Baseball’s Steroids Era, Records and the Hall of Fame
This is something fans remember:
This is something we would rather forget:
As FiveThirtyEight correctly notes, Barry Bonds is “the poster boy for steroid-fueled home run dominance.” By most accounts, Bonds began taking steroids at the age of 33 and you can see that in his stats.
FiveThirtyEight suggests deducting 20 percent off the top from totals from suspected Steroid users, which would reduce Bonds from the Home Run King with 762 to #4 at 657 (just behind his godfather Willie Mays). This is using a cleaver, when a more tailored approach is required. I altered Bonds totals applying Hank Aaron’s home runs per game totals for the last ten years of Bonds’ career which left him #3 with 671 home runs. It should be possible to create a formula based on the performance of non-juicing comparable players at that age.
I think if Major League Baseball can find the right formula (based on comparable players) to apply for the years in question, there is a solution to preserving the integrity of baseball records and addressing the notable absence in the Hall of Fame from players of that era. It has the following elements:
(1) Come Clean
Players would need to come forward and admit they used performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and the years they did so. For some, this might create potential criminal liability, so MLB may need to get some sort of understanding or a cut a deal with law enforcement on this.
(2) Apply the Formula and Adjust the Records
By coming clean, players would agree to having their stats adjusted based on an MLB established formula and would renounce claims to records they do not withstand adjustment under the formula. For example, Bonds likely would have to relinquish claims to being the all-time home-run king and the single-season home run king, as neither record would hold up after adjustment.
(3) Eligibility for the Hall of Fame
This is the carrot for allowing baseball to put a troubled era in proper context and giving proper credit to both past record holders and outstanding players from that era. Nobody disputes that Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens were among the best players of their era, reporters and fans just want them to be viewed in the proper context. If they agree to steps one and two, they have enabled this to happen and should be rewarded with their rightful spot in Cooperstown.