Last year, we did our first ever debate on Notinhalloffame.com where we tackled the Hall of Fame merit of twenty-four men who are on the Hall of Fame ballot, in what was in our opinion the most loaded ballot in our lifetime.

Since it was so much fun last time, we thought we would do it again!

One thing that has not changed is the number.  We will again debate twenty-four men who are on the ballot.

What has changed are the ones debating.  Last year I had the pleasure of having DDT, the curator of DDT’s Pop Flies blog and D.K. of the Phillies Archivist blog.  This year, Spheniscus, who has participated in past Rock and Roll discussions, will be joining me.



Chairman: I don’t care what anyone says and call me a conspiracy theorist if any wants to.  The reduction of the Hall of Fame vote from 15 to 10 years is to get rid of the PED guys sooner off the ballot, and here is the first one affected,
Mark McGwire.

Based on McGwire’s drop in voting though, five more years wouldn’t have done shit for Big Mac.  He is down to 10%, his lowest on the ballot, and the recent appreciation of defense in the game of Baseball has done him no favors.  McGwire’s defensive bWAR is -12.3, and while he did actually win a Gold Glove (he had a 0.3 defensive bWAR and led the league in Putouts), after his first five years, he was a definite liability playing there.

If Bonds and Clemens are rising (though marginally) is this one of the reasons that McGwire is slipping, and will now slide off of the ballot for good?  Sure, he was a one dimensional player, but damn he mastered that dimension, and if I go back to my “fame” argument, he put asses in seats and eyeballs to the screen, and did so more than any other home run hitter in the last thirty years.

Spheniscus: I agree with you that the reduction to 10 years is directly due to wanting to get the steroids guys off sooner. Or maybe they just hate Tim Raines. Either way, it is a dumb idea.

When it comes to McGwire, however, I already aired my feelings about him with my rant back in the Barry Bonds conversation and what I mentioned when we were talking about McGriff. But let’s play a game of alternate history. Go back to those senate hearings on Steroids in 2005.

At those hearings we had an emboldened Jose Canseco, a clearly flustered McGwire, a suddenly monolingual Sammy Sosa, a surprisingly timid Curt Schilling, the forgotten disembodied head of a teleconferencing in Frank Thomas, and Rafael Palmeiro lying through his index finger. We knew from 1998 that McGwire was using Andro. I mean, he was so unconcerned about it that it was easily visible in his locker when reporters came by. Why deny it in front of Congress?

What would have happened if McGwire had talked about the past at this hearing? What if he had said something along the lines of: “I work very hard on my body and mind to be the best baseball player I can be. As part of this work out program I take supplements to help build and maintain muscle and decrease my recovery time from injury. I feel I owe to my franchise, my teammates, and my fans to do whatever I can to be the best player I can be. I have always strived to be a clean player and have made sure that the supplements I take are approved by the MLB. I want to stress that at no time have I ever taken a supplement that was banned by Major League Baseball. And I am not alone in this. Many players were taking supplements that were perfectly legal under the auspices of the Commissioner’s Office and our collective bargaining agreement. To claim that we were and are somehow acting unethically by acting within the rules of our game is something I cannot abide. Were the stars of the 70s, including Henry Aaron himself, acting unethically when they were using amphetamines during the season? Because that is perfectly legal to this day and no one has ever raised a peep. I stand by my actions and I stand by my record. And I stand by the fact that I have never, ever, violated a rule of Major League Baseball when it comes to my performance, my preparation, or my training.”

Would he be in the Hall today? I think he would. And I think that the whole steroids discussion would have switched off of the players to where it truly belonged, the Commissioner, the Owners, the media, and the “stewards of the game” who now are sitting so smugly in judgment of those who followed the rules they set in place at the time they played.


Chairman:  You have said it so perfectly, I really don’t what I can add!

I think the real litmus test for that trip in the DeLorean is when Andy Pettitte comes up for election.  Pettitte is a marginal Hall of Fame at best, but is in the discussion.  His PED admission is the template that caught athletes should follow, and already he has been enshrined at Monument Park with no backlash.

Seriously, how did Ryan Braun botch his apology up so bad?

We know that McGwire isn’t getting in, but what will be his swan song?  I am setting the limbo stick at 12.5%, where he gets a few extra pity votes, and then the Hall can sweep the first muscular pile under what will become a very lumpy rug.

Spheniscus: Ryan Braun botched his apology because he is a human pustule. Don’t get me started on that dickhead. He deserves every bad thing that comes his way. His attack on the guy who collected his sample when he knew he was using was despicable. His pay should be docked every year to compensate that man. Significantly docked. If he even appears on a Hall of Fame Ballot I will be disappointed in the system.

And Pettitte was forgiven remember? He just used it that once. And no one would ever lie about using something once. But he at least seemed to take responsibility for his action* and seem remorseful for it.


Anyway, back to McGwire. I really don’t think he is a bad guy. I don’t even blame him for using what were legal supplements in baseball (even if they were illegal in the U.S.). Heck, Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant both have gone to Europe to receive stem cell treatments that are illegal in the U.S. and no one bats an eye. In fact, when the recent HGH allegations came up against Manning the idea he would do something untoward has been completely rejected by the national media. Despite, as I repeat, travelling to Europe to get treatment that is illegal in the U.S. The different standards we hold different people to just doesn’t make any sense at times.

McGwire took down Maris’ asterisk and so he has to be made to pay for the sins of the era. I think that 12.5 is probably about where he will fall.


Chairman:  We could write a bible on the hypocrisy of supplements/performance enhancers in sports and still have room for a new testament.

I don’t think McGwire is a bad guy either, and it is time for him to stop being the poster child for an era.  I would use my pretend vote on him, but barely.  Not because of andro or whatever, but because he was a one-dimensional player for a long time…but he mastered that dimension!

Prediction: 11.5%.

Sphensicus: McGwire also gets my vote. And I am slightly more optimistic than you are about his total. I say up to 15%. He gets forgiven by a few more people but still too far for him to make it next year.  

While the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot for this year was already known, it is worth noting that the names on the ballot have been made official and have been sent out to prospective voters.

Let’s go through the ballot and take a quick look shall we?

The new headliner is Ken Griffey Jr., who is expected by many (including us) to enter immediately.  He holds the “1C” rank on our Notinhalloffame.com baseball list.  It is worth noting that the ineligible Pete Rose and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson hold “1A” and “1B” respectively.

Griffey is not the only major star making his debut on the ballot, though he is the only one we think will get in immediately.  Closer, Trevor Hoffman and Outfielder, Jim Edmonds are also on the ballot for the first time.  Hoffman is second overall in Saves, and Edmonds is a former Silver Slugger and multi-time Gold Glove Winner, and they are ranked #47 and #44 on our Notinhalloffame.com baseball list respectively.

Billy Wagner, Garret Anderson, Troy Glaus, Mike Sweeney, David Eckstein and Mike Hampton are also intriguing candidates who could possibly gain a few votes on their debut ballot, but are not likely to get past this year.

Brad Ausmus, Luis Castillo, Mark Grudzielanek, Jason Kendall, Mike Lowell and Randy Winn are also on the ballot, but are not expected to get any votes.

This group joins the following holdovers from last year’s ballot, which are:

Mike Piazza, (69.9%, 4th Year) Ranked #4 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Jeff Bagwell, (55.7%, 6th Year) Ranked #5 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Tim Raines, (55.0%, 9th Year) Ranked #7 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Curt Schilling, (39.2%, 4th Year) Ranked #9 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Roger Clemens, (37.5%, 4th Year) Ranked #2 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Barry Bonds, (36.8%, 4th Year) Ranked #3 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Lee Smith, (30.2%, 14th Year) Ranked #30 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Edgar Martinez, (27.0%, 7th Year) Ranked #16 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Alan Trammell, (25.1%, 15th Year) Ranked #13 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Mike Mussina, (24.6% 3rd Year) Ranked #6 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Jeff Kent, (14.0 %, 3rd Year) Ranked #45 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Fred McGriff, (12.9%, 7th Year) Ranked #29 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Larry Walker, (11.8%, 6th Year) Ranked #15 on Notinhalloffame.com

Gary Sheffield, (11.7%, 2nd Year) Ranked #19 on Notinhalloffame.com

Mark McGwire (10.0%, 10th Year) Ranked #12 on Notinhalloffame.com

Sammy Sosa, (6.6%, 4th Year) Ranked #18 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Nomar Garciaparra, (5.5%, 2nd Year) Unranked on Notinhalloffame.com.



As they have reduced the time on the ballot from fifteen years to ten, this will be McGwire’s last crack it.

Lee Smith and Alan Trammell were grandfathered under the previous rule, but this is also Trammell’s last shot as he is entering his fifteenth year on the ballot.

Who do you think will be the class that will be inducted next summer in Cooperstown?

We know this much, debates on who should get in will dominate the sports blogs and countless opinions will be given…including ours!

The Baseball Hall of Fame has officially debuted the “Today’s Game Ballot”, which focuses on players/managers/executives from 1986-2016.  This will now be on a four year rotation with Modern Baseball (1970-1987), Golden Days (1950-1969) and Early Baseball (1871-1949).

The Today’s Game Ballot is designed to focus on more contemporary players, many of which have dropped off the ballot in recent years.

10 men have been chosen for this ballot:

Harold Baines: Ranked #40 on Notinhalloffame.com.  Baines blasted 384 Home Runs and 1,628 RBIs over a career that was mostly spent as a Designated Hitter.  Baines is known mostly for his work with the Chicago White Sox and is a six time All Star. 

Albert Belle: Ranked #51 on Notinhalloffame.com.  Belle finished in the top three in American League MVP voting three times and is a five time All Star and five time Silver Slugger.  He was on the ballot for two years. 

Will Clark: Ranked #61 on Notinhalloffame.com.  Clark is a six time All Star with four top five National League MVP finishes.  He led the NL in bWAR in 1989 and won the NLCS MVP that same year.

