If you have ever been to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY you know how overwhelming the experience really is. I went with my Dad just after my 21st birthday and it was amazing. If you haven’t been, and you’re reading this, you must go. It truly exceeds all your expectations, I saw everything from Lou Gehrig‘s locker from Yankee Stadium, to Babe Ruth‘s bat he used to supposedly call his shot in 1932, to Willie Mays glove he used to make his famous catch in the 1954 World Series. There are modern artifacts as well, my visit came in 2005 after the Red Sox had finally broken the curse of the Bambino, in the case commemorating the 2004 World Series, Curt Schilling‘s bloody sock. They had Scott Hatteberg‘s bat from the 20th game of the win streak in 2002. Why am I telling you all this? Because visiting the Hall of Fame makes you understand just why it means so much to former Major Leaguers to not just be inducted into the Hall, but to just have something there.
So this year the Hall of Fame voting really packs a punch, with many players who were front and center of the steroid era making their first appearances on the ballot. I’ll get to them shortly. But there are a few players on this ballot who spent some time in Oakland during their careers as well. Some of those players may fall in that steroid category as well.
Mark McGwire was the first steroid era player to be subjected to the voting process, and he hasn’t come anywhere close to getting in. It is beginning to look like he may never make it in. He and Jose Canseco were among the first to use steroids in baseball, and right now he’s the scapegoat in this process.
Other former Athletics such as Mike Piazza who spent part of the 2007 season with the club. He didn’t show the same kind of power he did earlier in his career, but still hit a respectable .275/.313/.414 in 329 plate appearances. Todd Walker played the final 18 games of his Major League career in Oakland in 2007 as well and hit .271/.288/.292 before being released. Walker has absolutely no shot at making the Hall, but his presence on the ballot has to be gratifying for him.
Tim Raines played for the Athletics in 1999 at age 39 and hit .215/.337/.341 in 164 plate appearances, he played once more for the Montreal Expos, and the Baltimore Orioles, and finished his career with the Florida Marlins.
This year’s vote will be a major test as to what the psyche of the voters is towards suspected PED users. I think ultimately Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa will all make the Hall, but perhaps not this time around. I expect Jack Morris to finally make that push over the edge and get in, and Craig Biggio should get the votes as well. I’d like to see Jeff Bagwell get in with Biggio, that would be a great moment for the Houston Astros before they prepare to suffer a beatdown at the hands of the A’s (hehe). I think Mike Piazza will get the votes as well, and he is more than deserving as perhaps the best power hitting catcher of all time.
I feel like it’s not fair to single out certain players for their alledged PED use when it’s pretty clear there was rampant use across the league. Who knows what the pitchers these guys were taking (See Roger Clemens), and it’s simply a part of baseball history that can’t be ignored. It’ll most definitely be a fascinating vote breakdown when it’s all said and done.