This is the Hall of Fame year we’ve all been anticipating since steroids entered the MLB lexicon. 2013’s first-time eligible candidates feature the two best players of their era – who are also two of baseball’s most prominent steroid-users. Let’s take a look at the key players amongst the group of 37 possible Hall of Famers up for induction in 2013:
Key career stats: 20 seasons; 3,060 hits; 62.1 WAR; 414 SB; 1,844 R (#15 all-time); 12,504 plate appearances (#10 all-time); 2,850 games played (#16 all-time); 7-time All-Star; 4 Gold Gloves
Biggio reached one of the Hall of Fame’s magic milestones with his 3,060 hits and, with his modest power numbers, is above suspicion for PED use during a career played in the Steroid Era. While more of a compiler (he had 200 hits in a season just once), he was undoubtedly the best second baseman in the National League during the decade of the 1990s. He’s not a sexy player but his gritty play, clean record and impressive stats (only nine other players in the history of the game have had more plate appearances than Craig Biggio) will get him in Cooperstown on the first ballot.
Plaque Suggestion: Craiggers’ head should be adorned with a pine-tar covered helmet.
Key career stats: 22 seasons; .298 BA; 762 HR (#1 all-time); 1.051 OPS (#4 all-time); 158.1 WAR (#3 all-time); 1,996 RBI (#4 all-time); 5,976 TB (#4 all-time); 2,227 R (#3 all-time); 2,558 BB (#1 all-time); 514 SB; 2,935 H; 14-time All-Star; 7-time MVP; 2 batting titles; 8 Gold Gloves
It will be very interesting to see what comes of Barry Bonds and the Hall of Fame. Some say he was so great a player before his steroid use that he deserves entry and consider his juiced numbers from 1999 through retirement as a mere smudge – albeit an ugly one – on his stellar resume. Others say that no steroid user should be granted entry into the Hall under any circumstances. Further complicating matters is Bonds’ notoriously surly relationship with the media – many of whom are HOF voters.
So what becomes of Barry? Whether he gets in or not, odds are it won’t happen in his first year on the ballot. However eventually, you would have to think that if any of the confessed or busted steroid users of this era are ever to be enshrined in Cooperstown, Bonds has to be not only one of them – but probably the first. He will get in the Hall, but not next summer.
On a side note, I finally picked my favorite steroid-inflated Barry Bonds stat. It’s his 1.422 OPS in 2004! That’s his on-base percentage – .609!! – plus his slugging percentage – .812!! – in a season he played at the age of 39.
Plaque Suggestion: Barry’s legendarily massive head on his plaque should be at least three times bigger than any one else’s.
Key career stats: 16 seasons; .308 BA; .922 OPS; 2,127 hits; 427 HR; 1,335 RBI; 56.1 WAR; 1993 Rookie of the Year; 12-time All-Star
Piazza’s run from 1993 to 1997 with the Dodgers might be the most impressive offensive five-year stretch by a catcher ever. In those five seasons, Mike hit .334, averaged 33 home runs and had a .971 OPS. Did I mention he was a catcher?!
Detractors will point to his subpar defense and his extraordinary offensive prowess during the Steroid Era as reasons not to vote for him in his first year of eligibility. But let’s face it, you don’t get into the Hall because of defense and Piazza has remained relatively (and surprisingly) suspicion-free in regards to PEDs. The second-act of his career as a grinding gamer from 1998 until retirement, when he single-handedly turned around the Mets’ franchise and hit the now-legendary home run in the first game played in New York after 9/11, further cements his Hall of Fame resume.
Plaque Suggestion: Mike should be wearing a broken helmet and be glaring in the direction of wherever Roger Clemens’ plaque would have been.
Hall Me, Maybe
Key career stats: 24 seasons; 354 wins (#9 all-time); 3.12 ERA; 1.17 WHIP; 2,776 IP; 4,672 SO (#3 all-time); 8.6 SO/9; 133.9 WAR (#8 all-time); 46 SHO; 11-time All-Star; 1 MVP; 7 Cy Youngs;
I believe it was notorious wedding and funeral crasher, Chazz Reinhold who once stood over a casket and yelled, “Goddamn you Roger – Goddamn you!” Such an exclamation is also quite appropriate when looking at Clemens’ Hall of Fame Resume that leaves you wondering what might have been.