Orel Hershiser: Ranked #79 on Notinhalloffamecom.  Hershiser would win the Cy Young, MVP and World Series in 1988.  Three times he would lead the NL in bWAR for Pitchers.

Davey Johnson: Managed the New York Mets to the 1986 World Series and has a 1,372-1,071 Record.

Mark McGwire: Ranked #15 on Notinhalloffame.com.  McGwire is a member of the 500 Home Run Club and is a 12 Time All Star. 

Lou Piniella: A Manager for 23 years with a record of 1,835-1,712 and a World Series win with the Cincinnati Reds in 1990.

John Schuerholz: The First General Manager to win the World Series in both leagues, Kansas City in 1985 and Atlanta in 1995.

Bud Seilig: The Commissioner of MLB from 1992 to 2015.

George Steinbrenner: The infamous owner of the New York Yankees won seven World Series Titles.



The focus for many is on McGwire who just left the ballot after ten years and never finished above 25 percent on the ballot. 

The 16 man Modern Baseball Committee will be meeting on December 5 on the winter meetings.  To be inducted, a candidate require 75% of the vote.



We know for sure that the Baseball Hall of Fame will be adding at least two people to their institution next summer.

The 16 Man “Today’s Game Era” Committee has selected former Commissioner, Bud Selig and Executive, John Schuerholz to Cooperstown, the latter of which received a full 100 percent of the vote. 

To get elected, a candidate needed 75 percent (12 votes) to gain induction.

Bud Selig received all but one of the 16 votes.  A former owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, Selig is either widely praised or panned depending on your point of view.  Work stoppages and PED growth happened under his watch, but so did substantial revenue growth, interleague play and revenue sharing.  He becomes the fifth former commissioner to get elected.

Schuerholz was considered a lock and based on his record how could he not be?  He was the first General Manager to win the World Series in both leagues (Kansas City in ’85 and Atlnata in ’95) and while Atlanta only one World Series, it was a powerhouse team that won 14 consecutive divisions.

Former player and Manager, Lou Piniella received seven votes.

The other candidates received five for less and as per the rule (though we find that absurd) their exact vote count was not released. 

Those who received five votes or less are George Steinbrenner (Owner), Mark McGwire, Albert Belle, Davey Johnson (Manager), Harold Baines, Orel Hershiser and Will Clark.  They could possibly be nominated again in four years, the next time that the “Today’s Game Era” is scheduled to meet.

Of note, the 16 man committee are owners Bill DeWitt Jr. (Cardinals) and David Glass (Royals), executives Andy MacPhail (Phillies), Kevin Towers (Reds) and Paul Beeston (formerly of the Blue Jays), media members Bill Center, Steve Hirdt and Tim Kurkjian, and Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar, Bobby Cox Andre Dawson, Dennis Eckersley, Pat Gillick, Frank Thomas, Ozzie Smith and Don Sutton.

We would like to congratulate the two new entries to the Baseball Hall of Fame and are curious to see who will join Bud Selig and John Schuerholz.
Yes we know this is taking a long time!

Regular visitors to Notinhalloffame.com know that we are slowly (or glacier like) working on our top 50 players for each major North American Franchise.  After that is done, our intention is to look at how each one of those teams honor their past players and executives. 

As such, it is news to us that the St. Louis Cardinals have announced seven finalists for their franchise Hall of Fame Class of 2017.

To become eligible for the Cardinals HOF, a player must have at least played for the team for three seasons and have been retired for three years. 


Here are this year’s nominees:

Steve Carlton, Pitcher.

Carlton is far better known for winning the Cy Young Award four times with the Philadelphia Phillies it was in St. Louis where “Lefty” first became a star.  Carlton rose to prominence in 1967, joining a rotation that would take the Cards to back-to-back World Series appearances in ’67 and ’68.  As a Cardinal, Carlton would post a 77 and 62 record with a 3.10 ERA and 951 Strikeouts.  The Hall of Fame Pitcher would be traded from St. Louis following a salary dispute, which was a deal that did not exactly fall in the Cardinals favor.

Keith Hernandez, First Base.

Hernandez would with the National League co-MVP in 1979 in a season where he also won the NL Batting Title.  Hernandez was thought of us as the best defensive First Baseman in his era and overall would have 1,217 Hits with a Slash Line of .299/.385/.448 over 1,165 games as a Cardinal.  Hernandez would be traded to the New York Mets in 1983 after falling out of favor with St. Louis Manager, Whitey Herzog.  Still, Hernandez did help the Cards win the 1982 World Series.

Jason Isringhausen, Pitcher.

The Cardinals closer from 2002 to 2008, Isringhausen recorded 217 Saves with a 2.98 ERA.  The Cards closer was an All Star in 2005 and led the NL in Saves in 2004.  He would help St. Louis win the World Series in 2006.

Tim McCarver, Catcher.

Playing 1,181 Games for St. Louis, the Catcher turned broadcaster was a two time All Star for the Cardinals.  McCarver would finish 2nd in MVP voting in 1967, the same season he helped St. Louis win the World Series.  He would smack 1,029 Hits as a Cardinal. 

Mark McGwire, First Base.

McGwire famously chased (and took) the single season home run record as a Cardinal.  He was only with the Cardinals for four and a half seasons but he belted 220 Home Runs with a .420 On Base Percentage while he played there.  He was also named to three All Star Games, earned a Silver Slugger and had two top five finishes in National League MVP voting while he was a Cardinal.

Edgar Renteria, Shortstop.

A member of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1999 to 2004, Renteria was skilled with his bat (973 Hits with a .290 Batting Average) and with his glove (two Gold Gloves).  The fleet footed infielder would also swipe 148 bases and earn two Silver Sluggers in St. Louis.

Scott Rolen, Third Base.

Rolen was traded to the Cardinals during the 200 season and from 2003 to 2006 was named a National League All Star.  Rolen dominated third base, winning three Gold Gloves and also producing good power numbers, belting 111 Home Runs as a Cardinal.  He would help St. Louis win the 2006 World Series.


Voting is available online at cardinals.com/HOF.  The top two vote getters (voting concludes on April, 14) will be officially inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame this August.

We would like to congratulate the St. Louis Cardinals who in a short time has made their franchise’s Hall of Fame one of the most respected in team sports.

Other teams, take note!
We have said before that the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame has quickly become one of our favorite franchise Halls.

Today they added to it as three former St. Louis Cardinals, Mark McGwire, Pepper Martin and Tim McCarver have been chosen.

Traded from the Oakland Athletics midway through 1997, Mark McGwire brought an even bigger bat to the Midwest.  In 1998, McGwire would set the new single season Home Run Record with 70, and followed it up with 65 the year after.  In his four and a half seasons with St. Louis, he tallied 220 Home Runs with a 1.111 OPS.

Achieving more fame as a broadcaster, Tim McCarver was a Cardinal for twelve seasons.  An All Star twice, McCarver helped St. Louis win the World Series in 1964 an d 1967 and would accumulate 1,029 Hits over his career with the Red Birds.

Like McCarver, Pepper Martin also helped St. Louis win two World Series Championships (1931 & 1934).  A member of the famed “Gashouse Gang”, Martin was an All Star four times and led the National League in Stolen Bases three times.

We here at Notinhalloffame.com would like to congratulate the newest members of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame.
The vote for the candidates on the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot is without a doubt historical because of two salient and unavoidable facts: One is that this year's ballot is overstuffed with potential Hall of Fame candidates—presenting an even bigger logjam to entrance to the Hall—and the other is that this year's vote is an inescapable referendum on the stance toward the "Steroids Era" as even more players active during the period of the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s implicated with performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) are newly eligible.

Note: Part 1 of this two-part series goes into detail—considerable detail—to examine both the overstuffed ballot and, more comprehensively, the atmosphere of moral dudgeon surrounding the suspected and admitted usage of PEDs by players on previous ballots and especially by players eligible for the Hall for the first time this year. If you want only to read the players' evaluations, skip to Part 2.

Foremost among those newly eligible players are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who were not only among the most dominant players in Major League Baseball (MLB) during this period, but who both became embroiled in high-profile legal battles connected to PEDs-related issues. Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice in 2008 for his involvement during the investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO), while Clemens, indicted for lying to Congress in 2008, was acquitted of all charges in 2012 during his second trial (the first having ended in a mistrial).

Also prominent among the newly eligible is Sammy Sosa, whose name in 2009 was listed among 104 players who tested positive for PEDs in 2003 but who—unlike Alex Rodriguez, whose name was also on that list and who admitted to taking PEDs during his career—has stayed mum, insisting that his record is sufficient to gain him entrance to Cooperstown. Sosa did "testify" before the U.S. Congress in 2005—his attorney read a written statement on Sosa's behalf—about PEDs usage and denied using PEDs, which was later contradicted by the 2009 PEDs list; however, if Congress had wanted to investigate Sosa for perjury (as it had done to Clemens), it needed to have acted by 2010, before the statute of limitations expired, and it did not do so. Also tainted by the PEDs brush is Mike Piazza, who had admitted to using androstenedione ("andro," which Mark McGwire had admitted to using) briefly early in his career, but otherwise seems to be given the same guilt-by-appearance accorded to Jeff Bagwell.

Embarrassment of Riches: The Overstuffed Ballot

But regardless of which players might or might not have used PEDs—and we will examine this explosive issue soon enough—the fact is that the 2013 ballot has 37 candidates on it. That is 24 first-time candidates added this year joining the 13 still qualified to remain from the 2012 ballot. (A player must receive at least 5 percent of the vote to remain on the ballot; from last year, the only first-year-eligible player in 2012 to receive at least 5 percent of the vote was Bernie Williams.)

