I don’t advocate that — I think I can tell the difference between elite players of that period and non-elite players — but some are advocating it. Maybe not in so many words, but by the criteria they’re currently employing, it’s a necessary conclusion.
Example: Jeff Pearlman, who today sides with those who would bar Jeff Bagwell from Cooperstown despite there being no evidence that he used PEDs. After taking issue with Joe Posnanski’s column from this morning Jeff writes:
But, alas, Joe’s still right—perhaps Jeff Bagwell never used. Perhaps, as dozens upon dozens of his teammates turned to steroids and HGH throughout the 1990s and early 2000s … Bagwell looked the other way and continued to pop his GNC-supplied Vitamin C tablets. Maybe, just maybe, that happened. But, as the game was being ruined in his very clubhouse, where was Bagwell’s voice of protest? Where was Jeff Bagwell, one of the best players in baseball, when someone inside the game needed to speak out and demand accountability? Answer: Like nearly all of his peers, he was nowhere. He never uttered a word, never lifted a finger (Now, once he retired, he was more than willing to defend himself and speak up for the sport. Once he was retired).
This, to me, is why we are allowed to suspect Jeff Bagwell and, if we so choose, not vote for him.
Good point! But let me ask: where was Derek Jeter? Greg Maddux? Randy Johnson? Cal Ripken? Tony Gwynn? Ichiro? Trevor Hoffman? Mariano Rivera? Albert Pujols? There is just as much evidence against those guys as there is against Bagwell. None of them spoke up and demanded accountability. Are we allowed to suspect them too and, if we so choose, not vote for them?
I anticipate Pearlman’s response would be that, unlike Bagwell, those guys weren’t big power hitters who became musclebound. But then again, neither were guys like Randy Velarde, Andy Pettitte, Hal Morris, Tim Laker, Denny Neagle, Ron Villone, Kent Mercker, Mike Stanton, Fernando Vina, Wally Joyner, Paul Byrd and Gary Matthews, Jr. and many others who were named in the Mitchell Report and allied investigations. They all used, as did scores of others who don’t fit the Bagwell profile. If they did, how do we know that Maddux and Ichiro didn’t?
We don’t. Anyone of that era could have been using. Actually, anyone over the last 50 years could have been using given that Stanozolol was developed in 1962 and was being used in athletics soon thereafter. Physique has very little to do with it. Which makes everyone a suspect. At least, that is, if you suspect people without having any evidence for the charge. And if you keep everyone who is a suspect under that rationale out of the Hall, the entire era should be kept out of the Hall.
I’m not prepared to do that. I require a bit of evidence before I accuse someone of wrongdoing and refuse to honor their career in a way it should be honored. Pearlman doesn’t. A lot of other people seem to agree with him.