SweetSpot: Rich Gossage

Even the Goose doesn't know...

January, 15, 2010
Earlier this week, Craig Calcaterra got Rich Gossage on the phone. As you probably know, Gossage has been fairly outspoken about the use of steroids (etc.) and Craig had an interesting question for the Goose: What would the Hall of Fame do if a current member was found to have used steroids?
    Gossage wouldn't speculate about whether it would be appropriate to remove someone from the Hall of Fame. And though I didn't ask him, he volunteered that he has no idea what member, if any, could have possibly used steroids, and doesn't know one way or the other if anyone had (he wouldn't comment on the issue of Canseco's credibility).

    To date, no member of the Hall has ever been de-inducted, as it were, and I could find nothing that suggests that the Hall even has a procedure for doing so. Of course, if they wanted to, the Hall could simply call a meeting of its board and make a rule in about five minutes. But let's face it: if the Football Hall of Fame hasn't taken out O.J., what are the odds that the Baseball Hall of Fame would remove a juicer?

Craig is right: the people who run the Hall can do whatever they like. The people who run the Hall of Fame listen to Major League Baseball and they listen to the living Hall of Famers. But it's a private institution that makes its own rules.

There's a new book -- I have it, but I haven't read it -- that suggests the Chicago Cubs might well have thrown at least a few games in the 1918 World Series. As it happens, none of those Cubs are in the Hall of Fame.

But what if one of them was, and a smoking gun was discovered?

There have long been rumors about shady dealings in other World Series. Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker were once investigated for throwing regular-season games. Both were officially cleared, but still ... we probably won't ever know much more about all of these things than we already know. But you never know when a damning letter might be unearthed. What if we have something close to proof that Cobb threw a game or two?

Nothing, probably.

I don't believe anyone's really got the stomach for yanking Ty Cobb's plaque from the wall. There would be a lot of talk about the mists of time and the conditions of his era, and in the end Cobb's (again, theoretical) transgressions would become just another inconvenient footnote in the game's long, sometimes sordid history.

What would the Hall of Fame do if a modern Hall of Famer was found to have gambled on baseball? Or (more likely) to have used illegal performance-enhancing drugs while those drugs were (theoretically) against Major League Baseball rules?

I don't have the foggiest idea. I've been thinking about this for two days (and trying to write this blog post for two days), and I just don't know. Usually, these things are obvious enough (in my mind, anyway) that I can rattle off something for you within an hour or so. This one's got me stumped, though.

The people who run the Hall of Fame really don't want to kick anybody out. The people who vote for the Hall of Fame have made it pretty clear that while cocaine, amphetamines, and various other controlled substances are perfectly acceptable, they're drawing the line at steroids. But what if -- and please pardon this hypothetical -- what if Rickey Henderson were to appear on a list of players who had used steroids? Henderson sailed into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

If he -- again, hypothetically -- was exposed as a "cheater" (not my word), it would create a real quandary for all the stakeholders. But I think the Hall would sit tight. Just not worth the hassle. The voters/writers might squawk, but in the end they need the Hall more than the Hall needs them. So let's say our hypothetical Man of Steal keeps his plaque. Doesn't that make it just a bit harder for voters to spurn Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro and Barry Bonds?

I'm not saying there's a complete turnaround, or that anything big happens immediately. But I think if someone in the Hall of Fame is exposed, that player will not be de-plaqued, and I think it will help some future candidates with steroids in their past.