Last year, the voters of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) elected only one candidate to the Hall: Barry Larkin. To be elected to the Hall, a player must receive 75 percent of the vote. For 2012, there were 27 players on the ballot, 10 fewer than this year, and the voters elected one player. A voter can vote for a maximum of 10 players, and last year I thought there were eight qualified candidates, one of whom, Larkin, was elected, but this year's ballot with 37 candidates, including seven I thought should have been elected last year, spells one thing: logjam. This year's ballot is not only overstuffed with candidates, it is overstuffed with qualified candidates.

To make matters worse, the next few years will see more Hall of Fame-quality players added to the ballot including Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas in 2014; Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz in 2015; Ken Griffey, Jr., in 2016; Manny Ramirez and Ivan Rodriguez in 2017; and Chipper Jones in 2018. Those are only the players I think have the career records to qualify unreservedly for the Hall of Fame, leaving the PEDs factor neutral in the cases of Ramirez and Rodriguez; players such as Jim Edmonds, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Jeff Kent, Mike Mussina, Gary Sheffield, and Billy Wagner could have strong cases made for them; but unless the BBWAA begins to elect players to the Hall in big batches in the next few years, the logjam problem will remain for some years to come, and these seven players will fall far behind more likely candidates, if not off the ballot altogether.

Based on the historical record, that is unlikely to happen. The most the BBWAA has inducted in any one year is five players, and that was in the Hall's inaugural year of 1936. The writers have elected four in one year three times, in 1939, 1947, and 1955, and they have elected three in one year six times, most recently in 1999. However, since 1999, the BBWAA has elected only 21 players in those intervening 13 years, less than two per year. Despite this parsimony, the writers have, since 1999, elected a few candidates who are on the borderline, including Andre Dawson, Kirby Puckett, Jim Rice, and Bruce Sutter.

That will not be a problem this year. A voter could easily select the maximum of ten qualified candidates (leaving aside any question of PEDs association) and still omit a few qualified candidates.


Candidates for the 2013 Hall of Fame Ballot

The following two tables list the 37 candidates on the 2013 ballot, first the 27 position players, and then the 10 pitchers. They are ranked by their career Wins Above Replacement from Baseball Reference (bWAR) along with other representative qualitative statistics (explained below each table).

Here are the 27 position players on the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot, ranked by bWAR.

Position Players on the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot, Ranked by bWAR

Position Player

Slash Line

bWAR

fWAR

OPS+

wRC+

Bonds, Barry

.298/.444/.607

158.1

168.0

182

172

Bagwell, Jeff

.297/.408/.540

76.7

83.9

149

149

Walker, Larry

.313/.400/.565

69.7

73.2

141

141

Trammell, Alan

.285/.352/.415

67.1

69.5

110

111

Raines, Tim

.294/.385/.425

66.2

70.6

123

126

Palmeiro, Rafael

.288/.371/.515

66.1

74.2

132

130

Lofton, Kenny

.299/.372/.423

64.9

66.2

107

110

Martinez, Edgar

.312/.418/.515

64.4

69.9

147

148

Biggio, Craig

.281/.363/.433

62.1

70.5

112

115

McGwire, Mark

.263/.394/.588

58.7

70.6

163

157

Piazza, Mike

.308/.377/.545

56.1

66.8

143

141

Sosa, Sammy

.273/.344/.534

54.8

64.1

128

123

McGriff, Fred

.284/.377/.509

48.2

61.0

134

134

Williams, Bernie

.297/.381/.477

45.9

47.5

125

126

Murphy, Dale

.265/.346/.469

42.6

47.3

121

120

Finley, Steve

.271/.332/.442

40.4

44.2

104

104

Mattingly, Don

.307/.358/.471

39.8

45.8

127

124

Franco, Julio

.298/.365/.417

39.7

48.6

111

112

Sanders, Reggie

.267/.343/.487

36.7

41.8

115

115

Cirillo, Jeff

.296/.366/.430

32.0

36.4

102

104

Green, Shawn

.283/.355/.494

31.4

34.9

120

118

White, Rondell

.284/.336/.462

25.5

26.2

108

108

Klesko, Ryan

.279/.370/.500

24.6

32.7

128

127

Clayton, Royce

.258/.312/.367

16.4

21.7

78

76

Conine, Jeff

.285/.347/.443

16.2

24.4

107

107

Alomar Jr., Sandy

.273/.309/.406

11.6

15.7

86

85

Walker, Todd

.289/.348/.435

8.3

11.5

98

98

 

Slash Line: Grouping of the player's career batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.

bWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference.

fWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by FanGraphs.

OPS+: Career on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by Baseball Reference. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 OPS+ indicating a league-average player, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a player is than a league-average player.

wRC+: Career weighted Runs Created, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by FanGraphs. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 wRC+ indicating a league-average player, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a player is than a league-average player.

Here are the 10 pitchers on the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot, ranked by bWAR.

Pitchers on the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot, Ranked by bWAR

Pitcher

W-L (S), ERA

bWAR

fWAR

ERA+

ERA-

Clemens, Roger

354-184, 3.12

133.1

145.5

143

70

Schilling, Curt

216-146, 3.46

76.9

86.1

127

80

Wells, David

239-157, 4.13

49.4

61.2

108

93

Morris, Jack

254-186, 3.90

39.3

56.9

105

95

Smith, Lee

71-92 (478), 3.03

27.9

29.0

132

73

Williams, Woody

132-116, 4.19

25.0

19.8

103

97

Sele, Aaron

148-112, 4.61

17.2

33.6

100

99

Hernandez, Roberto

67-71 (326), 3.45

17.2

15.2

131

77

Stanton, Mike

68-63 (84), 3.92

12.6

13.7

112

90

Mesa, Jose

80-109 (321), 4.36

9.5

13.5

100

100

 

W-L (S), ERA: Grouping of the pitcher's career win-loss record (and career saves, if applicable) and career earned run average (ERA).

bWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference.

fWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by FanGraphs.

ERA+: Career ERA, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by Baseball Reference. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 ERA+ indicating a league-average pitcher, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a pitcher is than a league-average pitcher.

ERA-: Career ERA, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by FanGraphs. Negatively indexed to 100, with a 100 ERA- indicating a league-average pitcher, and values below 100 indicating the degrees better a pitcher is than a league-average pitcher.


WAR: "What Is It Good For?"

With apologies to Edwin Starr (technically, Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield), WAR is good for making a quick-and-dirty assessment of a player's value. The concept, which has been tried in various forms, is to determine how much an individual player contributes directly to his team's winning (or losing); in the case of WAR, the baseline is a replacement player, either a league-average player or a minor-league player called up to the major leagues, and the measurement is to determine how many more wins a player contributes to his team—his overall value to his team's success—compared to this hypothetical league-average replacement player.

WAR has proved to be controversial for a number of reasons. One reason is that there can be a tendency to use WAR as a single, or ultimate, unifying statistic to establish the last word in a player's relative worth, a direction suggested by the two tables above, which have ranked both position players and pitchers using the Baseball Reference version of WAR. Another reason is that there are a number of different versions of WAR, each calculated using a slightly different approach, although both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs use run analysis—creating runs and preventing runs—as its basis. Because of the differences in calculation, FanGraphs's WAR values tend to be higher than Baseball Reference's; for career WAR assessments, FanGraphs's values tend to be between approximately five and ten wins-above-replacement higher than Baseball Reference's.

Finally, because WAR is often used as an omnibus statistic to measure a player's worth, it is erroneously considered to be an event to be watched for, just like watching for a batter to hit a milestone home run. This perception was stated on this website in an interview with former catcher Gregg Zaun: "You can’t really itemize the exact moment that a player hits a 100 lifetime in WAR." True enough, but even with classic calculated statistics such as batting average and earned run average, you don't "itemize" those exact moments, either. You never see a hitter reach a .300 batting average directly—you can see the hit he produced that led to the .300 batting average, but unless the scoreboard flashes the change in the hitter's average (or you are computing it yourself independently), the .300 average itself is an abstract concept. Earned run average is even more opaque—you can watch a pitcher record the outs that contribute to his innings pitched along with the earned runs he does or does not allow that determine what his ERA is, but you cannot see that ERA itself rise or fall directly on the field.

Yet both batting average and earned run average have been used for decades to determine player value, including that final legacy—is that player a Hall of Famer? Assuming his career was sufficiently long enough, a hitter who averages .300 for his career is automatically in consideration as a qualified Hall candidate; similarly, a pitcher whose ERA is below 3.00 is also a definite Hall candidate. These two qualitative evaluations had been integral—and in many cases crucial—to the selection process for many years. Now we have a wealth of other qualitative statistics to measure performance and value that includes WAR, which has often been used, or has often been interpreted as being used, as the One Statistic to Rule Them All—the be-all and end-all to determining a player's value.

On the other hand . . . if you look at the list of lifetime leaders in WAR, either on Baseball Reference or on FanGraphs, you will see at the top the names of many players who have historically been considered to be the greatest ever to have played the game, most of whom had been judged before the advent of advanced statistics such as WAR to be Hall of Fame players and so were duly elected to the Hall. This includes hitters such as Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, Mel Ott, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, and Joe Morgan, and pitchers such as Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, Pete Alexander, Lefty Grove, Warren Spahn, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, and Steve Carlton. Although we cannot rule out entirely the possibility of confirmation bias here with respect to WAR, voters from bygone decades, without the benefit of sabermetrics, determined that these players were among the best-ever in baseball history—assessments reinforced through advanced measurements such as WAR.

Narrowing the Ballot

This is why I used a version of WAR to list the 2013 candidates: It is the best single measure for ranking the candidates. Also, it is the only way to rank both position players and pitchers as their specific measures of offensive and defensive performances are complementary and incompatible. I did also list universal qualitative statistics for both position players (OPS+, wRC+) and pitchers (ERA+, ERA-) as additional comparative metrics. You will notice a close correlation of those metrics with the WAR rankings.

