Does Barry Bonds, Major League Baseball’s all-time leader in home runs with 762, belong in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame? According to voters, he doesn’t. Although Bonds is easily one of the greatest players in baseball history, he only received 36.8 per cent of the 75 per cent needed to be enshrined in Cooperstown.
How about Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, or Roger Clemens? All of them were incredibly dominant players of a dark period in baseball known as the steroid era, a time in which statistical production — namely home runs and strikeouts — spiked in baseball due to the increased use of performance enhancing drugs.
Judging players who played in the steroid era in comparison to players who didn’t is incredibly difficult. As a result, it’s become one of the most raging and controversial debates in all of sports — especially when some of the players accused of using PEDs have never actually been caught doing so.
It’s ridiculous to leave some of baseball’s most talented players out of the Hall of Fame. If a player was the most dominant player because they used steroids during a time in which nearly every other player in the league was doing the same, they’re still the best of that era. Barry Bonds would have been great even if he didn’t use steroids, maybe he wouldn’t hold the record for most home runs in baseball history, but he would be up there regardless.
There should be steroid era players in the Hall of Fame — even if they do have an asterisk beside their name, or are placed in their own separate section.
First off, there’s no scientific or statistical way to discern actually how much steroids can actually help improve a player’s game. Every player’s body is different and some bodies respond differently to performance enhancing drugs.
Look at Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, two of the poster boys for the steroid era. Bonds’ head almost doubled in size and he grew noticeably bulkier to a point where you could almost pinpoint the day he started taking steroids. On the other hand, Rodriguez may have gained some muscle, but his transformation was nowhere near as drastic. Unlike Bonds, he still looks like the same guy throughout his whole career.
Until there can be a concrete way to say “steroids allowed Barry Bonds to hit exactly X amount of home runs,” it’s very unfair to judge steroid users in this way. Going along that vein, these players — Bonds, McGuire, Sosa, Rodriguez, Clemens, etc. — were still the best in an era when many, many players were using steroids and they were among the best hitters in the league.
Bulking up certainly doesn’t make a player able to hold back on a borderline strike, turn around on a hard slider thrown in on their hands, or even pick up on the ball being thrown out of the pitcher’s hand. Take away the steroids and it’s only right to assume that they’d still be among the best hitters in the game. Steroids can add muscle and decrease the time it takes to heal from injuries, but it can’t imbue someone with hand-eye coordination or an eye at the plate. There’s still a tremendous amount of skill involved with hitting that steroids simply can’t compensate for.
In a perfect world, there would be no steroid use in baseball and every single player throughout history would be on a level playing field. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case and the baseball world has to stop kidding itself.
It isn’t necessary to compare players who played in the 1990s to players who played in the 1920s. Eras throughout the history of the game are all completely different. If a player dominated an era where everyone used steroids because they used steroids, they were still the best of that time period.
Put an asterisk beside their name, put them in their own section, it doesn’t matter. Just do the right thing and get them in there.