With all the media and speculation in the last few years surrounding baseball players and the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) such as steroids, testosterone, Human Growth Hormone, and IGF-1, many have wondered if players would face any real consequences. Although recent suspensions for the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz, Ryan Braun and others made the headlines and seemed to be more strict than any previous punishment, once the suspensions were up, most Biogenesis players were able to continue their careers, earn a good paycheck, and receive the support of a public long on forgiveness and short on memory. However, the Baseball Hall of Fame isn’t so ready to reward players who have brought down the sport of baseball.
On the eve of the inductions for 2014, the Baseball Hall of Fame made an announcement that could have a huge impact on players who have used performance enhancers, such as steroids, to help them achieve those impressive career stats. It’s the first time the Hall has made changes to the voting process since the early 1990′s and it seems to be in direct response to the scandals that have plagued baseball in recent years. Instead of appearing on the voting ballot for 15 years, now players can only appear for ten years before being out of consideration. This means players who were arguably the best of their time, like Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. What do those players all have in common besides their names on the Hall of Fame Ballots? They were all embroiled in drug scandals during baseball’s age of steroids. Starting this year, McGwire has two and Bonds and Clemens each have eight years left to be on the ballot, and most feel this won’t be enough time for them to be voted in.
Three baseball players will be grandfathered in under the new rule. Don Mattingly has been on the ballot for 14 years, Alan Trammell for 13, and Lee Smith has been included for 12. They will all remain on the voting ballots until their original 15 years are up. Several players already in the Hall of Fame, including former Red Sox left fielder Jim Rice, have needed almost the full 15 years to receive their inductions. In the case of the Hall of Fame ballot, the adage that it’s simply an honor to be nominated is certainly true, since the odds are actually against most Major Leaguers being inducted, somewhere around 70-1!
In order to be on the voting ballot, a player must have played Major League baseball for at least 10 years, and have been retired for five years. Voters from the the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) each pick up to ten names each year. Players receiving less than 5% of the vote that year are dropped from the ballot, but players who were nominated but not inducted can remain on the ballot year after year.
It may seem like the number of years a player has been on the ballot has nothing to do with whether or not a player used PEDs during his career, but the change in rules could actually have a big impact on players whose careers were tarnished by allegations of doping. The baseball writers who vote choose their picks based on ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contribution to the team and to the sport of baseball, and even the greats of baseball have taken years between nomination and induction. Up until now, voters have taken their duties very seriously, as evidenced by the fact that no player with links to PED use have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Now, with a limited number of years to remain on the ballot, it seems likely that players who chose performance enhancers over the integrity of their sport will be remembered for that choice instead of having their towering achievements memorialized in Cooperstown.