While the moral grand standers continue to place an illogical negative emphasis on performance enhancing drugs over the equally prominent, less talked about drugs in baseball of the seventies and early eighties, players from Jeff Bagwell’s era suffer the terrible misfortune of having to prove their innocence from accusations based solely on circumstantial evidence.

It’s enough to write a run on sentence about.

Bagwell, who has adamantly denied steroid use in the past, sat down to speak with ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, ahead of his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame.

There can be little doubt among objectively minded voters that Bagwell’s numbers ensure his enshrinement.

His career .297 AVG, .408 OBP and.540 SLG compares well to the fact that every eligible player with .290 AVG, .400 OBP and .500 SLG is already in the Hall.

However, there are still those voters who see themselves as some sort of upholders of character, who could never vote for a cheater, despite the Hall’s long history of inducting such players.  And despite no evidence ever linking Bagwell to PEDs, his size and status as a slugger are enough to raise questions that poison his chances.

Choice Quotes:

I never used [steroids], and I’ll tell you exactly why: If I could hit between 30 and 40 home runs every year and drive in 120 runs, why did I need to do anything else? I was pretty happy with what I was doing, and that’s the God’s honest truth. All of a sudden guys were starting to hit 60 or 70 home runs and people were like, ‘Dude, if you took [PEDs], you could do it too.’ And I was like, ‘I’m good where I’m at. I just want to do what I can do.’

Later in the interview, Bagwell talks about playing through the excruciating pain it took just to throw a ball for three years.  It’s hard to imagine that type of competitor saying things like “I’m good where I’m at,” but it’s even harder to imagine that level of unlikeliness proving anything.

The heavy lifting all started in 1995. I was going through a divorce and I came to spring training, and I thought everything was good. Then I got to spring training and I’ll never forget it: Mike Hampton looked at me and said, ‘Dude, what’s wrong with you? You’re so skinny, you look like you’re on crack.’ I look back at the stats and they weren’t bad. But I told myself, ‘I’m never going to have somebody say that to me again.’ I said, ‘I’m going to find a trainer and get strong.’

Bagwell didn’t actually accumulate muscle weight until after 1995, making it hard to criticize his phenomenal 1994 campaign in which his OPS was above 1.200 and he hit 39 home runs and led the league in total bases.

If you played in my era and hit any home runs, you know people are going to sit there and say something. It’s just the state of the game now. The one thing I don’t understand is how people can talk about the era I played in and make it sound as if there weren’t any great players in the 1990s and 2000s. That doesn’t make any sense. Are you telling me that there were great players in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, but there weren’t any great players in the ’90s and 2000s? I mean, come on. That’s crazy.

I don’t agree with it in the least, but the thinking among Hall of Fame voters seems to be that there were no shortage of great players between 1990 and the early 2000s.  There was a shortage of morally upright great players between 1990 and the early 2000s, and circumstantial evidence is enough for them to block their entry into the Hall of Fame.

I look at Andy Pettitte, and I can say this because it’s documented. Andy came out and said, ‘Listen, my elbow was killing me. I was making $12-13 million a year, and they told me it was going to help me and all I wanted to do was pitch.’ I mean, how can you even argue that? That’s not a performance enhancer. That’s just a guy who wanted to get healthy. How do you separate ‘I want to get healthy’ from ‘I’m trying to get better because I don’t feel like I’m the same player I used to be’?

I don’t think you really can separate the two because baseball players and all athletes in general are always going to have knocks and never be 100%.  That’s part of the problem in judging the safe use of anabolic steroids and the dangerous use.

So much has gone on in the last eight or nine years, it’s kind of taken some of the valor off it for me. If I ever do get to the Hall of Fame and there are 40 guys sitting behind me thinking, ‘He took steroids,’ then it’s not even worth it to me. I don’t know if that sounds stupid. But it’s how I feel in a nutshell.

This sounds like a frustrated man who knows that even if he gains first ballot admittance to the Hall of Fame, an honour which his career screams he deserves, it’s going to be tainted by questions, whispers and innuendo based solely on his slugger status during a time in which performance enhancing drugs were prevalent.

For the record, my Hall of Fame ballot would include Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, and most certainly Barry Bonds next year.

Comments (14)

  1. I’d have a hard time voting for Bonds, Palmeiro or Clemens because even after they were caught cheating, they lied about it. But the HOF is not meant to be a hall of morals. The fact is these players were the best in their generation; a generation where a lot of players cheated, but still.

    I can at least see the case for the known ‘roiders not making it in (McGwire et al), but to place Bagwell in there with no evidence or linking to it is stupid as shit.

    This whole era of baseball is turning into a witch hunt and since there’s no way of knowing who did and didn’t do steroids, it’s best to just level the playing field for those years and move on.

    Aimless ramble over.

