Probably the most hotly debated topic of modern sports is the issue of whether or not those baseball players who knowingly used steroids should be allowed into the baseball hall of fame. It is fairly obvious at this point in time that the sports writers who vote on hall of fame inductions do not think that those players who have taken steroids should be allowed in. The frustrating thing, as indicated by Boston Globe sports reporter Bob Ryan, is that voters now have to evaluate a player beyond his performance on the field, and decide whether or not he is telling the truth and whether or not they judge the usage of steroids as an issue of fairness.
Last week Rafael Palmeiro, who famously emphatically denied his steroid use in front of a congressional hearing back in 2005, was left out of the hall of fame on his first ballot. Palmeiro tested positive for steroids, but denies having ever intentionally used them. Hall of Fame voters had to judge Palmeiro about his honesty, whether or not the use of steroids gave him an unfair advantage, and, finally, his performance on the field.
It seems that this is an unfair position for sports writers to be in. Rather than being required to vote on whether it was right or not that a player used steroids, they should simply be required to vote if they think the player belongs in based on his statistical achievements. At this point, Major League Baseball should simply put an asterisk next to all major league players inducted into the hall of fame who played during the “steroid era”. This would not be an indictment of the players, but would simply acknowledge that this was an issue in the sport at the time. It also puts these players’ careers in proper stastical perspective. It’s sort of like saying “who knows?” regarding these players’ place in history in comparison to players who played in other eras. For players like Greg Maddux, of whom it seems fairly obvious that he didn’t use steroids, this might seem unfair to put an asterisk next to his name. However, this system would not be a way of judging Maddux or any of his contemporaries, it would simply be a way of saying that this was a known issue at the time and it would make it so that all players who deserve it statistically could get into the Hall of Fame without being convicted by the jury of public opinion.
Conversely, for a player like Maddux, it could also strengthen his career from historical perspective. It seems fairly obvious that Maddux did not use steroids. However, he was pitching against many players who were regular users, and he was still able to produce at a high level. The asterisk would remind fans how high of a level Maddux was actually playing at.
The asterisk system would allow the voters to evaluate players from their on-the-field performance only and allow many great players, who probably would have been excellent no matter what, an opportunity to get into the hall of fame, even with an*.