When the steroid scandal first broke on baseball, I was a stringent opponent of the steroid users. Having grown up loving the game of baseball and cherishing the icons and heroes of baseball's past, the thought of players taking PEDs and thereby obliterating the accomplishments and records of past players I was taught to respect and honor angered me. I was strongly in the camp of kicking out the PED users and their records from the game and denying them from the HOF. This included PED players for the Yankees, the team I have cheered for and loved my entire life. However, as I have grown and, more importantly, studied the issue of PEDs, I have realized that my initial stance is wrong for a variety of reasons:
1) PEDs Have Been a Part of Baseball Since Forever:
One can go back and read articles from the turn of the previous century, wherein players openly talked about taking things to enhance their performance. I am talking about 1900 not 2000. There are articles from the late 1800s and early 1900s wherein baseball players talk about eating horse testicles to gain a competitive edge in baseball. If there were players back when baseball was young willing to eat horse testicles to enhance performance, then you have got to believe once steroids were developed there would be players willing to take steroids to enhance performance. Since steroids have been around since the late 40s or early 50s, one can safely assume that there were baseball players in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s taking steroids. To penalize the players from the 90s and early 00s for taking steroids that others before them were taking seems hypocritical to me.
This does not even address the issue of amphetamines. "Greenies" are a performance enhancing drug. While greenies enhance performance differently then steroids, they do enhance performance. Moreover, there is no evidence to suggest that greenies are less of a performance enhancer then steroids. Baseball has had no problem honoring the players who illegally took greenies to gain a competitive edge, so why punish the steroid users? To punish one set of PED users over the other set of PED users is arbitrary and capricious.
2) Cheating Has Been a Part of Baseball Since Forever:
Like PEDs, cheating has been a part of baseball's history. Moreover, baseball has had no problem honoring known cheaters like Mike Schmidt (greenies), Nolan Ryan (intentionally pitching off the rubber) and Gaylord Perry (plethora of foreign substances on baseballs). Nor has baseball had any problems with honoring players suspected of cheating, players like the great Aaron and Mays both of whom have been accused of taking greenies. Again, punishing one set of cheaters while honoring another set is arbitrary and capricious.
3) There is No Moral Difference Between PED Users and Other Cheaters:
Say you have two thieves who decide to rob the same house while the family is away on a two week vacation. The first thief is rather unsophisticated and does a simple break in where he grabs everything of value that's in sight and then leaves. He walks away with $500K in valuables. The second thief is way more sophisticated. He uses state of the art electronics to find the family's secret safes and walks away with $2M in valuables. Morally speaking, which thief is worse. The answers is neither, they are both the same morally. That one was better at thieving does not make him worse morally. They are both morally wrong to the same degree as they both should not have been thieving.
The same holds true with baseball's cheaters. While the PED users may have been better at cheating (more on that below), morally speaking, they are no different then the cheaters that came before them. Both sets tried to gain competitive advantages by cheating. The fact that one set may have been better at it is immaterial morally. Both are the same. Holding one set of cheaters as morally worse then the other is nonsense.
Moreover, an argument could be made that some cheaters were morally worse then the PED users. As mentioned, Nolan Ryan admitted that when he needed a big strikeout he sometimes set up off the rubber a few inches closer to the plate in violation of the rules. And he mentioned knowing other pitchers did the same. Morally speaking this is worse then the PED users as Ryan, and other pitchers, put the health and life of the opposing batter at risk. Ryan is known for throwing one of the hardest fastballs ever, resulting in him throwing tons of Ks. He is also known for being very wild. Hence he also threw a ton of Walks. By moving closer to the plate, Ryan intentionally put the batters health at risk in the event he lost control over one of his fastballs as the batter would have less time to recognize and react. To me that is morally worse then a player taking PEDs to enhance his own performance. A same argument could be made regarding the pitchers that greased balls. Throwing a greased ball without knowing where it was going put the health of batters at risk, which is worse morally speaking. As is intentionally throwing at a batter, which is also against the rules. So, to hold out PED users while enshrining players, like Ryan, who put the health of other players at risk when they cheated, on moral grounds is just wrong.
4) No one Knows How Much a Competitive Advantage PED Users Received:
This is important. There is no studies to my knowledge that charted the effect of PED use and how much it helped players to succeed. People seem to widely believe that PED use resulted in the huge offensive explosion of the 90s and early 00s. However, there is no studies that show PEDs caused the offensive explosion. Moreover, such thought makes no real sense since both pitchers and hitters were cheating. One would think if pitchers and hitters both cheated with PEDs they would cancel themselves out.
Truth is, the offense explosion of the 90s and early 00s was the result of a variety of reasons, any one reason would only move the needle a little but all together moved the needle greatly. These reasons include, but are not limited to, smaller ballparks, legitimate and legal year round strength and conditioning training, improved technology (better bats, arm guards, etc.), improved scouting and statistical analysis and prep work, smaller strike zones, expansion deluding pitching, and, yes, PED use. The combination of all of these factors resulted in the offensive explosion of the 90s and 00s. Without knowing the extent to which PED use gave competitive advantage, its makes little sense to deny entry to the HOF on a "feeling" that PEDs impacted a players performance competitively.
5) PEDs Did Not Grant Players HOF Abilities:
Similarly, to say PED users who have HOF numbers would not have put up the numbers but for the PEDs is incredibly naive and myopic. If PEDs enhanced a player to give them HOF abilities why didn't Jason Grimsley put up HOF numbers? Or Melky Cabrerra? Truth is, while PEDs may have helped a little, they are not the reason why Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, and other HOF level PED users put up HOF numbers. Their talent and dedication to their craft is why they put up the numbers they did. PEDs helped and maybe their numbers would not have been as great, but they would still have put up HOF numbers.
