While the use of PED’s has left a permanent black spot on a what is now known as the “black era” of baseball, it should not defer hall of fame voters from putting these athletes on their ballot. Simply put, PED’s we’re not officially banned with penalization to rule breakers until 2005, meaning up until that point they were free to run rampant throughout the league. The problem was, the public was completely naive to the thought of America’s pastime being infested with these drugs that no one even gave the idea a second thought. How do you fix a problem if you don’t know a problem exists? Barry Bonds gained a whopping 50 pounds over the course of 5 years which many suggest was the direct result of these performance enhancing drugs. Nevertheless, not one of the fans, owners, or league officials even batted an eye, as the value of entertainment trumped the value of ethnicity. Regular season baseball views has in fact gone down since the implementation of the new drug standards in 2005, along with television ratings.
It seemed that the fans didn’t care, it wasn’t against the rules “officially’, and the results were evidently, prodigiously beneficial to performance. With all this to consider, how can you blame athletes for taking them. How can Hall of Fame voters neglect the performances of some of the best baseball players to ever play the game over the depreciation of baseballs integrity. The whole debate comes down to the theory, just because you are playing under the rules , does not mean you are playing the game fairly. In a book published by Jose Canseco called Juiced he claims that “over 80% of major league players we’re taking PED’s between the 1990’s and early 2000’s”. If that is the case then the game may have been on a fairer playing field then it has ever been on. The best pitchers in the game, PED induced, verse the best PED induced hitters in the game. The game is forever evolving of ways to gain an advantage while still playing within the rules. It started with spitballs , and has since evolved throughout the years to corked bats, pine tar, PEDs, wetting baselines and so forth. All of these things were not against the rules at the time they were being abused, so how can those that took part be victimized for a non-rule breaking action.
Yes, the game was not being played the way it was intended to be played and its integrity may have been diminished but the rules we’re still being followed and players we’re just maximizing their performance to the extent the rules let them. Yet, we penalize them for this and disregard their accomplishments because we see it as cheating. Not fair, yes, but cheating, no. In fact Major League Baseball almost forced players to take PED’s by giving them the option too. It was either take these drugs and try and keep up with the games evolution or keep the integrity of the game and potentially get left behind. In fact even players that succeeded while staying clean throughout that era still face clouds of suspicion on whether their achievements should be credited, because they could have taken drugs. The Nash equilibrium at the time was certainly to take performance enhancing drugs. Though they would receive a greater surplus if now one took drugs, the most realistic decision for athletes at the time was the use, due to the high reward and little to no risk.
Also, taking a performance enhancing drug does not automatically make you an amazing baseball player. Barry Bonds hold the single season home-run record, and all time home run record , and is an admitted steroid user. Gregg Zaun is a below average hitter, long time back up catcher that only hit over ten home-runs in his career twice, and is an admitted steroid user. How is it that as soon as the word “steroid” is mentioned, hall of fame voters refuse to write the players name on the ballot and credit all their accomplishments to the use of drugs. Barry Bonds has been on the ballot for four years now, and still has not received enough votes , nor will he ever in my opinion, to be inducted into the hall of fame. This is not only a crime against baseball, but a crime against morality.
I am all for the banning of performance enhancing drugs in baseball, and I do believe that it degrades the integrity and the morality of the game. It takes away from the notion that handwork can get you anywhere, and it promotes youthful consumption. The necessary rules are now in place to prevent permeation of drug use, but it was not back then. I also believe that all cheaters should not be allowed to be inducted into the hall of fame. In order to to determine if these players were cheating you have to see what contemplates as cheating. According to the World Anti-Doping Agency code , one is considered cheating if the drug takes away from the spirit of sport. Surely the spirit of sport was violated but where to pin that blame is a very curious subject. Do you penalize the players who were encouraged to take these drugs, with no penalty or rule set in place to monitor it? Or, do you penalize the institution basically encouraged their players to take drugs, turned a blind eye to the problem, and now wants to lash out at them in an attempt to cover the profit-crazed motives? It is not the players to blame for taking away the spirit of the sport, it is the organization itself, and it is a shame that some of the greatest baseball players to ever live such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, and Sammy Sosa may never be inducted to the hall of fame.
For further reading, on the greatest ethical case in sports history, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/26/sports/baseball/its-time-to-reconsider-barry-bonds-for-the-hall-of-fame.html, provides great insight on the behind the scenes battle these players faced with the organization that bread them.