The table below combines both position players and pitchers into a ranking by bWAR.

All 2013 Hall of Fame Candidates, Ranked by bWAR

Rank

Player

bWAR

fWAR

1

Bonds, Barry

158.1

168.0

2

Clemens, Roger

133.1

145.5

3

Schilling, Curt

76.9

86.1

4

Bagwell, Jeff

76.7

83.9

5

Walker, Larry

69.7

73.2

6

Trammell, Alan

67.1

69.5

7

Raines, Tim

66.2

70.6

8

Palmeiro, Rafael

66.1

74.2

9

Lofton, Kenny

64.9

66.2

10

Martinez, Edgar

64.4

69.9

11

Biggio, Craig

62.1

70.5

12

McGwire, Mark

58.7

70.6

13

Piazza, Mike

56.1

66.8

14

Sosa, Sammy

54.8

64.1

15

Wells, David

49.4

61.2

16

McGriff, Fred

48.2

61.0

17

Williams, Bernie

45.9

47.5

18

Murphy, Dale

42.6

47.3

19

Finley, Steve

40.4

44.2

20

Mattingly, Don

39.8

45.8

21

Franco, Julio

39.7

48.6

22

Morris, Jack

39.3

56.9

23

Sanders, Reggie

36.7

41.8

24

Cirillo, Jeff

32.0

36.4

25

Green, Shawn

31.4

34.9

26

Smith, Lee

27.9

29.0

27

White, Rondell

25.5

26.2

28

Williams, Woody

25.0

19.8

29

Klesko, Ryan

24.6

32.7

30

Sele, Aaron

17.2

33.6

31

Hernandez, Roberto

17.2

15.2

32

Clayton, Royce

16.4

21.7

33

Conine, Jeff

16.2

24.4

34

Stanton, Mike

12.6

13.7

35

Alomar Jr., Sandy

11.6

15.7

36

Mesa, Jose

9.5

13.5

37

Walker, Todd

8.3

11.5

 

This table gives a clear indication of just how overstuffed is the 2013 ballot. Even if we cut the list after the median player, Steve Finley at Number 19, that leaves nearly twice as many candidates for consideration as can be voted upon—remember, voters can choose a maximum of ten—while three candidates cut from the list—Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, and Lee Smith—have survived many previous ballots with cases made regularly for their inclusion in the Hall.

For sake of argument, voting for the top ten players ranked by bWAR would still omit players with significant milestones in their records, who on a less-crowded ballot would garner a vote, including Craig Biggio (3060 hits, 668 doubles, 291 home runs, 1844 runs scored, 414 stolen bases), Mark McGwire (583 home runs, 1414 runs batted in, 1317 bases on balls, .394 on-base percentage, .588 slugging average, first in lifetime at-bats per home run with 10.61), Mike Piazza (the greatest-hitting catcher of all-time: 2127 hits, 427 home runs, .308 batting average, .545 slugging average), and Sammy Sosa (2408 hits, eighth in lifetime home runs with 609, the only man in history with three seasons of 60 or more home runs, 1667 runs batted in). In addition, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, and Bernie Williams have all generated cases for the Hall. Even David Wells, with his 239 wins tied for 57th all-time with Hall of Famer Mordecai Brown, sported a .604 winning percentage despite a 4.13 ERA. Finally, relief pitchers Lee Smith, Roberto Hernandez, and Jose Mesa fall off the list because their bWAR values are low; however, such a specialized role will yield a lower value than that of an everyday position player or a starting pitcher, indicating that evaluating a specialized role such as a relief pitcher cannot be definitively determined by using WAR.

Ah, but you have undoubtedly noticed the 800-pound gorilla in the room: performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Four of the top ten players listed in the table above, and seven of the top fourteen, have been associated with PEDs including one, Jeff Bagwell, simply rumored to have been a PEDs user with not even circumstantial evidence to substantiate the claim. (Another player, Larry Walker, seems to be getting penalized because his home park was on steroids: Walker posted literally stratospheric numbers at pre-humidor Coors Field in Denver.)

In addition to being overstuffed with qualified candidates, the 2013 ballot is also a referendum on the Steroids Era, to which we now turn.

Embarrassment of Conduct: Performance-enhancing Drugs

With respect to performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), or steroids, the 2013 ballot is a watershed ballot that will force the Hall, through the stance of the voters of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA), to codify its de facto policy concerning PEDs. How Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens fare for their first time on the ballot will in essence establish the referendum on PEDs because on career numbers alone, divorced from how those numbers were derived, each has one of the strongest cases for Hall of Fame inclusion in the history of the sport.

Bonds of course is the lifetime leader in home runs (762) in addition to being the dominant hitter in the big leagues for much of his career; he is also the lifetime leader in bases on balls (2558) and far and away the lifetime leader in intentional bases on balls—more than twice as many (688) as runner-up Hank Aaron (293)—a sure sign of respect for his hitting prowess. Similarly, Clemens was arguably the dominant pitcher of his time, compiling 354 wins (ninth all-time) and 4672 strikeouts (third all-time) over his career.

Certainly, two PEDs-tainted players, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, have been on the ballot previously, and their fates have already suggested the stance of the voters toward steroids. McGwire is tenth in lifetime home runs, with 583, in a range that includes Frank Robinson (586), Harmon Killebrew (573), and Reggie Jackson (563), all Hall of Famers—but McGwire reached that plateau in much fewer at-bats. In fact, McGwire is the career leader in fewest at-bats per home run, 10.61, ahead of Babe Ruth (11.76) and Bonds (12.92).

Palmeiro's is an even more auspicious case: He is one of only four men to have compiled more than 3000 hits (3020) and 500 home runs (569) in his career. The other three to do that—Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Eddie Murray—were all elected to the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. In 2011, Palmeiro's first year on the ballot, he received just 11.0 percent of the vote, with a very slight uptick to 12.6 percent the following year. The voters' intent seemed very clear: Association with PEDs is the kiss of death for Hall of Fame chances. (Palmeiro, you will recall, angrily denied using PEDs before a Congressional committee in 2005—only to fail a drug test less than five months later.)


MVP and Cy Young: The BBWAA Has Already Spoken

But here is why the vote for first-time candidates Bonds and Clemens will force the issue once and for all despite Palmeiro's case: The BBWAA has already expressed its opinions on Bonds and Clemens previously—and in both cases, they were overwhelmingly positive.

You see, Bonds has been voted his league's Most Valuable Player (MVP) a record-setting seven times. Clemens has been voted his league's Cy Young Award winner a record-setting seven times; Clemens was also voted MVP in his Cy Young year of 1986, an unusual honor for a pitcher. Both the MVP and Cy Young Award are decided by voters from the BBWAA—the same body that votes on Hall of Fame candidacy. Clemens won the Cy Young in 2001 and in 2004, while Bonds was voted MVP four consecutive times from 2001 to 2004, right in the teeth of the so-called Steroids Era.

How can the same body, the BBWAA, that blessed Bonds and Clemens for their seasonal accomplishments—particularly Bonds, bestowed with MVP awards as the PEDs controversy heated to a boil—now deny the two the sum total of those seasonal accomplishments, their place in the Hall of Fame?

This is a collective charge, not an individual one; I do not know if any of the BBWAA voters who voted for any of Bonds's MVPs and Clemens's Cy Youngs are also voters for this year's Hall of Fame ballot. But as a collective body the BBWAA is responsible for the seasonal awards and for the lifetime legacy of Hall of Fame enshrinement, and it will be conspicuous—indeed glaring—for the collective writers to now deny Bonds and Clemens entrance to Cooperstown after having showered them with unprecedented numbers of MVP and Cy Young awards. This was not a factor with either Palmeiro or McGwire. Palmeiro's best MVP finish was fifth, in 1999. McGwire's best MVP showing was as a distant runner-up to Sammy Sosa in 1998, when both broke Roger Maris's single-season home run record. Sosa's own case also comes under scrutiny this year.

The PEDs Problem: The Nutshell

The use of PEDs in baseball has produced a moral dudgeon unrivaled in the sport since eight players from the Chicago White Sox were caught colluding with gamblers to lose the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. It has also produced a witch-hunt hysteria unrivaled since the anti-Communist fervor of both Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s.

Those objecting to the use of PEDs in baseball claim that the very foundations of the sport have been shaken by those "cheaters" who have engineered an unfair advantage by artificially enhancing their physical capabilities through consumption of anabolic steroids or human growth hormones (HGH). This was the position taken by the committee chaired by former Senator George Mitchell (Dem.-Maine) that investigated PEDs usage in baseball; its 2007 report to Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig stressed the illegality of using PEDs while asserting that their use "poses a serious threat to the integrity of the game" and "raises questions about the validity of baseball records" (both quotes from the Mitchell Report). Mitchell's investigation faulted all of Major League Baseball for its failure to act, including the Major League Baseball Players' Association (MBLPA), the players' union, which proved quite reluctant to cooperate with Mitchell's investigation and had opposed any kind of drug program, including mandatory testing, until 2002.

Since 1971, any prescription drug without a valid prescription had been prohibited by MLB, and steroids were expressly stated as part of this policy by 1991, but it wasn't until 2002 that this prohibition was added to the collective bargaining agreement, which then included provisions for mandatory random testing. However, players soon switched to HGH as that was undetectable by the then-current tests. But just to illustrate the haphazard nature of testing and legality, Mark McGwire was spotted in 1998 with an open container of androstenedione, a precursor to anabolic steroids, in his locker, although "andro" was not yet on the list of banned substances at that time, even though other sports bodies including the National Football League (NFL), the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had banned it.

By 2005 the PEDs issue was blown across the headlines when Jose Canseco published his tell-all memoir Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big (Regan Books), which solidified all previous comment and speculation about PEDs usage in baseball while naming all kinds of names. Canseco's book spurred a Congressional investigation and Mitchell's investigation, and from then on PEDs have cast a pall over baseball. Drug testing has become more stringent, with penalties becoming more severe—a third violation results in a lifetime ban from baseball—and an entire decade of baseball, from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, is now considered tainted because of the players—what is the number? 30 percent? 50 percent? everyone?—suspected of, or admitting to, using PEDs.

