The 2011 Hall of Fame Ballot: The "Steroid Era" Players


Before I delve into the other controversial group of players on the ballot, I'd like to look at the three other holdovers whose primes were in the 1980s.

SS Alan Trammell. Here's the Detroit Tiger who deserves induction. He was an excellent defender with several excellent offensive seasons (1983, 1984, 1988, 1990) and one great season (1987). He was just edged out in MVP voting that year by Toronto left fielder George Bell. Trammell went up against Cal Ripken for AL shortstop awards in the 1980s, and would have been more decorated on the offensive side had he played in the National League. But just because Trammel wasn't the best offensive (Ripken) or defensive (Ozzie Smith) shortstop of his generation doesn't mean he's not worthy of induction. He posted a 110 OPS+ as a shortstop in a relatively difficult offensive era, played all of his 20 seasons at the position, had several MVP-type seasons as mentioned above, and last 20 years at the position. In my mind he's very similar to Barry Larkin.

CF Dale Murphy. He had a great peak (1982-1987), but fell off the face of the earth afterwards. Had his decline been more gradual, his batting line would have been a lot more impressive and he might have reached 500 home runs. A classic borderline candidate.

RF Dave Parker. Another guy with a fantastic peak (1975-1979), but apparently the sportswriters of Pittsburgh were not as convincing as those of Boston. Hit .334/.394/.585 in 1978 MVP season, which translated to a 166 OPS+. I don't think he's quite good enough for a corner outfielder.

The rest of the serious candidates had their peaks during the 1990s, and with the recent steroid scandals, a lot of writers are either not voting for particular players most associated with the controversy. Some writers have taken the drastic step of not voting for any player whose peak was after 1994. Because effective testing didn't exist until the tail ends of most of these players' careers, it's going to impossible to know the players who weren't using, which is unfortunate for the players who actually didn't use. We do know that a couple players did actually use whether through voluntary admission (Mark McGwire) or by testing positive (Rafael Palmeiro), but there are several others who are alleged to have used but with no proof (Juan Gonzalez, for example).

If I had a ballot, here would be my criteria for looking at the players from this era:

1. If a player was a no-doubt or even a middle-of-the-road Hall of Famer and either tested positive or admitted use of PEDs, then he'd still get in. Manny Ramirez would fall under this category.

2. If a player was a borderline candidate and either tested positive or admitted use of PEDs, then that would push him off the border.

3. If there's been no proof of PED use, it would not effect a player's candidacy.

I think there's some advantage gained from using PEDs (hence the definition of the acronym), whether it be strength or (in McGwire's case) health, but the use of it should not automatically disqualify a player from the Hall of Fame. The use of PEDs by players is not good for the game, but in my mind does not reach the damage level of throwing games (Black Sox) or betting on baseball as a player or coach (Pete Rose). So with that in mind, here we go:

2B Roberto Alomar. After his age-33 season, Alomar was effectively done, but his relatively short career before that slide was great. He posted five 130+ OPS+ seasons, not an easy task to accomplish in that era. He won 10 Gold Gloves, most of which I think he earned, finished in the top ten in MVP voting 5 times, and even with the drastic fall-off finished with a career .300/.371/.443 line. He stole 474 bases, and walked 1140 times. He should have gone in on his first ballot, but should get in this year quite easily.

SS Barry Larkin. A very long and consistently good career, marred slightly by injuries. He had a couple great seasons (1991, 1996), and won an MVP in 1995. He had a great 1990 World Series, if you still think he's a borderline candidate. 

DH Edgar Martinez. A great hitter, and the first full-time DH to get serious Hall of Fame consideration. It took a while for voters to sort out what constituted a Hall of Fame closer, and I'm guessing that it will take a while for voters to determine if Martinez is worthy since he's the first DH to come up. A DH because he couldn't stay healthy as a position player, Martinez only became a full-time player at the age of 26 thanks to Seattle's commitment  to Jim Presley. But his prime was awesome, with seven consecutive seasons with an OPS+ over 150. Voters who dislike Designated Hitters may be doing themselves a favor by voting Martinez in, for I don't see many future DH candidates comparing favorably with Edgar.

1B Jeff Bagwell. Despite playing most of his career in one of the worst home batting environments in history, Bagwell managed a career .948 OPS. He won an MVP in 1994, and finished in the top 10 in voting five more times. His career OPS+ of 149 ranks 37th all-time, ahead of several Hall of Fame corner players (Ralph Kiner, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell). No-doubter as far as I'm concerned.

1B Mark McGwire. He's not a borderline candidate as far as I'm concerned. He was a great power hitter from his rookie season, lead the league in OPS+ four times, home runs four time, slugging percentage four times.

1B Rafael Palmeiro. His career was very similar to Eddie Murray's, in that he was a compiler more than a peak guy. Even though he did reach the 500 home run and 3,000 base hit plateaus, I still consider him a borderline candidate, so his PED use would count against him if I had a vote.

LF Tim Raines. Overshadowed by Rickey Henderson, Rains was a great leadoff hitter, stealing 808 bases with only being caught 146 times. He got on base at a career .385 clip, and managed a career 123 OPS+. He had some fantastic seasons as well (1985-1987). I think he deserves to make it, but it might take a while.

CL Lee Smith. One of the first modern closers, but quickly being surpassed by the recent crop closers. No way.

RHP Kevin Brown. By all accounts a terrible teammate, but also a fantastic pitcher.

RF/LF Juan Gonzalez. If he had played another 3-4 seasons, he might have worked himself into the conversation.

RF Larry Walker. Outstanding defender, but will get penalized for having his best offensive seasons in Colorado. A fantastic player even at the end of his career.

 

If I had a ballot, I'd vote for these players:

Bert Blyleven

Allen Tramell

Roberto Alomar

Barry Larkin

Mark McGwire

Edgar Martinez

Jeff Bagwell

Tim Raines

Kevin Brown

Larry Walker

No to Palmeiro, Fred McGriff, and Dale Murphy. The rest on the ballot weren't really considered.

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