also, the international chess federation started drug testing 10 years ago.  If an illegal drug was shown to improve results I would consider that cheating.  One reason is that this would cause an arms race.

In chess everyone uses the same playbooks as far as openings and other aspects of the game are concerned.  I read recently that the highest rated player likes to use openings that have not been studied as much because he feels he can outplay his his opponents in the middle and the endgame.  In my scrabble and poker days I played with many strong chess players including Walter Browne, Asa Hoffman and
Roman Dzindzichashvili who was a brilliant chess player but a fish at poker.

Roman Dzindzichashvili should have played baseball.

My feeling about Perry is that there was a long tradition in the game of messing with the ball, so whatever.  These days, well, it’s not ok - I hope Kenny Rogers gets hit by lightning for the 2006 ALDS.

I think [55] is one of the more intelligent and persuasive things seen here recently.

[76] Clearly he meant to post it elsewhere.

I think if they ever find a drug that improves your chess playing ability, I´d take it, and I don´t even play chess tournaments. Likewise, I´m sure if they ever find a drug that allows me to excel in my profession, I´d take it in a heartbeat, probably to the point of abuse, eventhough there would be no financial consequence.

I´ve been known to have very soft moral fiber, so it is really hard for me to judge other people honor and character. I do find it amusing that so many BBWAA members who now decided to declare war at the people that used steroids and bar them on these aspects failed to have the moral rectitude of complaing and writing about the issue while it was happening. Where they all blind and deaf?
Is there a character clause to bar writers from voting? Can Bill Conlin submit ballots?

[76, 55]
Really? Seriously?
So if we’re playing a game of cards and we don’t explicitly say that marking the cards is illegal, then it’s not cheating?  If a chess player does something other than an illegal move - oh, say, doctoring the clock so that he gets more time than his opponent, and no one thought to put that in the rule book - then it’s not cheating?
And we here find that convincing?
When it turns out the cards are marked ata poker game or someone’s signaling other peoples’ hands, everyone knows that it’s cheating; if the method were less traditional, that wouldn’t change that in the least.  The insistence on counting only recorded rules is ridiculous and doesn’t represent reality.  There are all sorts of methods of cheating at almost anything that do not involve the violation of specifically recorded rules.  In fact, there’s no possible way any game could list every method of cheating

I do think it’s right, however, to distinguish among various possible behaviors in a nuanced way.
If Grienke takes medications to enable himself to pitch because of a personality disorder, it is, of course, improving his performance.
If one takes an anabolic steroid to modify your physical parameters in a given way, that can also improve your performance.
It would be a mistake to take the fact that this parallel can be drawn as implying that we must or should judge those circumstances the same way.  In fact, I chose them as examples that most would immediately distinguish - even if we may have trouble explaining immediately why.  It seems pretty obvious that almost nobody would object to the first case, but does [55] really convince you that taking steroids wasn’t cheating?  That the players didn’t think they were cheating (and thus hide it)?  That the reporters who failed to make in issue out of it failed because of the perceived need to protect professional relationships, etc., etc., and not because they thought “that’s just fine, nothing wrong with that whatsoever!
They knew it was cheating… really, the cheating was obvious enough that it didn’t occur to them to even look for the kinds of justifications being offered here.
But the point isn’t character, it’s more this…

The biggiest problem with punishing players for using steroids is that we don’t actually know how much of an impact they have on a player’s performance.

Actually, the biggest problem is that many medications do not affect patients equally.  A doctor has you try one drug, it may not work, you try another one.  If everyone used the same drugs in the same ways, in the same amounts, and reacted to them identically, we could statistically compensate for it.  The problem is that I find it difficult to celebrate Barry Bonds’ organism for, very possibly, being the most susceptible to a particular kind of chemical influence.

[79] The problem is that you are applying an arbitrary moral standard which is (or was) outside of the official rules. I have no doubt that the behavior of Bonds, Clemens, and others doesn’t live up to your (my, our?) personal moral code. However, what they allegedly did wasn’t against the rules, so we shouldn’t be punishing them on that basis.

[76] Really?  By [55]‘s logic as I read it, threatening or blackmailing (perhaps illegally) or for that matter poisoning the other team’s scheduled pitcher isn’t cheating, as long as there’s no explicit rule against it.  And the chess and golf examples just beg the question.  And the concluding paragraphs basically say If you don’t like players doping, sucks to be you.  (I’m sure BD has no such intent, but that’s what the logic comes to.)  Here’s a hypo - Carry Conds, likely 1st ballot HOFer based on his clean stats, is angry that players Dammy Dosa and Gark GcGwire have passed him in the public eye due to doping, so he chooses the Tonya Harding approach.  Do you vote him into the Hall?  What if he has Dosa whacked?

