Should PED Users Be Allowed into the Baseball Hall of Fame? Old Hoss Radbourn Thinks So

A couple of weeks ago, there was a retweet that came up in my feed from someone I don’t currently follow. As a brief aside: this is another cool thing about Twitter. Even though I don’t follow a person, their tweets may show up if someone else retweets them. The cool part: I get introduced to someone (by way of 140 characters, their Twitter handle, and their Twitter picture), that I wouldn’t have otherwise knew existed.

Anyway, this tweet was from @OldHossRadbourn. For those who don’t know, “Old Hoss” is the nickname for Charles Radbourn who was a MLB pitcher in the late 1800s. Radbourn was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939. He was one of the first 25 players elected to the Hall of Fame. Radbourn passed away before the dawn of the 20th century, so it’s safe to say that the person behind the Twitter account is someone else. The tweet:

Obviously, the person who is behind this account is being sarcastic. In fact, one of the people who replied to this tweet made an even more salient point:

Like Radbourn, Ty Cobb was elected to the Hall of Fame very early on. In fact, Ty Cobb was part of the first class of players elected to the Hall of Fame. A bit of baseball trivia for you: Ty Cobb was elected to the Hall of Fame with a higher percentage of the vote than Babe Ruth (98.23% to 95.13%). While Ty Cobb was probably one of the greatest baseball players — ever — he’s also know for being one of “bad boys” of baseball.

From one of the reviews of a biography of Cobb:

Stump, Ty Cobb’s ghostwriter for the 1961 autobiography My Life in Baseball, fleshes out the story in this bare-knuckle, shocking biography. Born in Georgia in 1886, Cobb began his baseball career with the Detroit Tigers in 1905 and stayed in the big leagues until 1928-all the time hated by his rivals and teammates alike because of his meanness and combativeness. The author portrays the highlights of Cobb’s career: his first batting championship in 1907; his 96 stolen bases in 1915; and his three .400 seasons in 1911, 1912 and 1922. Stump also looks at Cobb’s involvement in game-fixing in 1919, his time as a manager and his activities after retiring. He died in 1961. The most sensational aspects of the book deal with Cobb’s personal life: his mother’s murder of his father, millionaire Cobb’s cheapness (no electricity or telephone in his house), wife beating, alcoholism and racial bigotry.

So, we’ve got meanness/combativeness, game-fixing, wife beating, alcoholism, and racial bigotry. Not exactly the upstanding qualities of a person you’d expect to be elected to a Hall of Fame, right? It’s worth noting that some of the severity of these claims have been challenged, but from what I’ve read/seen, I’m inclined to think that there’s at least some truth to them.

I suppose there’s the argument that Cobb’s transgressions don’t immediately relate to his ability to play the game. That is, those players who have dabbled in Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs), are immediately affecting their ability to play the game by using these drugs. I can totally understand that point.

Although, as I look down the list of players who have been suspended for using PEDs, there aren’t more than a handful of players that the casual MLB fan would recognize. Similarly, there are only a handful of all-stars. My point here is that even though players use PEDs, it doesn’t automatically skyrocket them to the top of the list of the best players in baseball. The player still has to play at an extremely high-level and for an extended period of time. No easy feat.

As the 2013 baseball hall of fame balloting starts to wind down (voting closes in January of 2013), there will probably be much ink spilt opposing the inclusion of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and there will probably be much ink spilt supporting their inclusion. I found these two cases, one from the San Jose Mercury and the other from NBCSports to seem well-rounded. In particular, the NBCSports article specifically addresses 3 common arguments you hear in opposition to players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

If I were casting a ballot for the 2013 baseball hall of fame class, I’d almost certainly tick the box for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. The conclusion from the NBCSports article puts it succinctly:

In the final analysis, I hope we can all agree that there is no baseball reason whatsoever to keep Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens out of the Hall of Fame. Their baseball accomplishments — both those which can be measured by statistics and those which cannot — are so far beyond sufficient for induction that it’s almost laughable to list them.  To oppose their candidacy, then, one must make a moral or ethical case based on their drug use and the voter’s opinion of their character. And that case will almost certainly be made from a great distance and with imperfect information.

You may feel comfortable doing such a thing.  I do not.  And I believe that any Hall of Fame that does not include two of the best players to ever swing a bat or throw a ball, no matter what their flaws, is an utter joke.

Any Thoughts?

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