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Is the MLB Hall of Fame Finally Opening Its Arms to the Steroid Era’s Most Complex Stars?

Published 11/29/2023, 7:30 AM EST

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The Hall of Fame is infamous for shunning any player suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs. However, in recent years, Cooperstown has been loosening up in terms of accepting players accused. The notorious steroid era of MLB surfaced during the early 1990s. It has continued to co-exist with the brighter parts of the game to date. Who are some of the biggest instances of being a victim or a victor of the PED trend in MLB? And how does the Hall of Fame deal with the contenders emerging among them at present?

Last week, the 2024 Hall of Fame ballot was unveiled, featuring a few former Yankees players, including Alex Rodriguez, an iconic figure tainted by steroids. Despite failing to secure sufficient votes in the past two instances, Rodriguez has found favor on the MLB ballot for the upcoming year. Does this signal a shift in the Hall of Fame’s stance, suggesting a more inclusive approach towards players with controversial histories?

The Baseball Hall of Fame and their behavior towards the ‘Steroid Era Players’: Then

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The fifth rule of the Hall of Fame induction eligibility states this: “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

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The hallowed halls of Cooperstown declined to let any players in on the contention for their HOF crown back in 2013. Just a year before that, the Biogenesis drug scandal (the second of its kind since the 2000s) took place. Spectators saw an uprise in the PED usage accusations amongst legendary players.

The scandal implicated icons like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and others. Bonds and Clemens failed to get enough votes on the ballot for 10 years until 2022, their last year of eligibility. Some of them weren’t even active at that point. Their fans, however, considered them worthy of the honor. The steroid scandals of the past hurt their chances of getting 75% of the required votes for induction.

Both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens retired from their Hall of Fame contention eligibility periods with a final ballot count of approximately 66% and 65%, respectively. Bonds became vocal about his regrets about losing the race after holding on till the very last moment. In a Hollywood Wingin’ podcast, Bonds stated, “I was vindicated. I went to the court, I was in federal court, and I won my case 100%. Where is the vindication of me in my own sport? That’s what bothers me.”

Cooperstown was determined to refuse to entertain any sluggers engaged in the accusations. Goose Gossage, a former Yankee and firsthand witness to the earliest steroid-era controversies, was observant of it. He once revealed to the Associated Press how allowing any of the users would leave a permanent question mark on the title’s integrity. To quote him, “If they let these guys in ever—at any point—it’s a black eye for the Hall and for baseball.” Does the Hall of Fame treat the currently eligible yet steroid-tainted players in the same manner as well?

The Baseball Hall of Fame and their behavior towards the Steroid Era Players: Now

The 2024 Hall of Fame ballot includes three sluggers implicated in the steroids scandal. The fact that the Hall of Fame committee and the BBWAA association are even considering letting in players with histories such as theirs’ proves an instance of their long journey from a traditionalist mentality clouded with rejection to an ultramodern approach where they consider a player’s contribution to the field more than their setbacks.

Garry Sheffield is in his tenth and last year of Cooperstown’s contention. He has an unattractive history of being a part of the Mitchell Report that surfaced back in 2007. That list implicated 89 players for using PEDs. Sheffield himself admitted to using a testosterone-based steroid.

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Two of the other contenders on the 2024 Hall of Fame ballots, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez, were part of the scandal as well. Alex Rodriguez is prominently featured among a significant number of players who faced suspensions from Major League Baseball in relation to the Biogenesis scandal. Rodriguez has seldom shied away from admitting his avid PED use. He has faced many controversies regarding the same. On the other hand, according to a New York Times report, Manny Ramirez is one of 104 MLB players who tested positive for performance-enhancing substances in 2003.

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The Hall of Fame is displaying a new habit of practicing kindness towards players with a dark past. Considering that fact, do you think Rodriguez, Ramirez, or Sheffield might come out as the newest bearers of the honorable title? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Written by:

Shrabana Sengupta

543Articles

One take at a time

"Those who gaze outward dream, but those who turn inward awaken." A pro-writer for MLB EssentiallySports, I’ve been a fan of the New York Yankees since my school days. In my adolescent years, I was introduced to the iconic franchise through one of my beloved Friends characters, Joey.
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Edited by:

Deepanshi Bajaj