How to Handle the Steroids Era

Before I start officially blogging all about Spring Training, there is one very important issue I would like to address. Many of you know my opinions on steroids, but I haven’t talked about it in a while. Believe me, my opinion has not changed, but with Mark McGwire FINALLY admitting to have taken steroids throughout his career; I think that it is a necessary topic to address. 

The question is no longer “if” they did it. The question is what to do about it. Unfortunately, the majority of the 104 players who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003 are still undisclosed. Actually, it’s hard for me to say whether or not that fact is unfortunate because the truth hurts. When all of the names finally come out, I know that some of the players I may consider “heroes” right now will be seen differently by many. 
Before I address what should be done about this issue, I would like to talk about the origins of this issue. I think that the catalyst was the implementation of the designated hitter rule in 1973. I do not like the designated hitter rule. It has severely disproportionated the two leagues, and it’s just not real baseball. Not only was it a catalyst for the steroids era, I also think it was a catalyst for the ridiculous contracts that have become a normalcy around Major League Baseball. My opinions on the possibility for a salary cap will be saved for another entry though. 
 I don’t know if the steroids era has an exact “starting point”, but arbitrarily speaking, I would say it was the last 20 years. No one is safe from suspicion, and the mentality has become “guilty until proven innocent”. There are people whom I believe to be clean such as Mike Lowell, Ichiro Suzuki, Albert Pujols, and Derek Jeter among others. So back to the main question: what to do about it? 
There are three main approaches to this dilemma, which you are probably familiar with, but there is no clear answer. Can we erase an era of baseball?Can we put the players who have cheated next to the players who have attained their feats on pure and natural talent? Can we use asterisks? 
The first method would be to simply not admit any players guilty of having used steroids into the Hall of Fame. This seems appropriate because these players cheated. I suppose they didn’t break the rules because steroids weren’t technically illegal YET, they were just frowned upon. When other players have broken the rules, they were banned from baseball even though they were quite deserving of a spot in the Hall (Shoeless Joe Jackson, Pete Rose). This is an entire ERA of players who have broken the rules. Baseball is a game rich in its history, and history cannot and should not be erased. It would be a travesty to try and forget any era of baseball: good or bad. The Hall of Fame may serve to commemorate the greatest players of each era, but it is also the ultimate token of baseball’s history. 
The second method would be to admit all players “worthy” of enshrinement into the Hall freely. Like I mentioned earlier, when players used steroids in the 90’s, they were not yet illegal. Is it truly fair to punish a person for something that was not yet considered a crime? What they did was not right, but it wasn’t completely wrong from a legal standpoint. The main problem with this theory is that the players of this era did not achieve their fantastic numbers the same way of their predecessors. These players have ruined the integrity of the game. Baseball is a game about natural abilities, not the abilities achieved externally. Surely it would be a tragedy to erase an entire era in baseball’s history, but it would also be a tragedy if players from the steroids era were admitted before other players who have been banned for their comparably trivial mistakes. 
The third and final approach to this dilemma is what some call the “asterisk method”. This would entail admitting all of the “worthy” players of the era into the Hall of Fame. However, a metaphorical asterisk would be placed next to their name, denoting the fact that they used performance enhancing drugs. This would not only ensure their place in baseball history, but it would also separate them from the natural greats. It seems like a win-win situation, but a problem still remains. There is no asterisk next the 1919 World Series. The Cincinnati Reds are in the books as the winners, even though the Chicago White Sox threw the series. There is no asterisk next to Roger Maris’ (former) single-season home run record (the controversy was that he had 162 games to do it whereas Babe Ruth only had 154). There is no asterisk next to Gaylord Perry’s name for his use of the spitball, nor is there an asterisk next to the lesser scandals. If we were to put an asterisk next to the players of the steroids era, Major League Baseball would certainly have to put asterisks next to other controversies. 
If I had to choose one, I would choose the asterisk method. There may be flaws, but you do get the best of both worlds. I don’t know if I’ll be able to cast a vote for a player guilty of using steroids until I get Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson into the Hall of Fame. I will not allow a single player guilty of steroids into the Hall of Fame before those two men are in. Mark my words. 
Please let me know what you think. Shoot me an e-mail, comment, tweetformspring etc.


  1. bartosox

    if you ask me… i think that it would be more sensible the idea of putting an asterisk next to the name… because i think that it would be an eternal indication, for the HOFer and for the fans, that person used performance enhance drugs and in the long run it would be a burdon that the player would have to carry until his death, the possibility that he was a “cheater” (maybe they really used them to recover earlier from a injury… who knows)

    now… you raise into the conversation two names… pete rose and shoeless joe…
    pete sadly made something really bad (betting) whether it was in favor or against the reds… it doesn’t matter… he did it and not as a player… as a manager and shoeless, by his numbers seems that he didn’t participate on the scandal, but he did recieve a bribe, making him an accomplice.
    the real question is ¿are pete and shoeless more guilty than the steroid era players? i know that they are different scenarios and different eras… but still… if you ask me… joe should enter into the HOF, pete should be consider and the steroid players… if they enter, with an asterisk

  2. welikeroywelikeroy

    Because it is a whole collection of players, as well as an era baseball, I’d say give those players an exhibit in the Hall of Fame. Not inaugurating them officially in the Hall, just an exhibit representing what they mean’t to the sport, and what they mean to the sport going forward.

