In an age in which a player is enshrined in Cooperstown only after surviving an extensive PED witch hunt, Schmidt’s take on the whole Hall of Fame process is actually a breath of fresh air. His opinion might not be a popular one, particularly among the BBWAA members who spend countless hours arguing why certain players from the Steroids Era don’t deserve to be inducted, but one single point made by the former Phillies third baseman shows exactly why we need to step back and look at what the entire voting process has become: ridiculous.
Everyone and their mother these days seems to assume that both Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds used steroids during their big league careers. But while it’s certainly possible, perhaps even likely, neither player ever failed a drug test administered by Major League Baseball, which is why Schmidt isn’t so quick to write them off.
“I would not have a problem with Bonds or Clemens [being inducted],” Schmidt said, according to CSNPhilly.com. “Here we are convicting them of PED use and we don’t know anything more than we read.”
That’s the problem. Yes, there is plenty of evidence that suggests Clemens and/or Bonds used PEDs. However, not considering them for the Hall based on such evidence rather than failed drug tests — which don’t exist — is a slippery slope. Unfortunately, the voters are already sliding down that slope.
“I really feel uneasy about linking players of that era to PEDs who may not have been involved, players where there may be suspicion of involvement,” Schmidt reportedly said. “I think it’s totally wrong that that whole generation is being linked to PEDs. If you had a friend that used them you’re linked to them. It seems now if you’re a Hall of Fame-caliber player that you’re going to have a really tough time getting in the Hall of Fame. It’s really too bad. It’s a problem we have in our sport right now, but time will cure it.”
Essentially, what Schmidt is saying is that part of the writers’ voting process has become determining who they think used steroids and who didn’t. The problem is that making those determinations requires leaning on rumors, biases and each player’s believability.
Take Craig Biggio, for example. The reason he received more votes than Bonds or Clemens during the most recent vote is because he has never been linked to performance-enhancing drugs. He’s considered by many voters to be “clean,” and therefore — based on this year’s voting results — is considered by many to be more worthy of Hall of Fame enshrinement.
Biggio has never been linked to PEDs, but he did share a locker room with the late Ken Caminiti, an admitted steroid user, and Jeff Bagwell, a player many voters are keeping off their ballots because of steroid-related suspicions. Yet Biggio seemingly emerged from this year’s stacked class as the one “clean” guy. And although far less significant players have been pinched for steroid use over the years, there’s a legitimate possibility that we’ll someday see Biggio get inducted into the Hall of Fame while Clemens and Bonds stand by wondering if the writers will ever open the gate for them.
None of this is to suggest we should suddenly suspect Biggio may have dabbled in PEDs. It’s simply to point out that we hold these steroid-related beliefs about certain players based on things other than “legitimate” tests — as Schmidt put it — and it’s causing us to make assumptions without any real way of knowing the truth.
Clemens and Bonds might have used steroids. Thousands of others might have, too. It’s simple to say, but we just don’t know who did and who didn’t. Unfortunately, the futile quest for truth will forever make the Hall of Fame voting process one giant mess, complete with ass-backward assumptions and he-said, she said bickering.