  2. i don’t get how morality can be an out-clause for any institution that has Ty Cobb as a member. There are a lot of players of questionable morals in the hall.
    I also don’t understand the charge against steroids in particular. Players up until a couple years ago had been using ‘greenies” or amphetamines like candy. Just look at the numbers and the career and decide if a player was outstanding or not. Save your moral high ground for somewhere else.

  3. Known roiders like McGwire? What test did he fail?

    Anyone who does not cast a vote for Barry Bonds should lose their vote forever.

  4. McGwire admitted to using. I’m not saying these guys shouldn’t get in, I’m just saying I can see the reasoning behind them not getting in. I’m not mad at a writer who doesn’t vote for a known user. It could be possible in the future to look back and have a clearer idea of who should be in and not.

    The whole thing cheapens the HOF either way.

    And I agree, Bonds should probably be in. I feel dirty saying that, but it’s true.

  5. And Bagwell needs to be in. NEEDS to be…

  6. My other huge problem with “the reasoning” behind them getting in is the assumption that steroids turn hitters into tater machine manbeasts without providing any benefit whatsoever to the pitchers.

    That’s wrong. The playing field was plenty even.

  7. although that is true, I think it’s clear that either more hitters were juicing or it had a greater impact on them. If it all evens out then the historical numbers wouldn’t have changed much. The fact is hitters were breaking records all over the place and putting up numbers never before conceived.

    I guess my point is that there’s no right or wrong answer to these questions so I have a hard time with definitive statements about players getting in or not getting in.

  8. There’s no definitive standard, but there should be consistency. Otherwise, it looks like hypocrisy. Didn’t Raines talk about sliding head first because he didn’t want to break the vial of coke in his back pocket? No one cares about that when they talk about his HoF candidacy, but Bagwell is a cheater because he was an elite player at a time when other guys have admitted to using PEDs. It’s all very aggravating.

  9. I’ll never understand the people who say that Bonds and others who supposedly took the roids shouldn’t be in the hall of fame. Firstly I’d say there were other players who were taking the same stuff (if they did in fact take that stuff) who did not go out and hit 72 home runs. That right there makes them better than the stiffs who took the stuff and still sucked. So right there, in his generation Clemens and/or Bonds were great. They still had that element that put them above and beyond.

    Secondly, I still don’t understand why they compare Clemens and Bonds to say Hoyt and Cobb. Two very different eras. Jeez, even with the roids, Clemens should be given a pass into the HoF because he got the 300 wins in an era where there were 5 starters and specialized relievers and closers who could steal those all-important , arbitrarily determined statistical wins from the starting pitcher. Different era, different selection rules. Same should go for the 90s and 00s. If McGwire and Bonds were dopers, then they should be judged on their era. If in the era they were better than the others, then they should go in.

    I know I was kinda rambling there. I’m sorry for those who read it. I’ll just say this in ending. When Ken Griffey Jr. goes in…the soapboxing about players doing it right will be ridiculous.

  10. Ty Cobb.
    The end.

  11. Well this seems to be the site for steroid apologists. I wondered where you all hung out. The point everyone seems to be missing is that steroids allowed hitters to hit balls farther, allowed them to cut down their reaction time at the plate & make more and better contact, and prolong their careers to amass amazing lifetime stats. In addition, steroids were ILLEGAL (in addition to CHEATING). And the reason a lot of players never failed a test is that baseball put it’s head in the sand and didn’t test. So how can you fail a test if there isn’t a test? . I can understand where people apply a different standard for Bagwell, since the evidence against him using is thin. That’s fair. But with McGwire, Palmeiro and Bonds, they used. McGwire admitted it. Palmeiro failed a drug test. and Bonds has been proved to have received steroids from BALCO. Pull your heads out people!!!

    • Thanks Dr. Rob, for your medical opinion on what steroids do. It’s much appreciated. I’m surprised that it seems to directly contradict what several other doctors seem to say about steroids.

      I know it’s not really your style, but try taking a step outside of yourself and your poorly informed opinions: Can you not see the hypocrisy in MLB turning a blind eye to the players using the drugs while revenue was increasing on the back of home run races, and then later, coming down all high and mighty in judgment against them?

  12. And I’m tired of the Ty Cobb argument. The HOF has clarified the “moral clause” in saying that it had to do with conduct on the field. Not off the field. Cobb was a bad guy. A lot of guys in the hall are bad guys. What you don’t want is cheaters. Now, if you want to argue that Cobb shouldn’t be in because of the morals clause, then fine. Argue away. But don’t say that cheaters should be let in because Cobb’s in and he was a bad guy. Two wrongs don’t make a right if you think Cobb should be excluded. I also agree that Gaylord Perry should not be in for the same reason. But he is and it won’t be undone. But that’s not a reason to put other cheaters in the Hall.

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