Anyway, a lot of the “illegal drugs were A-OK until specifically banned” argument strikes me as disingenuous - Kuhn issued a drug policy back in 71 and since 91 steroids have been prohibited, with expulsion from the game a possible penalty.

What if you think doping is worth 1 WAR/y over a career?  Or half a WAR?  Wouldn’t it be sensible to penalize players you have good reason to think doped by at least as much as you estimate they cheated?  What if you think cycling has been a complete joke for years - that the Tour de France record is nonsense - and don’t like the fact that baseball has similar problems?  What if you would have gotten more value out of baseball if say Maddux or Mo had competed on a level playing field and thus reached even greater heights?  I for one would feel better about the 2001 WS if Luis Gonzalez hadn’t hit 2x more HR that year than any other season, and if there was no retort “Yankee Y was a doper too.”

I don’t think there’s a simple position that will reconcile everyone’s different views.  Saying that deliberately taking illegal and deleterious drugs over the course of seasons is the equivalent of speeding to make tee time seems silly to me at least.

Yes, that’s exactly my point.
[EDIT: except this, which seems only to distract from the rest of the argument: “And the concluding paragraphs basically say If you don’t like players doping, sucks to be you.  (I’m sure BD has no such intent, but that’s what the logic comes to.)  Here’s a hypo - Carry Conds, likely 1st ballot HOFer based on his clean stats, is angry that players Dammy Dosa and Gark GcGwire have passed him in the public eye due to doping, so he chooses the Tonya Harding approach.  Do you vote him into the Hall?  What if he has Dosa whacked?”]

The fact that I didn’t make the moral standard explicit, and even suggest that it may not be immediately apparent, does NOT justify the conclusion that there isn’t one, that I’m suggesting something completely arbitrary.  On the contrary, I think there is a moral standard suggested by the opposition I raised in [79], a relatively common and generally accepted one, and that it might be worth the work to make it explicit.
I just didn’t do that work in [79].

Pete, Rilke, one thing I trully do not understand and would like to know from you is what exactly makes anphetamines different from steroids, or is the same for you? Better performance, health risks, illegal, done by many in a thinly disguised way but disguised anyway, etc…

I´m not making an argument, I really don´t understand the distinction.

I wonder what drug has more of an impact. Amphetamines more directly impact core baseball skills of fine motorcontrol and hand-eye coordination, but the best players are already so ridiculously talented in those areas I’m not sure the difference amphetamines make would matter all that much.

My uneducated guess is that for the majority of the baseball population, amphetamines would be more effective at improving production (althought less sustainable than steroid use). However for the extremely talented (like Bonds) steroids would be more effective. Since their primary baseball skills are so extraordinarily high, they would get more out of improving the secondary skills of strength/power.

Basically, I think a player like Jeter would benefit more from steroids than McGwire did. McGwire without steroids still probably had crazy power, using amphetamines may have boosted his reaction times enough to improve his average or even hit as many or more HRs than he did with the strength/power increases from steroid use.

TL;DR players should be using PEDs more wisely.

I feel the same about speed (esp. going forward) as steroids, perhaps even more so.  I don’t care at all about players e.g. smoking pot.  For me the nexus is: improves performance, has bad side-effects, is illegal, is banned by baseball, will be taken by kids.

Note that a lot of young folks in the US are taking ADHD drugs and the like to improve their school performance despite not actually needing them for any medical reason.  I’m unhappy that my kids (presumably) will be competing in life against chemically-boosted peers.  Maybe tomorrow a study will come out to show that drug D makes one 5% smarter and has no negative side effects, even long term.  If so, I guess I’d feel a bit differently.

I don’t however care about you taking whatever you like to be a better mathematician - no one wants to know if Erdős would have been more or less productive than one of his peers if he never drank coffee.  I don’t even care about the clean guy you beat out for a good faculty job, and math is more important than these concerns anyway.

yfin, amphetamines taken as a performance booster would be a very similar problem, except for the general time frame.

But the argument raised several times seems to amounts to little more than: “amphetamines use in baseball in the 1970s was, in certain ways, not unlike PED use in baseball in the 1980s-1990s, therefore the best approach should ignore the PED issue.”

