2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun has appealed his 50 game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. For my fantasy team's sake, I hope they reduce the suspension to zero games and award him an extra 5 home runs and a nice fruit basket for all of the trouble. It did get me thinking about the MLB reaction to PED's over the past 20 years. It went from complete indifference, to shock, to rabble rousing outrage almost instantly. Any player who seems to have done a couple of lat pull downs in his life is automatically stripped of legitimacy (see Bagwell, Jeff). There also seems to be a consensus among the average fan that once you took a steroid you were a 40 home run power machine. For every Ken Caminiti, there is a Larry Bigbie. Many of these admitted PED users were still really not good at baseball.
So, what exactly is my point here?
In 2013 some absolute baseball heavyweights (literally and figuratively) will be up for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza. Will Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, and Piazza (unfairly) experience the same shunning that their peers Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro have experienced? Probably. Should they? I personally do not believe they should. Especially Bonds and Clemens. If Barry Bonds retired after the 1998 season (when by most accounts he starts doing steroids) he would have had 411 home runs and 445 stolen bases. He would have been the ONLY player to ever accomplish that feat.
Another question I have, what if Barry Bonds hit a ball off of Jason Grimsley and it was caught by Chuck Knoblauch? Three guys who, for all intents and purposes, are guilty of PED use. Does it not count as an out for Clemens? Or should it not count as a putout for Knoblauch? Or should it count as nothing because Bonds shouldn't have made contact?
My bottom line is that the water is too murky to automatically discount these players accomplishments. These players are representatives of their eras warts and all. Up until 1947, baseball did not allow black players. In 1963 the mound was raised for a few years. Amphetamines were common in baseball for decades. Each of these eras have highlights and lowlights and are still represented. I think the players should be judged for their accomplishments in relations to the others of the period.
P.S. If you say that admitted cheaters shouldn't be allowed in, then kick out Gaylord Perry. If you cite the character of players, then boot Ty Cobb and we can talk.