But what are the real, actual consequences of PEDs on baseball? Using PEDs will make you a stronger player, but they will not make you a better player in terms of skill. Yes, the most obvious effects are on hitting a ball farther, with the direct result being an increase in home runs, and throwing a ball faster. The dramatic growth in home run production during this time is the crown jewel in the case against PEDs. But it is interesting that the proportion of hitters using PEDs and pitchers using PEDs is roughly equal, which of course prompts the question: At what point does PEDs usage become a zero-sum game? The pitcher who served up home run number 755 to Barry Bonds, which tied him with Hank Aaron for the lifetime record, was Clay Hensley, who had been suspended for ten games in the minor leagues in 2005 for testing positive for banned substances; Bonds of course was by then a poster boy for PEDs. Leaving aside the gross disparities in skill—how many pitchers could be a match for Bonds? maybe only Clemens?—were they not evenly matched? And largely ignored has been the increase in both aggregate strikeout rates and strikeout totals since the mid-1990s.

But home runs are sexy (and as Kevin Costner's Crash Davis put it in Bull Durham, strikeouts are fascist), so it is to the long ball that we turn now.


"Chicks Dig the Long Ball"

Home runs are the most salient aspect of the Steroids Era, and it is true that beginning in 1996 baseball saw a dramatic increase in home runs going back to at least 1980.

Work stoppages in 1981, 1994, and 1995 affected seasonal totals as none of those years had full seasons of play. The 1994 players' strike took effect in August and forced the cancellation of the postseason—the first time since 1904 that there had not been a World Series since its inception in 1903, and the reason in 1904 was that the National League's (NL) then-New York Giants owner John T. Brush and manager John McGraw refused to play the then-Boston Americans (later the Red Sox) from the upstart American League (AL), which had come into being in 1901.

The strike was resolved in 1995, with play resuming in mid-April, and all teams played a 144-game schedule (instead of the usual 162 games) that year. However, fan disgust toward this interruption, at the time the most disruptive in professional team sports, was both palpable and lasting. MLB's popularity plummeted for the next two seasons—with the corresponding decline in revenue, a significant factor as these work stoppages are popularly regarded as "millionaires [players] fighting with billionaires [owners]."

Then came the 1998 season, and four players—Ken Griffey, Jr., Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Greg Vaughn—had all hit at least 30 home runs by the midseason All-Star break, and excitement soared as history appeared to be in the making: at least one hitter had a realistic chance of breaking Roger Maris's 37-year-old record of 61 home runs in a season, itself breaking the mark of 60 home runs set by Babe Ruth in 1927. Although Vaughn (50 homers total in 1998) and Griffey, Jr., (56 homers) fell short, both McGwire and Sosa swapped long balls into September. McGwire passed Maris on September 8—by contrast, Maris passed Ruth on the last day of the 1961 season and engendered controversy as Maris played in a 162-game season while Ruth had played in a 154-game season in 1927—and by the end of the 1998 season both McGwire and Sosa had shattered Maris's mark; McGwire finished with 70 homers while Sosa had 66. (Sosa had passed Maris's mark on September 13.)

The 1998 home-run chase has been widely cited as the event that "saved baseball" in the wake of the 1994 strike-shortened season as it seemed that even non-baseball fans were caught up in the excitement and anticipation. MLB began a series of television promotions built on the catch-phrase that "chicks dig the long ball"—and, indeed, home run production had soared to historic proportions.

The following table lists home run production across both major leagues from 1980 to 2012. It is listed by tiers starting with the total number of players who hit at least 20 home runs in a given season, then moving to that number who hit at least 30 or more, and so on.

MLB Home Runs by Tier, 1980 – 2012

Year

20 or More

30 or More

40 or More

50 or More

60 or More

1980

34

9

3

0

0

a1981

10

1

 

0

0

1982

51

16

0

0

0

1983

41

12

1

0

0

1984

44

9

0

0

0

1985

59

13

1

0

0

1986

62

13

1

0

0

1987

82

28

4

0

0

1988

45

5

1

0

0

1989

38

10

1

0

0

1990

45

12

3

1

0

1991

49

12

3

0

0

1992

40

10

3

0

0

1993

64

22

5

0

0

b1994

31

9

1

0

0

c1995

59

21

4

1

0

1996

82

43

16

2

0

1997

81

31

11

1

0

1998

84

33

13

0

2

1999

106

44

13

0

2

2000

97

46

16

1

0

2001

89

40

12

2

2

2002

79

28

8

2

0

2003

81

29

10

0

0

2004

93

36

9

0

0

2005

77

27

9

1

0

2006

91

33

11

2

0

2007

84

26

5

2

0

2008

90

25

2

0

0

2009

85

30

5

0

0

2010

75

18

2

1

0

2011

67

24

2

0

0

2012

79

27

6

0

0

 

a: Work stoppage halts season for two months; teams averaged about 107 games played altogether.

b: Work stoppage ends season; teams averaged about 113 games played altogether.

c: Work stoppage resolved; all teams played 144 games.

The numbers indicate a clear upward trend in home runs hit at each tier since 1996. Beginning in 1996, the number of hitters with 20 or more home runs in a season, across both leagues, has been around 84 per season, with a slight downward trend since 2010. The number of hitters with 30 or more since 1996 has averaged 31, with a similar slight downward trend since 2010.

The number of players hitting 40 or more in a season is even more dramatic, hitting double digits in all but three seasons between 1996 and 2006. The rarefied air of 50 or more home runs in a season is equally eye-catching. In 1991, Cecil Fielder hit 51 home runs, the first time since George Foster hit 52 in 1977 that any player in either league had reached the 50-homer mark.

But beginning in 1995, a 144-game season, Albert Belle slugged 50 homers (while also knocking 52 doubles—becoming the first player to hit at least 50 in each category in the same season). And from 1996 to 2010, 14 players hit at least 50 long flies, with six of those hitting 60 or more: Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire (twice), and Sammy Sosa (thrice)—and all three are the faces of PEDs in baseball. Prior to 1998, the year of the home-run chase that "saved baseball," only Babe Ruth and Roger Maris had ever hit 60 or more home runs in a season.

By contrast, between 1980 and 1995, the 20-or-more tier has averaged 47 hitters per year, and the 30-or-more tier has averaged 12 hitters per year—keeping in mind that this period had three seasons that did not play a full complement of games. That has especial intrigue in the strike-shortened 1994 season, when Matt Williams had hit 43 home runs in 112 games and Ken Griffey, Jr., had hit 40 in 111 games before play stopped, and we will never know if either or both were truly "on a pace" to equal or top Maris's record. Furthermore, MLB experienced expansion twice starting in 1993: That year saw the NL add the Colorado Rockies and the Florida (now Miami) Marlins, while 1998 ushered in another NL team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the AL added the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now simply the Rays). In addition to adding to the number of potential home-run hitters, expansion typically results in a dilution of overall talent, meaning that pitching is not as strong, with the corresponding increased opportunities for hitters.

But the biggest factor in the spike in home runs, both in the total number of players hitting them and in the number of home runs hit per season by any single player, is of course steroids, at least according to the conventional wisdom. Was every player with an auspicious home run total, in a single season or for his career, really a suspicious player on the juice?


Guilty Until Proven Innocent? . . .

In 1996, at the start of the inflated home run period, center fielder Brady Anderson of the Baltimore Orioles hit 50 home runs in his age-32 season. Anderson had never hit more than 21 home runs previously (in 1992), and his highest subsequent total was 24 in 1999. In 2001, the same year in which Barry Bonds set the single-season home run mark with 73, left fielder Luis Gonzalez of the Arizona Diamondbacks notched 57 homers. Like Anderson, Gonzalez doubled his single-season output in 2001; in a ten-year stretch from 1996 to 2005, in his ages 28-to-37 seasons, "Gonzo" averaged 26 homers a year, hitting no more than 31 long balls in 2000; removing those outlier 57 homers in 2001, his nine-year average is 22 homers.

The 2001 season also saw a pair of middle infielders post career-high single-season marks. Seattle Mariners' second baseman Bret Boone hit 37 home runs in his age-32 season after never notching more than 24 previously (in 1998); Boone hit 35 homers in 2003, and had four other seasons in which he had collected at least 20 homers. Coincidentally, San Francisco Giants' shortstop Rich Aurilia also slammed 37 round-trippers in 2001, at age 29, nearly twice as many as he'd hit at any time in his career.

The 2001 season was a curious one, and we will examine it shortly, but the outlier experiences of the four players above, particularly the three with career totals in 2001, the apex (or nadir, depending on your outlook) of the steroids period, has been almost automatically attributed to the use of PEDs. Granted, Boone was named specifically in Canseco's book Juiced although he has (almost as automatically) denied the charge, and Gonzalez went as far as holding a press conference to deny allegations of PED usage.

In the wake of 104 names listed in the Mitchell Report that include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Stanton, and Rondell White—all on the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot—and the results of a 2003 drug test, whose existence was stated in a 2009 news report and whose number included Sammy Sosa, another 2013 ballot choice, and Alex Rodriguez, who admitted to using PEDs from 2001 to 2003, the assumption is that a player whose performance, particularly his home-run production, seems abnormal must have been using PEDs—they are guilty until proven innocent. (Certainly that is the stance of websites that have high search-optimization rates such as the Bleacher Report and the Good Men Project, which seems to have a larger, sanctimonious agenda that strikes me as being a little creepy, but that is another story.)

That assumption seems to have borne out as true based on one of the earliest player admissions.

