The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







Hall Worthy?

By Jerry Keys

For the last four years the debate has been raging about the ramped steroid use in baseball.  Right about the time of the institution of the testing, we saw sudden retirements, sharp declines in power numbers, and sudden injuries that kept them out of action for a year (maybe to get clean?). 

The new drug policy actually has a little bite to it.  A first-time offender will receive a 50 game suspension, second-time offender a 100 game suspension, and a third-time offender a lifetime ban (although a possible reinstatement could be reached with a hearing; that must have been set into play for players who get busted three times but are still a huge gate attraction).
Amphetamine usage carries smaller penalties.  Would ingesting too many No-Doze or loading up on 20 cups of coffee per day merit any suspension or would they just have to attend Caffeine Anonymous meetings?

Jerry Keys

The androstenedione discovery in Mark McGwire's locker in 1998 started speculation, mainly because of the "Great 1998 Home Run Race."  Along with Cal Ripken's 1995 2131 streak, the 1998 Home Run Race revitalized the game of baseball and its fan base after the hellish 1994-95 strike. 

The first official steroid testing policy was implemented in 2001 but it only affected minor league players.  From testimony of well-known baseball pundits, the test was about as easy to pass as putting together a box of Tinker-Toys.

The next step came in 2003, with "Survey Testing," just to speculate on the amount of players who may be using steroids on the major league teams 40-man roster.  The tests

were anonymous and the results were never disclosed.  Keep in mind this was after the admittance of steroid usage by Jose Canseco and the now deceased Ken Caminiti.

The death of a 23-year-old pitcher, Steve Bechler, of heat exhaustion heightened the stakes when autopsy results concluded the

main cause of death was the use of Ephedra, an over-the-counter performance-enhancing drug. 

It took the baseball owners and the player's union about two years before an official across the board testing policy was set into motion.  The first major league player suspended for steroid abuse was Alex Sanchez in April 2005,

and it was only for 10 days.  Other players on team's 40-man rosters were suspended as well.  In addition, a large number of minor league players were suspended for steroid usage within the next month.

It really did not hit home for some fans until a high profile player was busted, Rafael Palmeiro.  His suspension, made most baseball fans rethink how steroid abuses was being handled in historical context. 

Heading the Class of 2007 are first-ballot locks Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn (with their enshrinement guaranteed, it makes me submit once again to mortality.  For years, I saw players who were enshrined that had playing careers that began years before I started watching baseball. I watched these two careers, from beginning to end).  Ripken and Gwynn may challenge the highest percentage of votes for a first-year eligible player (in 1999, Ryan appeared on 98.8 percent - 491 of the 497 ballots cast).  Five years ago, the Class of '07 was thought to stand tall with the Class of '99, which consisted of Nolan Ryan, George Brett, and Robin Yount.  The problem that arose after that statement was McGwire and his "no comments" on steroid use.

The big question is "will Mac get voted into the Hall on the first time around?" Hopefully, nowhere near the required votes.  Was Mac a great ballplayer?  Yes he was but did he achieve that status while using steroids?

This also poses the question for a couple of other once-thought Hall-bound players.  Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and Palmeiro will also be under the microscope, much as Mac is this year.

I once thought the Sun and the Moon set on Pete Rose as a child, then I learned the real truth a few years ago.  Baseball players are human.  They are

not immortals.  I watched Mac, Sosa, Bonds, and Palmeiro throughout the years, and yes they were top-tier ballplayers.  But are they worthy of Hall-status?  100% no.  There are too many unanswered questions to allow them to be.

So…for the Class of '07, I am voting for the two obvious choices, Ripken and Gwynn.  Ripken (3184 hits, 431 HR's, 1695 RBI's) was coined "Ironman" and was a spokesman for the old fashion American work ethic.  Gwynn (3141 hits, .338 lifetime batting average-highest since Ted Williams) was (will be) the last "pure-hitter" Hall'er in at least my generation, if not ever.

My vote also goes for a few other players.  Rich Gossage (310 saves, 8th year on ballot) should have been on last year's ballot with Bruce Sutter.  Each of them revolutionized the art of relief pitching (from the days where a reliever would toss 120 innings per year.)  Game 7, 4-3 lead, bottom of the ninth; if I had Gossage in his prime, I'd start pouring the campaign during his warm-up pitches.

Another vote goes to Andre Dawson (2774 hits, 438 HR's, 1591 RBI's, .279 average, 6th).  His best days were spent in Montreal and Chicago, although that encompassed around 15 years.  Dawson was a constant Gold Glove winner and stolen base threat until his knees left him (thanks to Astroturf). 

Let's get Jim Rice (2452 hits, 382 HR's, 1451 RBI's, .298 average, 13th) in this year.  From 1977-86, Rice was one of the most feared sluggers in the game.  Also in his 13th year is Tommy John (288 wins, 4710 innings pitched).  John's career started during the Kennedy Administration and ended with Bush, Sr's, his numbers are comparable to numerous Hall'er pitchers of his era, and he was the first to return after rotator cuff surgery (aptly named "Tommy John Surgery").

Add Bert Blyleven (287 wins, 4970 innings, 3701 strikeouts, 10th) to the list.  Both Blyleven and John's numbers measure up to 1991 inductee Fergie Jenkins.  While we're at it, allow me to choose former career saves leader Lee Smith (478 saves, 3.03 lifetime ERA-in nearly 1300 innings pitched, 5th).

I would be literally stunned if all eight claimed enshrinement in one year.  I'm crossing my fingers that at least two of the six others (minus Ripken/Gwynn) mentioned would get in.

It will be interesting to see how many votes Jose Canseco receives (1st year eligible) while the steroid controversy swirls.  Some voters have noted they would be more likely to cast a vote for Canseco (and even Caminiti) because they were the catalysts in bringing the issue of steroids to the forefront; compared to Mac's "no-comments".

This will be the last year on the ballot for Steve Garvey (2599 hits, 272 HR's, 1308 RBI's, .294 average).  Garvey has never received over 42% of the votes (75% needed) and that still baffles me to this day (of course he let Jim Kaat appear 15 times and never voted him in).  Harold Baines (2866 hits, 384 HR's, 1628 RBI's, .289 average) will not be a first-time candidate but it will be interesting to see how many votes he receives over the years.   

All stats aside, the burning issue has to be the amount of votes Mac will receive.  His first year on the ballot will dictate how he will fare in years to come.  Move over Pete Rose, you may be having company.