There was a lot of backlash against the Baseball Writers of America today for their hall-of-fame choices.
It would seem like a class of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas would be a good group, slap on the back time. I like all of those guys. Adjusting for era, Maddux is the greatest pitcher of all time. From 1992 to 1998, Maddux did not post an ERA over 2.72 with the 1.63 mark in 1995 standing out as totally insane. He had whips under .9 twice, under 1.000 four times. He should have been unanimous, but the writers have that no one should be unanimous because Babe Ruth wasn’t unanimous rule so he wasn’t
Glavine and Thomas also had great numbers in their primes and none of the three were ever speculated to have used performing enhancing drugs.
Most of the critique surrounding hall induction concerns PEDs, and guys linked to them. Writers have taken different approaches to this. Some guys have vowed to never vote for any guy ever connected, in any way, no matter how weak the link to PEDs. These writers are usually old-school baseball scribes. They may be described as crotchety.
Bob Nightengale, who covered the steroid era with the Kansas City Star and Los Angeles Times right as it was exploding, votes solely based on stats, ignoring PED connections. He states that the steroid coverage was particularly heavy-handed when it came to certain players.
T.J. Quinn, an investigative reporter who has made a career of covering PED scandals for ESPN, prefers not to vote at all, tossing his ballot into the trash.
I admire both of these men as reporters and admire their all or nothing approach. I don’t think I would vote like them.
Tom Verducci broke the Ken Caminiti story in Sports Illustrated that led to all of the PED and steroid talk to come. It was one of the eye opening stories that made me want to be a journalist.
Before Verducci got that story he talked to players for several years, off the record. Players who were clean would come up to him and talk about not being able to keep up with the guys who were juicing. Verducci bars players from his ballot if they were known PED users.
Steve Wilstein, who wrote for the AP about Mark McGwire during the homerun race of 1997, picks and chooses a little bit. He does not vote for McGwire, but he votes for Barry Bonds.
If I had a Hall-of-Fame vote, and I would like to get to that point in my career where that would be possible, I think I would vote more like Verducci and Wilstein.
Craig Biggio should be a hall-of-famer. There has never been a substantive claim about Biggio using PEDs and the guy has 3,000 hits while playing three difficult positions: catcher, second base and center field. Also, no one played harder than Biggio on a day-to-day basis.
I would also vote for Bonds. Barry Bonds, on steroids in the early 2000s, is the best hitter I’ve ever seen. He never swung at bad pitches and when he connected it was a homerun. More than that, Bonds career before he started taking steroids, the motivation partially provided in part by jealousy for McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1997, was a hall-of-fame career. I think the same rationale applies to Roger Clemens.
I wouldn’t vote for Sosa or Rafael Palmeiro even though their numbers are incredible. The image of both of those guys lying to the grand jury is burned in my brain. I think Alex Rodriguez has used steroids his entire career, inflating all of his numbers.
A tough one would be Pudge Rodriguez. Pudge might be the best catcher ever, based on numbers. There has been a lot of steroid talk about him, too much for some of it not to be true.
There are slippery slopes everywhere but I would be influenced by the guys who were clean (or who I think were clean): Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones, and Greg Maddux.