Friday, May 29, 2009

Heyman's Vote on Roiders

Jon Heyman, Hall of Fame (HOF) voter and columnist for, recently wrote how he would vote for the HOF for several current and former MLB'ers suspected of roiding up and cheating the game.

In his article, he stresses how difficult voting for the HOF is. Do voters simply go by the statistics of a player or by the impact that player had on the team? If one was to go by statistics alone, how does one judge the current crop of players who played during the steroid era? Heyman writes, "These calls won't only be about numbers. There are value judgments to be made about cheating, and possibly about how much the cheating helped particular players."

Heyman admits that some voters will simply eliminate all the cheaters from their ballots while others will take it on a case by case basis. He is the first writer that I have encountered to admit his own culpability in being slow to uncover the widespread use of PED's in baseball. A majority of writers need to own this. It's part of the inherent conflict of interest in being a sportswriter. You need to be "friendly" and close to the players and organizations and do not violate that trust by exposing the sport you cover or writing about it in a negative light. Heyman hypothesizes that some writers might feel tempted to block a majority of these players from the HOF since the writers were slow to cover the truth about their PED use. Voting them into the HOF would be continuing the trend of looking the other way, wink-wink, and implicitly endorsing cheating by using these substances.

Now to analyze Heyman's ballot:

  • Mark McGwire: Didn't vote for him because of suspected PED use led to HOF numbers.
  • Barry Bonds: Yes, he believes he was a HOF'er before he took any PED's.
  • Roger Clemens: Yes, like Bonds, he was a HOF'er before he roided up.
  • Sammy Sosa: No, productivity and expanded size suggest PED use.
  • Rafael Palmeiro: No, failed drug test (Stanozolol) after protesting innocence before Congress.
  • Gary Sheffield: No, ties to BALCO and admitting to intentionally throwing balls away hurt.
  • Mike Piazza: Yes, numbers wise he's there, but increasing suspicions raise some doubts, but Heyman needs more proof.
  • Ivan Rodriguez: Yes, never been caught even though he shrunk dramatically.
  • A-Rod: Yes, Heyman needs more proof of add'l doping even though admitted to PED use.
  • Manny Ramirez: Yes, he was great since the start and never got "big"

Interesting takes on these players by Heyman. In some instances he needs more proof (Piazza, Ivan Rodriguez and A-Rod) while others his visual proof was enough (Sammy Sosa). Yet, visual proof of a shrinking Ivan Rodriguez was not enough for him to pass on voting him in the HOF. Of the three players (Palmerio, Ramirez and A-Rod) that failed a drug test in MLB testing, he has two going to the Hall of Fame (any coincidence that both are current players, possibly his reasoning is self-motivated by generating goodwill down the road when he needs a story).

Unfortunately, the rules for election to the HOF do not specify "character" attributes. Aren't you supposed to be rewarded for doing the right thing and not cheating? Is that the proper message you want displayed in Cooperstown?

It's up to the baseball writers to decide.

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