Next year will be a watershed year for the Baseball Hall of Fame as some all-time greats join the ballot with asterisks attached, namely Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza (although Piazza was never proven, I think the rumors will be too much to ignore). We’ll get a better idea of how the writers will handle the steroid area after the first round of voting. Mark McGwire wasn’t the best test case because a lot of people believed he wasn’t a Hall of Famer anyway and that his whole career was launched through the use of steroids. The latter applies to Sosa, as well as Rafael Palmeiro, who will likely never get in.
The tricky one from this class is Craig Biggio.
Biggio was a doubles machine who played multiple premium positions and played them well, collected over 3,000 hits, had 291 HRs, 414 SBs and was tremendously durable through his 20-year career. I think, without question, Biggio is a Hall of Famer but he could be tainted with questions about steroids. Sports writer Jeff Pearlman accused both him and Jeff Bagwell of using, although he didn’t offer any concrete proof other than to say the Astros were the “hotbed of PED use.” Unfortunately, that little taint alone may be enough for the baseball writers to lump him with the rest of the steroid users. Biggio is an all-time great who played most of his career under the radar, and it would be an injustice if he were denied based on the team he played for. For Bagwell, who has Hall of Fame numbers and can’t push through, there may be too much innuendo regarding his steroid use for him to ever get over the hump.
Today’s game may be cleaned up somewhat, but it remains to be seen how history will ultimately view steroid-era players. If the baseball writers decide to take the hard line with any player who is believed to be tainted, it’s inevitable that some innocent players will be swept under the tide.