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Flawed HOF Steriods Logic
Posted by Peter Schoenke at 1/8/2007 2:35:00 PM
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The 2007 baseball hall of fame election results come out Tuesday. From what we can tell, Mark McGwire won't be elected on the first ballot. Many polls have him as low as 25 percent of voters.

Many writers won't vote for McGwire because of his alleged use of steroids -- mostly from the fact that when testifying before Congress he refused to speak about the issue. That was seen as admission of guilt.

But similar polls show that most writers would vote for Barry Bonds despite his cloud of steroid guilt. David O'Brien in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is one example when he says:

"Iím convinced he used a variety of steroids and that his home-run records are fraudulent. However, Iíd vote for Barry because he already had Hall of Fame numbers BEFORE his biceps, chest and head grew alarmingly and significantly in a span of several months when he was closer to 40 years old than 30 (yeah, thatís normal, Bonds supporters keep telling yourselves that). "

This logic just makes no sense no matter where you stand on the steroids issue.

So O'Brien will not vote for one player because he used steroids, but will vote for another because O'Brien can somehow tell "when" this steroid usage started impacting his stats?

If you are not going to vote for one player on the steroid issue, you can't vote for the other. Cheating is cheating. Should we vote for Pete Rose or Shoeless Jackson because they had hall of fame numbers before they made their transgressions?

And this gets more preposterous because McGwire has never said he took steroids, never was caught and played in an era when the substance wasn't even illegal. Meanwhile Bonds has reportedly admitted in court he took steroids (if by accident). So O'Brien will vote for the guy who by the standards of our legal system (innocent until proven guilty) isn't guilty, but will vote for the guy who is tainted by facts.

Too combat this logic, O'Brien and other writers try to justify their non-vote for McGwire by saying he was "one dimensional." Never mind that McGwire actually has a higher career OBP (.394) compared to shoo-inn entry this year Tony Gwynn (.388). Somehow this myth is growing that McGwire's career value was only tied to his homerun prowess and thus his steroid use made it void. Some even compare McGwire to Dave Kingman (he of career .302 OBP). Meanwhile, Bonds was more of an all-around player so his steroid use is acceptable. But McGwire's career was more than just home runs. Writers just can't see beyond that since they need to offer McGwire as their first example for the steroid problem. (Never mind the bigger issues that the owners, league and probably writers looking the other way, were all complicit in the steroids era.)

So that logic just doesn't cut it. If you are not going to vote for someone because they cheated by using steroids, use the same standard against everyone else whenever they cheated during their career.


Comments....

I disagree because it's not steroids vs. non-steroids. It's shoo-in Hall of Famer takes roids and becomes all-time great. While in McGwire's case, it's injury prone power hitter takes steroids and becomes credible Hall of Famer. Bonds was Hall of Fame caliber even without the drugs, so while we might put an asterix next to his all-time HR record, there's still no doubt he was good enough to get in. With McGwire, we'll never know whether he was good enough to get in without the drugs - he certainly wasn't on a Hall of Fame pace before he took the drugs. So you can't give McGwire the benefit of the doubt. As for Bonds having a greater level of guilt than McGwire, please. McGwire's spike in performance along with the way he looked and behaved (why not just deny he ever used roids?) is incredibly strong evidence. This isn't the "beyond a reasonable doubt" criminal prosecution standard - it's more a "vast preponderance of the evidence standard". And that's met.
Posted by cliss at 1/8/2007 2:45:00 PM
 
I think you are trying to forecast either player's career with and without steriods. That's a very tough angle and you presume a lot in your arguements. You just can't factor that into your voting. Who's to say steriods didn't help Bonds much earlier and have an impact on his game outside of his power. We just don't know.

If you are going to penalize a player for steriods, then you have to do it universally. If a player used steriods after HR 700, he should get the same treatment as a player who used it to go from 50 HR to 500 HR.
Posted by schoenke at 1/8/2007 2:52:00 PM
 
I think we can look at the evidence - how the players looked, when their career trajectories departed from a normal arc as they aged, and we can have a decent idea as to when they took the drugs. It's not perfect, but there's really no reason to think McGwire was on them in 1987, or Bonds in 1991. I think what the writers are doing trying to get a sense of how good these guys were without the drugs, since so many of these guys from that era were probably dirty. (Though these two, along with Sosa and Giambi are the most likely). I think Bonds is a Hall of Famer, who boosted the last six years with drugs, and McGwire was an injury prone power hitter, who became a Hall of Famer on the drugs. I can understand the argument for excluding both solely on the basis of the drugs, but I can also see the distinction if you're trying to sift through and pick out the true greats from a drug-tainted era.
Posted by cliss at 1/8/2007 3:44:00 PM
 
