The Steroids Era Legacy Includes HOF Purgatory

Had he not already signed up at an assisted living facility on the Isle of Elba, what would Bud Selig have done about Hall of Fame voting in the so-called post-steroids era?

Had he not already signed up at an assisted living facility on the Isle of Elba, what would Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig have done about Hall of Fame voting in the so-called post-steroids era?

As we tried to express yesterday, the current HOF policy that restricts BBWAA voters from choosing no more than ten names from of a ballot of thirty something candidates annually may have an impact on Craig Biggio’s chances for getting the 75% support he needs in his third time on the ballot in January 2015.

For those of you whose shopping or college football watching came ahead of reading on Saturday, here’s the link to yesterday’s column:

The gist of this issue is easily stated, but not so easily corrected, given baseball’s history of playing policy dodge ball and hot potato with unpleasantness. With steroids-tainted Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens now on the ballot for the first time this year, both men could be the negative difference makers for the former Astro lifer, draining off enough votes to deny Biggio the honor, but far short of the votes they each would have garnered as easy clean first ballot picks for baseball’s highest honor prior to each of their separate PED-drug stainings.

And Craig Biggio is surely not the only “clean rep” candidate who may either miss out or have his selection seriously delayed on a Hall of Fame induction due to the combined forces of (1) a 10 vote maximum allowed on a ballot that includes a total of 30 plus; and (2) the presence on the ballot of great, but otherwise unpunished PED-associated stars as they now stream onto the list of eligible candidates.

The days of a despotic commissioner declaring “eight men out” of the game for life are over in this far more litigious  era of all the special interests that rise to fight any action against the rights of the individual, but the game may have found their own purgatory for non convicted offenders – and purgatory may prove even more painful than the certain eternity of hell. With hell, we have forever to get used to a pain that isn’t going away. The upside of hell is that there is no rising and falling expectation of relief or forgiveness that will free us from our chains.

In baseball, being good enough as a player to get on the ballot for the Hall of Fame is one of the most painful rooms in the purgatory that has been provided for PED-stained stars like Clemens and Bonds. Both men will be capable of mustering enough votes to stay on the ballot, but they will not come close to the 75% needed for induction, nor will they fall any time soon, if at all, beneath the 5% mark that would remove them from next year’s candidate list. Many of these purgatorial greats will simply remain on the ballot for their full ten year runs – often stealing votes that might have gone to steroids-clean candidates. After they are bounced for having failed to receive 5% support, or have run their ten year maximum stay on the BBWAA ballot, they will be moved to the Veterans Committee for consideration – only to be ignored after some possible dangling of new false hope for redemption.

Purgatory is hell, but with the added painful twist of a fairly regular dashing of hope.

To keep the presence of PED-stained HOF candidates from draining support for “PED-clean” HOF candidates, NY Times writer Tyler Kempner makes sense. To keep the PED-stained candidates from effecting the normal flow of campaigns for legitimate non-PED-stained quality players, the HOF needs to allow BBWAA electors to vote  for whomever and however many they each believe are qualified.

The only other choices are not practical, nor recommended. Those would be to (1) ban by some measure of proof all PED-using candidates from the ballot; or (2) making a decision that, proven acts of performance drug use, like admissions of gambling on baseball, are strong enough reasons for banning players from baseball and the Hall of Fame for life.

What a mess the so-called steroids era turned out to be – and now its consequences also will include more cloudiness to the already muddy waters of membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Who should be there? And who should not? – Those will always be the questions that cry out for answers – even if baseball tries to put the steroids era to sleep in the fond hope that someone will come along in the night and smother the life out of its memory.



2 Responses to “The Steroids Era Legacy Includes HOF Purgatory”

  1. Tom Hunter Says:

    As all readers of Dante’s Comedy know, all souls in Purgatory will eventually make it to Heaven. Not so, those consigned to Hell. Let’s just hope Craig Biggio needn’t abandon hope for entering into the Hall of Fame.

  2. Bill Gilbert Says:

    I don’t think the limitation of 10 votes for HOF has an effect on Biggio’s chances for the Hall. If a writer doesn’t think he is one of the top 10 candidates, it’s unlikely he would vote for him if he had the capability of voting for a few more.

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