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Should PED Users Be Inducted Into The Baseball Hall of Fame?

To vote or not to vote for PED users. If I had a vote for the Hall of Fame this year, it would be...

The National Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2022 will be revealed Tuesday—if there is one.

Last year, the voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) did not elect any player to the Hall of Fame for the first time since 2013 and the ninth time overall. Heading into Tuesday night's reveal on MLB Network, many wonder if the BBWAA will pitch a shut out for the second consecutive year, which has only been done once before (1945-46).

How could there possibly be no one on the ballot worthy of the Hall of Fame? Outside of some borderline players, the true answer is one the writers have wrestled with since 2007—how to judge players tied to performance-enhancing drugs. It was the first year Mark McGwire appeared on the ballot. For those who may not recall, McGwire and Sammy Sosa's home run chase in 1998 was one of the main highlights of baseball's Steroid Era.

From many writers' perspective, any ties to PEDs whatsoever automatically eliminate a player from Hall of Fame consideration. For them, it's cheating. Period. It's a "yes or no" question. No other parameters. No other variables. It violates the integrity, sportsmanship and/or character clauses that writers adhere to. Did the player use PEDs? If the answer for them is "yes", then they don't receive a vote.

Like virtually everything in life, it's not that simple. If the Hall of Fame museum urged the writers to vote against those tied to PEDs, then it would be that simple. However, the aforementioned character clause is not explicitly defined, leaving it to be interpreted on a writer-by-writer basis. It's why there already are players in the Hall of Fame accused of using PEDs.

There's another level to consider. If PEDs fall under the cheating umbrella, then it is responsible to scrutinize the rest of the Hall of Fame for cheaters. Without too much digging, you'll find Hall of Famers who took amphetamines or admittedly used a spitball far after it was outlawed in 1920.

Like it or not, since its inception, cheating has been part of the game. Players and coaches alike are always looking for an advantage. Most probably stay with the bounds of legality. Others don't. It's why, even after the crackdown on PEDs began, we've seen cheating continue. The Houston Astros stole signs electronically during their championship season in 2017 and pitchers were pervasively using sticky substances to increase spin rate until the league was forced to step in.

I won't be eligible to vote for the Hall of Fame for another 10 years, so this "ballot" is obviously not real. When I do earn the privilege to vote, you can expect me to vote in a similar fashion. 

Barry Bonds

Before I address the only issue ever debated about Bonds, I'll state the obvious. Barry Bonds was already one of the greatest players of all time before any tied to PEDs. The game has never seen a better eye at the plate. Couple that with wickedly fast hands, a short-yet-beautiful swing and plenty of speed. Remember, Bonds is the only member of the 500 home runs/500 stolen bases club. He was a Hall of Famer before PEDs.

Yes, baseball banned steroids in 1991. They also didn't start testing or punishing players until 2004. While Bonds reportedly tested positive for amphetamines in 2006, he was never suspended under the league's policy. If MLB wanted to keep PED users out of the question of whether they are worthy of the Hall of Fame, maybe its commissioner who presided over the era—who is in the Hall of Fame—and the players union should have done a better job at holding players accountable.

Not only did the game turn up their nose at the problem, they reaped its benefits. The home run chase in 1998 salvaged the game after the players' strike of 1994-95 dealt a massive blow to fan morale. You can't have it both ways.

Aug 7, 2007; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds (25) hits his 756th career homerun off of Washington Nationals starting pitcher Mike Bacsik (not pictured) during the 5th inning at AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA. Bonds passed Hank Aaron (755 homeruns) to become the all-time career homerun leader. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Because of his ties to performance-enhancing drugs, many fans do not view Barry Bonds as baseball's legitimate home run king.

In addition, according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum's website, it "preserves history, honors excellence and connects generations". Bonds meets that criteria. If he were to be elected by the BBWAA, it would shift the blame of putting a known cheater back on baseball's shoulders. It may not be the history the game wants, but it's the history they have.

The Steroid Era happened, and Bonds is the face of it. Dedicate a wing for the era. Put it on his plaque. Either way, Barry Bonds is a Hall of Famer.

As for the rest of PED users, my personal criteria is whether or not the player was suspended for PEDs. Once the league and union began to crack down, players were explicitly instructed to not violate the policy. Some did it anyway and will ultimately pay the price for it. That means I wouldn't vote for Manny Ramírez or Álex Rodríguez.

Roger Clemens

Same argument as Bonds. The numbers speak for themselves. Next.

Todd Helton

We need to stop punishing players for environmental factors. One of the beauties of baseball is every ballpark is unique. Fenway Park has the Green Monster. PNC Park has the North Side Notch and a right field wall that stands 21-feet high to honor Roberto Clemente. Coors Field's most unique feature is its elevation, but it's the only one that is used against players regarding their career accomplishments.

Helton's numbers speak for themselves. He's one of 22 players to slash at least .300/.400/.500. And support for Colorado players may be trending upward with Larry Walker being inducted in 2020.

Andruw Jones

How Andruw Jones doesn't have more support is ridiculous. He is one of four players in the game's history—along with Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt and Ken Griffey Jr.—to have 400 home runs and 10 Gold Gloves.

Two knocks on Jones are his career .254 average and his rapid decline once he turned 30 years old. Schmidt only has a career .267 average, and Jones played a premium position in center field. Bodies break down faster out there. Using the final five years of his career to argue against the brilliant first 12 years is ludicrous.

Jeff Kent

This one took me a while to come around. I look at a .290 average and 377 home runs with average defense and initially want to say "no". However, considering the position played is important.

Among second baseman, Kent is the all-time leader in homers, second in slugging, third in RBI, fifth in doubles and seventh in OPS+. He gave the San Francisco Giants a distinct offensive advantage. It's borderline for me, but Kent is inarguably one of the best second basemen of all time. I can't leave him off.

David Ortiz

Like Bonds, David Ortiz failed a PED test, but was never suspended under the current policy. He's also the perfect face for the full-time designated hitter. The numbers speak for themselves, and despite some people's outdated or narrow view that DHs aren't baseball players, it's part of the game—so much so, the universal DH will likely be implemented in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. 

That is "history" and "excellence" for the museum, and meets all the criteria provided by the BBWAA.

Scott Rolen

Only three more third basemen in history have more Gold Gloves than Scott Rolen's eight (Brooks Robinson's 16, Schmidt's 10 and Nolan Arenado's 9). The first two are in the Hall of Fame, and Arenado is on his way to building a legitimate case.

Rolen was a .281 hitter, hit 316 homers and posted a career .855 OPS. Those offensive numbers coupled with his defensive excellence get my vote.

Gary Sheffield

He meets enough offensive numbers for the Hall of Fame, including 509 home runs, though he was a liability of defense. Yes, he admitted to using a banned substance, but again, was not punished for it. 

Billy Wagner

The longevity might not be there, but the numbers are. He posted a 2.31 ERA, 0.998 WHIP, 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings, 33.2% strikeout rate and .187 average against in 903 innings. As SI's Matt Martell mentioned, Wagner's strikeout rate and average against are No. 1 marks among pitchers with at least 800 career innings.

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