. . . Or Is It Proven? The Curious Case of Ken Caminiti

To tell from the experience of Ken Caminiti, there is no denying that PED usage has some kind of an impact on performance. In 1996, the San Diego Padres' third baseman became the NL MVP in his age-33 year with an outstanding offensive campaign that included career highs in batting average (.326), home runs (40), and runs batted in (130). Caminiti subsequently admitted that he had begun taking PEDs that season and continued to do so up to his 2001 retirement. (He then died prematurely of a drug overdose at age 41 in 2004.)

For the seven years between 1989 and 1995, when he became a full-time player through his ages 26 through 32 seasons—commonly regarded as a player's prime—Caminiti posted a .269/.335/.410 slash line and averaged 29 doubles, 14 home runs, 67 runs scored, and 73 runs batted in while generating a 107 OPS+ (a little better than league-average) and 16.6 WAR of his career 30.9 WAR. For the seven-year stretch from 1996, when he began using PEDs, through his final season in 2001, his ages 33 through 38 seasons, Caminiti posted a .282/.377/.522 slash line and averaged 22 doubles, 23 home runs, 68 runs scored, and 74 runs batted in while generating a 135 OPS+ and 15.4 WAR of his total 30.9 WAR. (Caminiti's first two seasons, in 1987 and 1988, produced a minus 1.1 WAR, if you are wondering how 16.6 and 15.4 seem to add to 30.9.)

Can a player get better even as he moves through his decline years of the mid- to late-thirties? Can "improved conditioning, nutrition, and training techniques" really be that effective? Or are those code words for performance-enhancing drugs?

Caminiti joins the procession of players, either through implication or admission, connected with steroids, including the biggest names of the last two decades: Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Jason Giambi, Juan Gonzalez, Kevin Brown, Eric Gagne, and a host of others including Mike Piazza, who has admitted to using "andro" (androstenedione) early in his career, a time when it was not yet illegal, and Jeff Bagwell, who is merely guilty by appearance. The verdict for alleged or admitted steroid users has indeed been guilty: Bagwell, McGwire, and Palmeiro, each with solid Hall of Fame cases, have struggled to earn votes while Brown and Gonzalez fell off the ballot sooner than expected. With Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa on the ballot for the first time this year, it will be an explicit instead of a de facto referendum as all three, divorced from PEDs, would be considered first-ballot Hall of Famers as we near the announcements of the 2013 vote.

However, outliers do occur. Hall of Fame third baseman Wade Boggs was a doubles machine but was never considered to be a home run threat (although ironically his 3000th hit was a home run; only Derek Jeter has ever repeated that feat for his 3000th hit). Yet in 1987 Boggs slugged 24 home runs, three times his usual seasonal number until 1994, when he approached double digits in homers (11) for only the second time in his career. Recall from the table above that 1987 was an outlier year from the period 1980 to 1995, with Boggs now among that tier of 82 hitters with 20 or more home runs in 1987.

Another Hall of Famer, right fielder Tony Gwynn, was similarly not considered to be a home run threat, having reached double digits in homers once—14 in 1986—prior to 1994, when he hit 12 round-trippers. Yet late in his career, in his age-37 to age-39 seasons, Gwynn posted double-digit home run totals in all three years including a career high of 17 in 1997, one shy of that career high in 1998—although he did it in 131 fewer at-bats—and 10 home runs in 411 at-bats in 1999.

This late-career power surge coincided with the heart of the Steroids Era—moreover, admitted steroids user Ken Caminiti, who began using PEDs in 1996, was Gwynn's San Diego Padres teammate from 1995 to 1998. Gwynn's career defies the conventional wisdom of the straight-line decline of a baseball player's skills as he moves through his thirties: Gwynn won four consecutive NL batting titles from 1994 to 1997 (flirting with .400 during the strike-shortened 1994 season when he finished with a .394 average in 110 games), when he was in his age-34 to age-37 seasons. In fact, for the last six years of his career as a full-time player, from ages 34 to 39, Gwynn posted a .358/.402/.504 slash line (his career slugging average was only .459) with 174 hits, 34 doubles, 11 home runs, 75 runs scored and 76 runs batted in. These are not the statistics of a player in decline, particularly one who was nagged by a heel injury during the 1996 season that required surgery prior to his age-37 season. Furthermore, as any change in a player's appearance in the Steroids Era is regarded with suspicion, Gwynn's appearance did change as he went from a lithe young ballplayer to a portly veteran hitter dubbed "The Round Mound of Batting Crowns."

This is hardly to suggest that Tony Gwynn used PEDs at any time during his justifiably Hall of Fame career. Yet his late-career excellence, including an admittedly modest power surge, is an aberration compared to the average player's experience—and any anomalous event during the Steroids Era, such as Brady Anderson's 50-homer season, has been automatically regarded with suspicion.

Every individual event must be evaluated on its own circumstances, yes, which means that blanket condemnation also cannot be employed. For example, even if several hitters who post high home run totals are materially or circumstantially linked to PEDs, any hitter regarded as clean who posts a similar high total disproves the contention that all players were juicing and thus not all the numbers are tainted—moreover, it suggests that there might be other causal factors for the power surge during the Steroids Era. Such a situation revealed itself in 2001.


2001: A Sports Oddity—or a "Black Swan Event"?

With apologies to Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, although 2001 saw a slight dip in overall home runs from the previous two seasons, it was the year in which Barry Bonds established the current single-season home run total with 73, and this is one of the prime pieces of evidence as to how PEDs have "raise[d] questions about the validity of baseball records," as stated in the Mitchell Report.

In fact, of the 89 players who hit at least 20 home runs in 2001, 16 of them, 12 from the NL and 4 from the AL, established career highs in home runs that season while four, two from each league, tied their career high. Several players who did not establish a career high but hit a lot of home runs in 2001 have been associated with PEDs including Sammy Sosa (64), Alex Rodriguez (52), Rafael Palmeiro (47), Troy Glaus (41), and Manny Ramirez (41).

The following table lists the 20 players with at least 20 home runs in 2001 who set or tied their career high in home runs in that season along with their next-highest single-season total and the year(s) in which that occurred.

Players with at Least 20 HR in 2001

Player

Age

2001 HR

Next-highest

Year

Bonds, Barry

36

73

49

2000

Gonzalez, Luis

33

57

31

2000

Green, Shawn

28

49

42

1999, 2002

Helton, Todd

27

49

42

2000

Palmeiro, Rafael

36

47

47

1999

Sexson, Richie

26

45

45

2003

Nevin, Phil

30

41

31

2000

Aurilia, Rich

29

37

23

2006

Boone, Bret

32

37

35

2003

Cruz, Jose

27

34

31

2000

Sanders, Reggie

33

33

31

2003

Abreu, Bobby

27

31

30

2004

Sweeney, Mike

27

29

29

2000

Koskie, Corey

28

26

25

2004

Hernandez, Jose

31

25

24

2002

Jordan, Brian

34

25

25

1998

Lo Duca, Paul

29

25

13

2004

Stevens, Lee

33

25

24

1999

Trammell, Bubba

29

25

17

2002

Daubach, Brian

29

22

21

1999, 2000

 

Of the players with 34 or fewer home runs, only Paul Lo Duca, then with the Los Angeles Dodgers, showed a significant increase in home runs from his next-highest total. Lo Duca is one of the players cited by the Mitchell Report as having an association with PEDs. Otherwise, these players exceeding or tying their single-season highs did not have a significant increase.

It is when examining the players with more than 34 home runs that the anomalies arise—and with them questions about who did or did not use PEDs. As noted previously, Bonds, Palmeiro, and Bret Boone have been heavily implicated with steroids. The Padres' Phil Nevin, who took over third base from Ken Caminiti, also had the PEDs suspicion applied to him for his 41 round-trippers although no evidence has emerged.

The Colorado Rockies' first baseman Todd Helton's career-high and next career-high have to be evaluated against his home park, Coors Field, which didn't begin using a humidifier to neutralize the altitude effects on baseballs until 2002, leading to an inflation of home runs. In 2000, Helton hit nearly twice as many homers in Coors Field, 27, as he did on the road, although in 2001 the five more homers he hit were all on the road, giving him a more balanced home-road split of 27 at Coors and 22 on the road.

The most dramatic increase, both in magnitude and in total number, is the Arizona Diamondbacks' left fielder Luis Gonzalez, whose 57 home runs nearly doubles his second-best seasonal total, 31, set the previous season. Gonzalez's effort coincided with the start of Arizona's Bank One Ballpark (now Chase Field) being considered to be a hitter-friendly park, although 31 of Gonzalez's homers were hit on the road. The next most dramatic increase was San Francisco Giants' shortstop Rich Aurilia's 37 homers, besting his previous mark of 22 homers in 1999.

Los Angeles Dodgers' right fielder Shawn Green also set a personal best in 2001 with 49 home runs; hitting in pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium, Green, not surprisingly, hit 30 of those 49 round-trippers on the road. But Green had hit 42 home runs in 1999 as a Blue Jay batting in Toronto's fairly hitter-neutral SkyDome (now the Rogers Centre), and repeated that total while playing in more pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium in 2002, hitting only 18 of those 42 homers in L.A. Between 1998 and 2002, his age-25 through age-29 seasons, Green had a five-year peak in which he averaged 38 homers, 333 total bases, 21 stolen bases, a .545 slugging percentage, a 137 OPS+, and a 5.2 bWAR—that is all-star quality—per season. For eight years from 1998 to 2005, his age-25 through age-32 seasons, Green was a respectable power hitter, posting a .284/.363/.516 slash line with seasonal averages of 37 doubles, 33 home runs, 312 total bases, 104 runs scored, 101 runs batted in, 16 stolen bases, a 128 OPS+, and a 3.8 bWAR. His numbers during this period might have been higher had left-shoulder tendonitis not hampered him in 2003, limiting him to 19 homers although he hit a career-high 49 doubles.