That just doesn’t follow.  It would make more sense to ask: “If we’re trying to do the best we can in a difficult situation with PEDs, do we need to go back and try to do the same thing for amphetamines in the 1970s?”

And that wouldn’t be an unreasonable question.

I agree with Wombat that not all moral rules are explicit; they may be part of what Durkheim calls the “collective conscience” or the “non-contractual elements of contract.” “The totality of beliefs and sentiments common to the average members of a society forms a determinate system with a life of its own. It can be termed the collective or creative consciousness.”  Thus spake Durkheim.
Applied to these facts, the notion would be that whether there were express rules against them or not, performance enhancing drugs offend the shared sentiments of society, notwithstanding the utilitarian and/or libertarian opinions expressed by some here.  At some common, shared level most of us know it was wrong what these guys were doing.

Clay, I wonder. Strength is still an issue in bat control and bat speed.
To take this to extremes for thought experiment purposes - if a bat is like a telephone pole to you, you can’t swing it quickly and accurately (or even pick it up).  If it’s an 80-oz monster, you’d be able to swing it, but again, not very accurately.  The lighter it is to you (read: the stronger you are), the faster and more accurately you’re likely to be able to swing it.
In other words, I’d think that strength would affect hand-eye coordination, not just power.  And affect it greatly.

[85,86] Thanks. My feeling is, when reading arguments on the internet, that people are much more likely to excuse speed use than steroids for some strange reason (probably one like the test cheating analogy). Even if the arguments against are similar, I don´t think I have ever seen anyone outraged that a player used speed as people are with e.g. Bonds (I´m not talking about you).

My view is that PED is a real problem, and I´d be in favor of blood testing and real strong consequences like 2 year bans and such, but I feel that it is extremely unfair to judge past performance based on standards that were not the same back when it happened. Players knew it was cheating, and they knew it was not like sign stealing, but my view is that the whole peds thing was much more lightly regarded back then, by teams, press, audience and players (well, maybe not Frank Thomas and a few others). IMHO, it had not the weight that it assumed afterwards.

I don´t care much about the HoF, will likely never visit it, but if I did I think I´d prefer it had all major and historic players, regardless of what they did.

On a side note, I don´t know if you know it, but Erdos was an admitted speed user, with the sole purpose of improving his math ability, there is even an anedote, possibly true, about that. He also had no house, significant other or kids, so while I´m glad he existed, would never wish this on my kids.

I suspect Jeter wouldn’t have been helped as much by steroids as McGwire.  The latter was trying to hit the ball out of the park; the former tries to hit the ball pretty well in a particular direction or at a particular elevation.

[87] I’ll think of how to alter my position so you don’t have to agree with me entirely.  Of course I’m happy to entirely agree with you, so perhaps you should go first.

[90] Mentioned him as the best math analogy I know for Bonds.

I’ll think of how to alter my position so you don’t have to agree with me entirely.  Of course I’m happy to entirely agree with you, so perhaps you should go first.

Ha, fair enough. I realized that the limitation I was adding was already inherently accounted for in your “nexus” if one made reasonable posits as to the context in which each of those things would be important.
But I can go first… would suggesting that MH be set free do the trick?

[93] Hmm, I’d say no, but maybe we can all agree that he be “allowed to choose the manner of his own execution” and the body set free?

Those missing the reference see here, nsfw.

Just quickly, there’s no implied rule against using pharmaceuticals or othrr therapies to make you stronger or healthier.  Athletes are obviously allowed to take medicines, for example.  Doing that doesnt change the conditions of the competition, only the condition of the competitor.  Doing something to prevent a competitor from pitching obviously alters the conditions of the competition itself.

[95] So are steroids against the rules of baseball because they are unfair or because they are illegal for some inane reason?

Should we be upset about steroids? Baseball isn’t a “pure” sport like track and field or swimming (ignoring the technology behind the minimal equipment).

Fearless leader Hal says that 189 max budget in 2014 is NOT a 1 year thing. Here’s to hoping the kids work out. All of them.

I never particularly thought they would go past $189 in 2014+, there isn’t enough flexibility to go up and down in payroll, and the penalties ramp up somewhat quickly, so if getting under it at all is worthwhile, you probably want to stay under. MLB did a pretty good job of making a salary cap without admitting it.

Steroids for the rookies!

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