So not everyone loved Long Gone Summer on Sunday night, and I get the criticism. It was disproportionately focused on McGwire instead of Sosa, and kind of glossed over the fact that they were both on steroids. However, I enjoyed it for two reasons. One, the doc wasn’t really supposed to be about the steroid usage or the implications of it. It was supposed to be 120 minutes of dingers, and that’s exactly what they gave us. And two, it’s pretty impossible to make a documentary about the 1998 MLB season and have it not be entertaining. Steroid era baseball content is like pizza, even the bad kinds are still pretty damn good.
Long Gone Summer gave us an excuse to bring back one of the classic sports debates of our generation: should steroid users be allowed in the Hall of Fame? In short, yes, yes they should. Before any anti-steroid readers start punching air, let me explain.
I’m not trying to say any of the steroid users’ records are legitimate. Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs when he was juiced out of his mind. How are we supposed to compare that to Maris’ 61 clean homers? You can’t, there’s absolutely no way to know how these players’ seasons would have ended up if Bonds wasn’t using, or if Maris was using. That’s why in my mind, leave the records to the clean players or slap an asterisk next to the ones who took steroids. But let’s not get it twisted. Just because steroids inflated these guys’ stats doesn’t mean a lot of them weren’t already great players without the drugs.
Take Bonds, for example. His 2001-04 stretch is the most dominant period a baseball player has ever had. Yes, he was using PED’s by then, but he was a pretty damn good player before he ever took them too. He won three MVPs, had an OPS over 1.000 six times, and was a 40/40 club member before juicing. Bonds was a surefire Hall of Famer without steroids; using them is what made him the best hitter the game’s ever seen. He won seven MVPs. Roger Clemens won seven Cy Young awards. You really think those two got to where they are STRICTLY because of steroids? No chance.
My solution? If a player is a borderline Hall of Famer who took steroids, he shouldn’t get in. It’s probably safe to assume the juice gave him the extra boost to become HOF caliber. But Bonds hit 762 home runs. Clemens won 354 games. Alex Rodriguez is the best shortstop the game’s ever seen. You can’t tell the story of baseball without these legends, and they belong in the Hall of Fame. I mean, it is a museum about the history of baseball – why would we leave the steroid guys out of it? It’s possible to both appreciate what they did on the field while also giving the context about what the league was like during their era.
Since the current MLB commissioner doesn’t actually like baseball, the people’s commissioner Trevor Bauer shared his thoughts on the matter on Twitter.
He makes some great points, especially the fact that we likely already have steroid users in the Hall. Players like Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell had rumors swirling about them possibly using, and who knows what other players that are in could have been using. I’d bet anything that David Ortiz walks into the Hall in a few years because he was such a great player and beloved personality, yet he was named in the Mitchell Report. To let some guys in and keep Bonds and other legends out just doesn’t make sense. Put an asterisk on their plaque if you have to, but you simply can’t tell the story of baseball without these players.
(And for anyone wondering how a Yankee fan like me can support steroid users in the Hall of Fame but still complain about the Astros cheating, here’s how.)