6) PED Users Did Not Hurt the Game Worse Then Other HOFers:
One of the chief arguments against the PED users is that they damaged the game. This argument is nonsensical. First, there is no evidence of this. Ratings, attendance, team values have all been good to excellent and great during and after the PED scandal. There is absolutely no evidence that PEDs economically hurt the game or damaged the enthusiasm for the game.
Second, to the extent PEDs did damage the game or its integrity, there are HOFers who damaged the game and its integrity far worse then the PED users. Ty Cobb, Nap Lajoie, and other HOFers actively campaigned to keep African Americans out of baseball. Likewise, many current HOFers from baseballs early years intentionally threw baseball games for money. Both of these actions are far worse morally and far more damaging to the game then anything the PED users did. If the HOF is fine with such morally corrupt and damaging players in the Hall, then the PED users deserve to be there as well.
7) Baseball Has Already Enshrined Those Who Helped and Benefited from PED Users:
Bud Selig. Joe Torre. Tony LaRussa. Bobby Cox. These men are all in the HOF. They all knew or should have known of the PED users. All of these men turned a blind eye to PED use because the use helped them achieve their goals, whether those goals were increased wins and championships or increased money for the game. All benefited from PED users both in prestige and monetarily. If these men are in the Hall then PED users should be allowed in.
8) Baseball Didn't Care About PEDs at the Time So Why Should We Care Now:
Bud Selig had a report indicating players such as Conseco were using PEDs in the early 90s. He and his fellow owners did nothing about it because PED users and the homers they were hitting helped the game's interests and, more importantly for them, the game's bank accounts. Selig, baseball management, and the owners didn't care about PEDs until hallowed records began to fall. They then claimed ignorance. Yeah, right. Baseball had no problem with PED users in the game, just like they had no problem with other cheaters. It wasn't until public backlash at falling records arose that baseball started caring. If Baseball didn't care about PED users, then why should we care and keep them out of the Hall.
9) PEDs Were An Accepted Part Of Baseball:
Similar to the prior point, PEDs were a known part of the game by the players, baseball management, and baseball ownership. Just like greenies before them, PED use was openly known accepted by all parties involved. The Players Union, MLB Management, and/or the Owners could have taken measures to halt the use of and punish the users of PEDs by imposing tests and punishments for their use. They did not. They accepted PEDs at part of the game despite being illegal. This is no different then the acceptance of greenies, scuffing the ball, sign stealing, and other forms of cheating that have occurred throughout the games history. Since PED use was accepted by all involved, to deny players Cooperstown is simply wrong. They played the game in its accepted form. They should therefore be allowed into the Hall just like all the previous HOFers who played the game in its accepted form, whether that form was pre-integration, pro-greenie, etc.
10) There Are Already PED Users in the Hall:
We know at least one PED user is in the HOF. Thomas Boswell, respected baseball writer for the Washington Post, has written he is aware of at least one HOFer who took PEDs. The fact that steroids have been around since the 1950s at the latest all but ensures other PED users are in the HOF. Likewise, greenies are PEDs. Plenty of known and suspected greenie users are in the Hall, including some "Inner Circle HOFers". To allow PED users from the past generations in the Hall, but deny the current generation of PED users is once again arbitrary and capricious.
11) The Records Everyone Cares About Were Likely Achieved By PED Users:
This will not be popular to hear, but the records everyone cares about were likely achieved by PED users. As mentioned previously, people only started caring about PEDs when cherished and hallowed offensive records started falling like leaves in autumn. As also mentioned, many of those former players who held such cherished and hallowed records used greenies. Greenies are a PED. Thus, many of the very records everyone cares about were achieved through PED use. So, if we are going to allow one record holding PED user in the Hall, we should allow the others in as well.
12) The HOF Has Never Been About Character:
Yes, there is a character clause. Yes, guys like Joe Morgan wax poetically (well maybe not Joe Morgan, but others that share his beliefs) about the beauty and nobleness of Baseball and the players in the Hall. But the fact of the matter is the HOF has never cared about a players character when it came time for enshrinement. As mentioned before, there are some pretty terrible and reprehensible players and contributors in the Hall. Racists, womanizers, gamblers, alcoholics who got arrested for drunk driving, people who violently attacked others, domestic abusers, and general jack wagons all are in the Hall. No one cared about these terrible characters, even when their actions were directly detrimental to the game (looking at all the racists who prevented African Americans from playing). The Hall admitted them despite their character. All that mattered was on filed performance. Whether PED users were terrible characters or not (its debatable whether using PEDs speaks to bad character when it was an accepted part of the game), they should not be held out because of supposed character issues when character has never been used to preclude a player whose on field performance warranted enshrinement (See point 4 & 5 above if you want to nonsensically argue that PEDs made a player a HOFer). Character didn't matter for anyone else, so it shouldn't matter for PED users.
PED use and cheating have been a part of the game forever. No one has cared. People only started caring when hallowed records began to fall, records that were likely achieved through PED use. To deny PED users the Hall when other PED users, cheaters, and worse are already in the Hall is simply white washing Baseball. To deny PED users the Hall when some of the vary records that people bemoan as having fallen were achieved through the use of PEDs is simply nonsensical. To deny PED users the Hall while enshrining the Commissioner and Managers who directly benefited from the PED use is simply idiotic. While I still do not like the fact PEDs became such a big part of the game, the fact is, they were an accepted part of the game. As such, it makes no sense to deny PED users entrance into the HOF. PED users deserve to be in the HOF along with all the other PED users, cheaters, racists, womanizers, gamblers, and other morally corrupt souls that played the game or managed the game and got in because no one cared.