    That way they have their place in the Hall – and at the same time – their exploits are not being condoned. I guess that could be approach #4. Similar to you, I’ve thought deeply on the subject as well. That is the only way I can justify them being there.

  3. Jane Heller

    My answer is I don’t know. I really don’t. Every time I start thinking about the subject, my eyes cross. I’m not of the opinion that Pete Rose should be in the Hall. But if cheating is cheating, then how do you deal with pitchers who used spitballs to get batters out? What about greenies? Players have been trying to get a competitive edge forever. I’m in no way excusing steroids users – far from it. I’m just not sure how you punish them for using before the substances were banned. Maybe the asterisk is the right solution, but is it just for steroids or other offenses?

  4. kaiserthegreat

    I’m not sure about the legality argument, as steroids are illegal to use in the United States period, regardless of whether they are against the rules in the MLB. They all shot up behind the scenes. They knew it was wrong.

    I think the asterick works the best, and I suppose you could apply it retroactively where it applies. You’d have to figure that out though, which would be a whole other can of worms. You could say, for instance, that Roger Maris deserves an asterick because it took him more games to beat Ruth’s record, but I’m pretty sure it took Ruth more games to beat the record at the time, too. (Don’t quote me on that, though.)

  5. redstatebluestate

    Nice work, Elizabeth. It’s been a treat to watch you grow as a writer and you’re really hittin’ the mark. Keep it up. As for your conclusion, I can see eye to eye with ya there. Then again, they did the asterisk thing with Maris and he getting an extra week of games to accomplish the task. Nowadays we think that was wrong of baseball fans and writers to do. Back then it was pretty much universal. I wonder what we’ll think of this steroid era and its asterisk marks 50 years from now.

  6. russelw

    Great article.

    I think that you put them in the Hall. You have to judge each player by the era they played in and let the pieces fall where they may.

    I’m able to compare Reggie Jackson to Paul Waner and take the era difference into account. Should be same with steroid era.

  7. bklyntrolleyblogger

    Sorry I’m just catching up to this post. I want you to know I respect every individual letter you type. I emphatically have to disagree with your claim the DH was the/a catalyst for the steroid era. I am not disagreeing with your opinion about the DH. I just think we are talking semantics here. I believe you want to blame, as catalysts of the steroid era, as you say with idiotic contracts, is the “Marvin Miller Era”. It was he who busted Baseball’s Reserve clause and allowed for players to negotiate freely for their services versus the old system of indentured servitude. Free market is what made salaries skyrocket. The system was already in place. Steroids were just the latest way for players to satiate their greed for even more money. Salary Arbitration is the second biggest reason for skyrocketing salaries, again an instrument won by Marvin Miller in court vs. Baseball. Since the DH was instituted, it’s been more of a failure than anything else. Like I said I think we’re just talking semantics here because I don’t disagree with your descriptions of player motivations. The DH was a brain-child of Charlie Finely, A’s owner to boost offense cause he thought pitchers were dominating and the game was becoming boring. I realize that may be precisely your point though.
    Still friends?


    This is an interesting issue. Personally, I am not as offended by te Steroid era. Maybe I have a cynical view of society in general but I truly believe that today’s steroids were yesterday’s greenies–before that it was something else. I do not believe that the game (or any sport, for that matter) has ever been “clean.” I also have qualms about throwing stones. For one thing, I cannot say with complete honesty that I wouldn’t have done the exact same thing, were I in the position of a player like A-Rod or Ortiz or Clemens. I just can’t. If it came down to a chance to do something (illegal or not) to help me achieve my dream, I believe that I could do anything. The competitive advantage that was gained (in some cases, more pronounced than others) would be incredibly enticing–particularly if I was watching others in my own clubhouse as they got better and better.
    If estimates are correct, the majority of ball players were experimenting with steroids, which pretty much leveled the playing field. Obviously, historical comparisons would be skewed but that is always the case when you start comparing one generation to the next. Secondly, as a fan, I was cheering on each of those tainted home runs in 1998. So wasn’t I just as complicit as Bud Selig and the owners?
    As for the Hall of Fame, my opinion is that you put them all in. This was an easy discussion when the players in question were villains–Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens. Now we have beloved figures in the game who have admitted to using or have been outed–Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez (straddles the line between hero and villain, but I adore him) and David Ortiz. For me, I don’t want to imagine a baseball HOF without A-Rod in it.
    Pete Rose is different. What he did was clearly against the rules of baseball. It was also an act that completely benefitted himself. I think we’d all have to be blind to ignore the significant advatage that Papi and Manny’s steroid use gave the Red Sox. That certainly doesn’t make it right–it just is.

    After some time has passed and we get some distance from the anger and disillusionment, I think this era will be seen in a completely different light.

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