- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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When I asked 2010 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees Andre Dawson and Whitey Herzog how the Baseball Writers Association of America should look at the steroid era home run hitters and their chances of making it to Cooperstown one day, neither pulled any punches.
For his part, the Hawk didn’t back off one bit in telling the media what he thinks their responsibility is when considering the alleged druggies of that era.
“You’re smarter than we are,” Dawson said. “How are we going to tell [the BBWAA] how to vote? But they have their work cut out for them. It’s definitely been damaging to the history of the game.”
Dawson, Jim Rice, Fred McGriff and countless other big home run hitters never connected with steroids were kicked to the curb by the 50-, 60- and, in one sad episode, 70-home run crowd.
Dawson further commented on the worthiness of the juiced era players.
“That remains to be seen,” Dawson said. It’s [the writers] that do the voting. If my mind doesn’t escape me, integrity is a very important part of the game.”
McGwire has failed to get more than 25% of the vote in his three years of eligibility, however in 2011 Juan Gonzalez and Palmeiro are eligible and 2013 is sure to go down as the Hall of Shame nominations: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza and Sosa will all be on the ballot for the first time.
Some of their numbers are mindboggling. Bonds’ 762 home runs, Clemens’ 354 wins and Sosa’s more than 600 career homers are painfully sinful numbers for voters to try and figure out.
“You can’t [right now] point your finger at any one person and say they don’t belong in the Hall of Fame” Dawson said, warning voters about the trouble ahead.
“Each and every individual is a story unto themselves. You don’t hear any negativity about people who are in the Hall of Fame. What direction [future voting] goes remains to be seen. You [writers] have always been the experts. Now we’ll see what the criteria is based on.”
Dawson’s strong stance is a statement in defense of players like himself, who gave blood, sweat and even limbs to play this little boy’s game that they love at the highest level.
Herzog chimed in on his thoughts about this very forgettable steroid era.
“I didn’t manage during the steroid era, but I did manage during the drug era of the ’70s and ’80s,” Herzog said. “I had some real problems that were tough. I wonder how many games as managers we lost in the ’80s because of drugs. And how many victories managers got in the ’90s because of steroids.
“Until they are proven guilty in court, I don’t know how you can disregard what those records are. Just like Andre said, it did hurt the old-timers, their records and stuff. Is Roger Maris still the home run king? He had 61. Now everyone who has broken that record are accused of doing steroids. But it hasn’t been proven. What’s going to happen to Bonds [court case]? How come Sosa’s never been brought up? McGwire admitted he did steroids.”
Herzog shifted some of the blame for that unfortunate era on Major League Baseball, which got a boost from the 1998 home run race between McGwire and Sosa.
“Maybe if they stopped it then, maybe we wouldn’t have had the situation we got,” Herzog said.
Commissioner Bud Selig tried for 15 years to get a drug program implemented in the collective bargaining agreement, only to be rebuffed by the players’ association until 2003.
“It’s a shame that it happened,” Herzog said. “Like Andre said, a lot of that is going to depend on [the BBWAA]. You’re going to make a lot of decisions on what happens to the players of the steroid era.”
Andre Dawson hopes the BBWAA makes the right choice about steroid-era players.