I'm also not convinced that they'll vote for Bonds yet, *particularly* if he runs into legal (perjury) issues later this year as a result of the fallout of the BALCO investigation. It's not as if there's any love in the media whatsoever for Bonds, to suggest he's getting preferential treatment (Joe Morgan notwithstanding).
Posted by Erickson at 1/8/2007 3:53:00 PM
 
McGwire hit 49 homers his rookie season when when he was skinny. (Check his photo: http://f3c.yahoofs.com/auc/h0N_pwRPiSBg/twtycennos-img600x450-dscf3280.jpg?auAmqsLBxp7QxEi8 ). How then can you judge what impact steriods did on him vs. what he would have done otherwise? And how can you say he had a mediocre career that suddenly took off? In my judgement he would have been a HOFer even if he never got past the 50-HR plateau. That's the flaw in the analysis. You can only judget what they accomplished on the field, not what stats you think they may have put up.
Posted by schoenke at 1/8/2007 3:56:00 PM
 
McGwire had a great rookie year, but then was injury prone and not at a Hall of Fame level. The question is: throw out the steroids years, and what do you have left? In Bonds ' case, a Hall of Famer with six years left. In McGwire's, an injury prone power hitter who had a great rookie year. And Bonds might not make it, and I'm not even saying he should. I'm just arguing that there is a major distinction between him and McGwire - they're totally different cases unless you want to make the argument that anyone who used doesn't get in. If you're even going to consider players who likely used steroids, McGwire and Bonds are apples and oranges.
Posted by cliss at 1/8/2007 5:32:00 PM
 
I kind of think McGwire looks pretty ripped in that picture. His arms look like tree limbs. After his rookie year, he doesn't get to 40+HR again for five years, 50+ HR for nine years and 32 years old. Year's 31-36 are clearly better than his early years. I don't have an opinion on anything else, but if his career doesn't take off after two injury years (age 28/29) then I don't think he gets into the hall of fame at all.
Posted by herbilk at 1/8/2007 7:54:00 PM
 
I have to admit, this is the first time I've ever seen anyone make the argument (however implicit) that steroids made someone *more* durable...

McGwire averaged over 36 home runs a season for the first six full seasons of his career, while posting a .370 or better OBP in half those years. That certainly looks like the beginning of a solid HoF resume to me, and still has him threatening 500 HR at the end of his career (which ended up being 13+ full seasons). I'm not sure where this idea that he was only good for his rookie season came from, any more than I understand why some people think he was one-dimensional.

Incidentally, McGwire also hit .283/.432/.571 during the two years he 'lost' to injury, '93-'94, with 18 home runs in 74 games. So the skill set of a Hall of Famer was still there.

If you want to argue that he shouldn't be in because you believe he did steroids, fine. But to say he wasn't a Hall of Famer without them, and Bonds was, seems wrong to me. McGwire would be standing shoulder to shoulder statistically with Thomas and Bagwell if you take away his "steroid boost", and I don't see anyone arguing that those two are clearly not HoF material based on their numbers.
Posted by ESiegrist at 1/9/2007 12:06:00 PM
 
Didn't Canseco say that he injected him in the late 90s? if that is correct, then this whole argument gets thrown out the window and he should 100% not take it. I also think that just because he all of a sudden started to look like an animal doesn't mean that he wasn't on it before. By now we are all aware of the continuing science that is being done in this field and that it isn't impossible to suggest that he was on it all along.
Posted by nayfel at 1/9/2007 2:21:00 PM
 
Guess that bottle of 'roids in full and open view in Mac's locker was actually part of a larger conspiracy to condemn him? Ha! Performance-enhancing drugs were not illegal at that time; he had no need to disguise his use of them. And in the 'spin' world, there is no other reason for a person to take the 5th under oath and merely say he was there to talk about the "now" and the "future" and not his "past".

He used -- no doubt in my mind. And I'm sure there's not a single person out there who believes he didn't take them. The question is whether his admission to the Hall should be influenced by something that was considered legal at the time. Others who have been admitted to the various Halls for each pro sport have used stimulants of all sorts and varieties in their eras.

Cheating is cheating, no matter how it's examined. The question is really whether this is considered cheating or whether it is revisionist history. We condemn people now for many different things that were once legal.
Posted by eaglehawk at 1/9/2007 3:22:00 PM
 
The next four years after McGwire's rookie season (ages 24-27) he never once slugged .500. Then he had a huge spike that carried the rest of his career. I'd say that's probably when he started using... though he obviously had been good in his rookie year and at least then didn't look like he was on it.
Posted by cliss at 1/9/2007 4:32:00 PM
 
What about the fact that andro wasn't banned by baseball when it was seen on McGwire's locker? Maybe that's what was enhancing his power -- if so, and it was legal at the time, maybe there's no problem. But then again there's the allegations of HGH, etc. I agree with the school that says if you can't prove it for anyone, you have to judge them objectively.
Posted by bscwik at 1/9/2007 11:49:00 PM
 

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