By 2006, his age-33 year, Green's effectiveness had dropped off, and he retired following the 2007 season. Green's career was a solid one that exhibited the expected arc: a few seasons of maturation before he hit his stride, producing at an all-star peak from 1998 to 2002 before experiencing a steadily-increasing decline—in other words, the kind of career one expects of a player not suspected of using PEDs.

Yet Green's career-high 49 home runs in 2001 attracted suspicion and allegations of juicing, mixed as they were among the career highs and near-career highs of players suspected of using PEDs, including some who subsequently acquired more positive evidence. But 2001 was an unusually good year for home runs; Jim Thome crushed 49 round-trippers, topped only by the 52 he hit the following season, and Thome has been consistently regarded as one of the "clean" players of Steroids Era. (Although appreciation of Thome's march to 600 career home runs was strangely muted, as I noted in August 2011.) And if Luis Gonzalez and Rich Aurilia, along with Phil Nevin and Richie Sexson, join Green and Thome as clean players who hit an unusually high number of home runs in 2001, then we just might have a black swan event on our hands.

The theory of black swan events refers to this idea: If conventional wisdom holds that all swans are white but then a black swan appears, two possibilities are that a) the black swan is not a swan or b) the black swan is a swan, and conventional wisdom must be revised in light of this new evidence. In baseball terms, the "all swans are white" conventional wisdom (and you could put the term conventional wisdom in quotes) is that a player who hit an unusually high number of home runs during the Steroids Era must have been using performance-enhancing drugs. But if a player during this era hits an unusually high number of home runs and did not use PEDs, then the "all swans are white"—in other words, all players hitting unusually high numbers of home runs were using PEDs—argument is suspect. And if in a single season such as 2001, in which a high number of players hits unusually high numbers of home runs, a single one of those players proves to be free of PEDs—in other words, is a "black swan"—then there must be other factors to account for why that player hit such an unusually high number of home runs in the company of those "white swans." And if multiple players—more than one "black swan"—prove to be PED-free, then the reason for those unusually high numbers of home runs cannot be PEDs exclusively.

Ah, but proof just might prove to be elusive. Further research is needed, but even that won't satisfy the doubters, and certainly further research cannot arrive in time for the 2013 vote. Many of the players on the 2013 ballot, from first-time eligibles to those already on previous ballots, have been painted by the PEDs brush and labeled "cheaters" whose accomplishments are tainted and in turn those accomplishments cheapen the integrity of the game and its hallowed records.

But has baseball ever been truly clean?

"Cheaters" and the Myth of the Pristine Past

Those who condemn players as "cheaters" who used performance-enhancing drugs have a strong point: The status of those substances prior to 2002 might have been murky—at least the enforcement of and penalties for those substances was—and unlike some of the situations and circumstances described below, electing to use PEDs is a personal decision that puts players who choose not to juice at a disadvantage. Furthermore, unlike using amphetamines, "greenies," which have a transitory effect—the drug wears off after a few hours—using PEDs creates lasting changes to the body.

But those who condemn players of the Steroids Era for sullying the integrity of baseball and tainting its hallowed records do not seem to know, or have forgotten, the inherently skewed history of baseball from its very inception.

A Checkered History

The 19th-century version of major-league baseball was a rough-and-tumble game with changing rules and shady characters both on and off the diamond—no sooner had the National League been formed in 1876 than a gambling scandal rocked the League. The Dead-ball Era of the early 20th century was marked—literally—with repeated attempts during each game to mark, scuff, alter, discolor, and degrade the ball—which was the same ball used for as long as humanly possible, hence the ultimately deadening effect on the ball's elasticity—in the effort to make it as hard as possible to see for hitting and catching. Only when a player, Ray Chapman, was killed by a pitched ball in 1920 were the efforts to use clean balls fully realized, resulting in the Live-ball Era that remains today.

But even then 17 pitchers who had been known spitball pitchers, applying a foreign substance to the ball, were grandfathered for the rest of their careers, meaning that they could continue to throw the spitball even though the pitch itself had been made illegal by 1920. (Chapman had been killed by a spitball thrown by Carl Mays.) Among the grandfathered pitchers who eventually entered the Hall of Fame were Stan Coveleski, Red Faber, and Burliegh Grimes. Another Hall of Fame pitcher, Ed Walsh, is credited with having popularized the spitter, but he had retired following the 1917 season.

Later Hall of Fame pitchers Whitey Ford and especially Gaylord Perry were regularly accused of doctoring the baseball when they pitched. Perry, whose autobiography was titled Me and the Spitter, was suspended for 10 games in 1982 for doctoring the ball; long-time manager Gene Mauch once quipped that Perry "should be in the Hall of Fame with a tube of K-Y Jelly attached to his plaque."

Although the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal led to the lifetime banning from baseball of players who knowingly gambled on the outcomes of games, subsequently affecting the Hall of Fame chances of Joe Jackson, one of the "Black Sox," and, much later, Pete Rose, Hall of Fame superstars Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker had been accused of gambling during their playing days; moreover, both players were regarded to be racists. Cobb famously assaulted a fan in 1912 who had aimed a racial slur at him and was suspended for his actions—and in the first players' strike in baseball history, his teammates refused to play until he was reinstated; this was no small feat because Cobb, an intense competitor and all-around bastard, was disliked even by his own teammates. Speaker allegedly belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, and even as recently as 2008 former players' union executive director Marvin Miller opined that Speaker should be banned from the Hall for this association. (After his retirement, Speaker was instrumental in grooming Larry Doby, the first African-American player in the American League, to play center field for the Cleveland Indians.)

And speaking of race, all records set prior to 1947, when Jackie Robinson became the first African-American player in Major League Baseball in the 20th century, should be suspect because players prior to that were playing against deliberately and institutionally diluted competition. Only white players were allowed to compete in the major leagues. White players who barnstormed against Negro League players in the 1920s and 1930s, including Hall of Famers Babe Ruth and Dizzy Dean, publicly proclaimed the excellence of the Negro League players they competed against. These African-American players could have been major leaguers, with the corresponding effect on competition that entails. As comedian Chris Rock observed, Babe Ruth hit 714 "affirmative-action home runs." How would Ruth have fared against the likes of Ray Brown, Andy Cooper, Martin Dihigo, Jose Mendez, or Satchel Paige, all Negro League pitchers later inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame?


From "Pick-Me-Ups" to PEDs

Even after integration, during the so-called "Golden Era" of baseball in the 1950s and 1960s that saw Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Bob Gibson playing on equal terms with Al Kaline, Mickey Mantle, and Sandy Koufax, allegations of rampant "greenie" use—the widespread use of amphetamines by big-league ballplayers—began to surface starting with former major-league pitcher Jim Bouton's groundbreaking 1969 exposé Ball Four (World). Perhaps because the effects of amphetamine are transitory its usage is distinguished from that of PEDs such as anabolic steroids and human growth hormones; as recently as 2011, renowned broadcaster Bob Costas, critical of the Steroid Era, on MLB TV differentiated the usage of amphetamines by stating that players used them only as a "pick-me-up" after a redeye flight or double header. But isn't a "greenie" still a drug used to enhance performance? Does it matter that its effects are transitory and not more lasting?

And we haven't yet mentioned that there are already suspected steroids users in the Hall of Fame.

Jim "Pud" Galvin—the "Pud" was short for "Pudding," which was what Galvin's pitching reputedly turned hitters into—won 365 games in the last quarter of the 19th century, for which Galvin was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1965 by the Veterans' Committee. Galvin is also the first player widely known for using performance-enhancing drugs: He openly used a concoction known as "Brown-Séquard elixir," which contained monkey testosterone.

Babe Ruth's famous 1925 "bellyache heard 'round the world" might have been caused by the Bambino's attempt to inject himself with an extract from sheep's testicles. It was widely reported at the time that Ruth had overindulged on hot dogs and soda pop, although Ruth was also famously fond of stronger libation—which was illegal.

During Barry Bonds's grim pursuit of Hank Aaron's career home run record, detractors decrying Bonds's PEDs usage held up signs that stated that "Hank Aaron did it with class" (although we do not know whether he might have also done it with amphetamines). Boo-birds also held up signs that stated that "Babe Ruth did it with hot dogs and beer." Even ESPN Baseball color commentator (and Hall of Famer) Joe Morgan had the presence of mind to note that for much of the time in which Ruth was "doing it," beer—alcohol—was an expressly illegal substance. In fact, from 1920 to 1933 alcohol was Constitutionally prohibited in the United States because of passage of the Eighteenth Amendment. Never mind that this Amendment and its ramifications was monumentally short-sighted and destructive, forcing the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcohol into the hands of organized crime (mirroring the effects of the disastrous four-decade-old "War on Drugs" currently, but that is another story), and it remains the only Constitutional Amendment to be repealed, by the Twenty-first Amendment. In Ruth's day it was literally the law of the land, and Ruth broke it repeatedly and gleefully.

And speaking of alcohol, another famed hard-drinking Yankee, Mickey Mantle, might not have had to worry about its legality by the time he was playing baseball (as first detailed by Bouton's Ball Four), but he too might have also been a user of performance-enhancing drugs. As he and teammate Roger Maris were chasing Ruth's single-season home run record in 1961, Mantle developed an abscess on his hip allegedly caused by a botched injection of a chemical cocktail that included steroids and amphetamines. Mantle faded in the chase (he finished with 54 homers), enabling Maris to beat the Babe's record.

And although pitcher Tom House is not a Hall of Fame player, he has been candid about the use of steroids in the 1970s, admitting that he himself used them along with many other pitchers, although he claims that their use did not help his velocity and caused him more physical problems than benefits. (House was the pitcher in the Atlanta Braves' bullpen who caught Aaron's then-record-breaking 715th home run in 1974.)

