The Case For Bonds And Clemens: Policy on PED Users And The Hall of Fame Already in Place

With the arrival of names like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa onto the ballot, this year’s Hall of Fame voting figures to be the most anticipated (or dreaded, depending on who you ask) in the history of the famed institution.   

Many voters out there seem to be at a loss over what to do with players suspected of PEDs, which has resulted in the rejection of virtually any eligible player even suspected of usage during their career.  It has also led to voters increasing the pressure for an official position from the Hall of Fame with regard to PED users, which in theory would give voters more guidance on whom they should induct on future ballots.

But what if I told you that the Hall of Fame already has an official policy on PED users – and that it has been in place for longer than the game’s current testing program?

From the beginning, it has been the Hall of Fame’s unofficial position that any player who is permanently banned is ineligible for induction.  The Hall made it an official position in 1991, just in time to prevent Pete Rose’s name from appearing on the ballot. 

While this rule was implemented with gamblers in mind, it applies to any player who has been permanently banned for any reason whatsoever – including PED usage. 

This is where the current policy comes into play.  Right now, MLB rules state that players get three chances with regards to steroid usage.  A first positive test triggers a 50-game suspension; a second positive test means 100 games; and a third results in a permanent ban from Major League Baseball.

Therefore, any player who has tested positive for steroids is also banned from induction into the Hall of Fame.

Many of you are probably thinking that this position cannot be used to keep Bonds, Clemens, or any other player from the current ballot out of the Hall of Fame.  And that is true – mainly because those players have not tested positive for steroids on three separate occasions.  In fact, the only player on the ballot with even one positive test is Rafael Palmeiro, and the only way his name will be removed from the ballot is if he does not receive enough support to be eligible for the next one.

In other words, if their name is on the ballot, they should be considered for the Hall of Fame.

Voters need to realize that the Hall of Fame has never been about keeping the rule-breakers from being inducted.  Cheaters of all types – from spitballers to sign-stealers to competition-limiters to gamblers to, yes, PED users – have been welcomed into the Hall of Fame with open arms. 

None of these players were on the permanently-ineligible list, and they were all inducted because they were the very best of their respective generations.  There’s no reason why the current group should be treated any differently.