Before getting on the juice and becoming uber-Rocket, Clemens had 192 wins in 13 seasons with an ERA of 3.06, 2,590 strikeouts, a 1.16 WHIP, 2 Cy Young awards and 1 MVP in a career spent entirely with the Red Sox. At age 33, the stage was set for him to spend the next 5 plus years quietly accumulating numbers and strengthening what was already a strong case for the Hall of Fame. You could make an argument that with Roger’s legendary work ethic, he would have ended up with nearly 4,000 strikeouts and more than 250 wins – two numbers that would have made him a lock for the Hall during the Steroid Era. Instead, he super-sized himself and cast a shadow on a once-great career. What’s more, his post-retirement antics that featured him perjuring himself to Congress, lobbying elected officials and even flirting with a comeback in 2012 to delay his HOF eligibility have only further hurt his Cooperstown chances.
It’s likely that voters will eventually take the same stance they are likely to have with Barry Bonds, granting Clemens quasi-immunity in regards to steroids because of his epic pre-PED statistics, and allow him into the Hall. There’s just no chance that it happens in his first year on the ballot.
On another side note, my favorite steroid-inflated Roger Clemens season is his infamous 1997 campaign. After posting ERA’s of 4.18 and 3.63 in ’95 and ’96 – his last two seasons with Boston – the Rocket was classified as being in the “twilight” of his career. Clemens headed north to Toronto with a chip on his shoulder and a syringe in his ass and “responded” by going 21-7 with an inconceivable 2.05 ERA with 292 strikeouts in 264 innings. At the age of 34. In the AL East. During the Steroid Era.
Key career stats: 20 seasons; 216 wins; 3.46 ERA; 1.14 WHIP; 3,261 IP; 3,116 SO; 8.6 SO/9; 76.9 WAR; 6-time All-Star
Schilling is one of the best pitchers to pitch in the Steroid Era that was never accused of nor linked to steroid use. While this sounds like a pretty specific and niche title, it should actually carry a lot of weight with HOF voters who will look more kindly at the pitching stats of non-users that had to contend with the increased skill and ability of the actual users of their time.
Curt was an above average pitcher for a lot of mediocre Philadelphia teams and became a great pitcher during his time in Arizona and Boston. His proclaimed desire to end the Red Sox’ 86-year championship drought and subsequent “bloody-sock” performance are the stuff of legends and when added to his borderline HOF numbers in an offensive era, make for a compelling case. His contempt for the media during his playing days and hypocritical, post-playing days job as a member of the media won’t help his cause, but something tells me Schilling gets in at some point in the future.
Will Be Avoided Because He Roided
Key career stats: 18 seasons; .273 BA; 609 HR (#8 all-time); 1,667 RBI; 54.8 WAR; .878 OPS; 2,408 hits; 2,306 SO (#3 all-time); 7-time All-Star; 1 MVP
Poor Sammy. Beloved and adored as recently as 2003, Sosa’s corked bat that season followed by the steroids fallout in ensuing years has made him a forgotten man. His Garrett Morris as Chico Escuela routine during his career was endearing – until he testified in 2005 and apparently forgot how to speak English, an act that ranks just below Rafael Palmeiro’s finger wagging and just above Mark McGwire’s repeated refusal to “talk about the past” on the Most Egregious Behavior of a Steroid User Testifying Before Congress Scale. His now pasty-white face that he attributes to a “rejuvenation process” has also him the target of countless punchlines.
A member of the once-elite 600 home run club, Sosa is the leading candidate of all the steroid users to be made an example of by HOF voters because of his extreme career arc, cheating history and non-power related statistics.
Nice Career but Not Hall-Worthy
Sandy Alomar Jr., Jeff Cirillo, Royce Clayton, Jeff Conine, Steve Finley, Julio Franco, Ryan Klesko, Shawn Green, Roberto Hernandez, Kenny Lofton, Jose Mesa, Reggie Sanders, Aaron Sele, David Wells, Rondell White, Mike Stanton, Todd Walker, Woody Williams