Home-Field Advantages: Park Effects

We should also mention the very real consequences of "park effects," or the impact of a player's home ballpark on his performance. Historically, ballparks have had custom dimensions that can affect how well or how poorly a player performs in his home park: A "hitter-friendly" park will benefit batters and penalize pitchers, and vice versa. It is a phenomenon that has been long understood but one that has not always factored into overall evaluations.

Philadelphia Phillies' outfielder Chuck Klein, eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame, terrorized pitchers during the late 1920s and early 1930s in his home park the Baker Bowl, a notoriously hitter-friendly park; when he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 1934, Klein's gaudy numbers dropped and never returned even after he himself was returned to the Phillies, and the Baker Bowl, not long after the start of the 1936 season. Klein won the hitting Triple Crown in 1933 with a .368 batting average, 28 home runs, and 120 runs batted in. In the Baker Bowl, Klein hit .467 with 20 homers and 81 RBI; on the road, he hit .280 with 8 homers and 39 RBI. Today, we would liken that to the "Coors Effect" that seems to be dogging Larry Walker's Hall chances.

Baseball lore has long maintained that had Ted Williams, a famous left-handed pull-hitter—he was one of the first batters to have a defensive shift employed regularly against him—played his home games in New York's Yankee Stadium with its celebrated "short porch" in right field instead of Boston's Fenway Park with its longer distance to the right field wall (albeit shortened with the addition of the bullpen before the wall when Williams had joined the Red Sox), he would have hit 600 or more home runs, instead of his 521 career homers, despite losing five prime years to military service. Similarly, had Joe DiMaggio been in Boston and peppering the left-field "Green Monster," his career totals might have been different. Leaving aside talent dispersion and allegations of early steroids use, would Babe Ruth had hit 60 home runs in a season, or 714 in his career, without that "short porch" in Yankee Stadium—nicknamed "the House That Ruth Built"—for a significant stretch of his career?

With all these factors now on the table, let's just try to put this all into perspective using one example of the "sanctity" of baseball records.

The Myth of the Pristine Past

In 1927, Babe Ruth sets the single-season record for home runs by clouting 60 of them. This is during a time of talent dispersion, when only white men were allowed to play major-league baseball, and only seven years after baseball decreed that a clean, unmarked baseball should always be in play—the birth of the Live-ball Era—after decades in which players did everything they could to deform and deface the ball to make it harder to hit and harder to catch. Ruth himself might have tried to gain an edge by using performance-enhancing substances such as an extract from sheep's testicles, and he certainly used alcohol, which had been made illegal by an Amendment to the Constitution of the United States seven years previously. We could cite the "short porch" of Yankee Stadium as well even though Ruth hit 28 of his homers at home, in 73 games and 253 at-bats, and 32 on the road, in 78 games and 287 at-bats.

Although both Jimmie Foxx, hitting 58 home runs in 1932, and Hank Greenberg, hitting 58 home runs in 1938, both came close to Ruth's record, it wasn't until 1961 that Ruth's record faced another credible threat.

That threat was from two Yankees, outfielders Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, playing in an expansion year: The AL grew by two teams, with the old Washington Senators franchise moving to Minnesota to become the Twins while a new Washington Senators franchise debuted (it would soon relocate to the Dallas area to become the Texas Rangers), and the Los Angeles Angels also debuted. In addition to the dilution of talent as players were required to fill two new rosters, the schedule also expanded to 162 games from the previous 154 games. Add to this an environment in which "greenies"—amphetamines—appear to be widely used, and the allegations that Mantle might have been juicing.

Maris eventually broke Ruth's record, and although then-Commissioner Ford Frick decreed that Maris's record was for a 162-game schedule and Ruth's record was for a 154-game schedule, there was never any official qualification for Maris's record. Never mind that Maris actually had just seven more plate appearances than did Ruth, and never mind that Maris was playing in the integrated era while Ruth was playing in the segregated era. (Although Maris famously hit the record-breaking 61st home run in Yankee Stadium, on the last day of the season, Maris's home-road splits were a wash: He hit 30 homers at Yankee Stadium in 79 games and 280 at-bats, and 31 homers on the road in 82 games and 310 at-bats.) Nevertheless, Maris's challenge was considered to be challenge to the "validity" of an established record.

Then comes 1998, and Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa—a Dominican indicating the widespread presence and influence of Latin players barely hinted at during Maris's time and non-existent during Ruth's—help to "save baseball" with their pursuit of Maris's record. Both play in an era of talent compression, when the aggregate skill level is higher than it had ever been before not just through the widest talent pool baseball has ever known but through training, conditioning, nutrition, education, and scouting leagues above Maris's era, let alone Ruth's. McGwire and Sosa also face a pitching philosophy unheard-of in Maris's day, let alone Ruth's, as a parade of fresh-armed relievers stand ready to replace a starting pitcher who has far less chance of completing a game than did his counterparts in decades past. And we haven't even touched on the overpowering financial pressures of fighting to keep a lucrative job as a major-league baseball player, let alone living up to contractual expectations.

In order to gain an edge on the competition, McGwire and Sosa both use substances that while technically illegal are not yet being tested for. It is cheating, yes, but it is part of a tradition that is as old as baseball itself. Moreover, they are playing in an era of baseball unimaginable to players in bygone eras, whether it is playing against players with a different skin color or the fact that players no longer have to work an off-season job to support themselves and their families, which was a widespread reality in Major League Baseball until the 1970s.

The Mitchell Report worried about the "validity of baseball records," but no record at any time was ever created in a pristine environment. The game is always changing, perhaps subtly, perhaps drastically, but to condemn the current PEDs transgressions as "a serious threat to the integrity of the game" is to ignore the game's relative integrity—or lack thereof—at any time during its existence. Sixty home runs in 1927 is relative to the conditions of the game in 1927 and means something different in 1961 and again in 1998. What unites them all is that they are part of a continuum of baseball that, to be optimistic, improves as it matures, albeit in fits and starts, false or otherwise.

But at any time, the best you can do is to evaluate the baseball you have, not the baseball you wish you had. The Steroids Era is a part of baseball history as much as segregation was, and as much as amphetamines usage was. We can argue about institutional factors and personal choices, but it will not change the records of players past and presently on the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot.

End the Witch-hunt

In 1692, an epidemic of mass hysteria in Colonial Massachusetts resulted in the Salem Witch Trials, at which a number of persons were accused of witchcraft. More than 300 years ago, belief in the supernatural was a much more immediate and palpable phenomenon than it is today, and although no evidence of supernatural events emerged, twenty persons were executed for witchcraft. (Despite the popular perception that witches were "burned at the stake," in Salem nineteen victims were hanged and one was crushed to death by stones heaped upon his chest.)

Even in more enlightened times, that witch-hunt mentality has taken hold again in the United States. As anti-Communism became a growing obsession in the 1950s, the federal government investigated allegations of Communist subversion and infiltration, uncovering some Communists but tarring many more non-Communists, or even non-fellow travelers, with the brush of Communism, often through allegation, innuendo, and guilt by association. The most famous example of this are the investigations by Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, who accused the State Department and the military of harboring Communists until his credibility was shattered by his ultimately baseless yet damaging accusations.

However, more pervasive and more disruptive were the investigations by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which compelled many persons from various walks of life to testify before the Committee regarding accusations of Communism either personally or through association. The industry most affected by HUAC's investigations was the movie industry as many performers, writers, producers, composers, and others in the industry were "blacklisted," or tacitly excluded from working consideration, regardless of whether they had any Communist connections. Reputations and even lives were destroyed as a "moral panic" developed into a witch-hunt hysteria. (Other recent witch-hunt examples in American history include the spate of "Satanic activity" in preschools in the 1980s.)

With respect to performance-enhancing drugs, Major League Baseball has been in a witch-hunt for a decade. The sport is in a "moral panic," desperate to purge itself of acts and individuals that it believes have sullied the reputation of the sport. In one sense, this is a good approach because it has forced a more comprehensive regimen for testing of PEDs as well as, by 2005, clearly defined penalties for failing a drug test that include a permanent ban from baseball for a third failed test. But in the years leading up to 2005, there was not such a policy, with enough individual and institutional blame to go around. However, the witch-hunt mentality is trying to retroactively apply sanctions when none had existed, or were not properly enforced, previously.

Gambling had existed in baseball before the 1919 World Series scandal, but it took that event to codify the rules regarding gambling in baseball, with consequences for all subsequent offenders, to which Pete Rose can attest. As we have seen, cheating in its various forms, including taking substances to enhance performance, has a long tradition in baseball. To carry the witch-hunt mentality for cheating to its logical (if still irrational) extreme, baseball must begin to purge itself of all cheaters currently enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Instead, it is time to end the witch hunt. Every one of the 37 players on the 2013 ballot is eligible for Hall of Fame induction. Next comes the task of determining which ones are most qualified, to which we turn in Part 2.

As we gear up for the 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame balloting and announcements, the overriding question is: Have we returned to normal?

To put that into perspective, how's this for abnormal? In 2013, with a ballot overstuffed with Hall of Fame-caliber candidates (I counted 14), not one candidate was elected to the Hall. Adding to the debacle was the first appearance on a Hall of Fame ballot by Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, both of whom brought the bubbling issue of players suspected or confirmed of having used performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to an apoplectic, moralistic boil.
With the second revamping of its veterans committee structure in the last six years, the Baseball Hall of Fame seems ready to address the twin challenges of the logjam on the writers' ballot and of an evaluation process that until now has given scant attention to candidates from the last few decades of the game.
We here at Notinhalloffame.com thought it would be fun to take a look at the major awards in North American team sports and see how it translates into Hall of Fame potential.

Needless to say, different awards in different sports yield hall of fame potential.  In basketball, the team sport with the least amount of players on a roster, the dividend for greatness much higher.  In baseball, it is not as much as a great individual season does not have the same impact.

19. Mark McGwire

It is possible that this candidate is shrouded with more controversy than our 1A and 1B candidates combined?