What if baseball’s cheaters ended up winning?

by Gary Shelton on April 19, 2020

in general

A-Rod could have been remembered as the finest./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Sunday, 4 a.m.

What if the world begged your pardon. Better question: What if baseball accepted it.

We live in the days where a lot of former great players are looking in through the window, their reputations sullied, their character in question. We have been surrounded by cheaters and villains, by short-cutters and varlets.

But what if Rob Manfred -- or, more believable, Donald Trump -- were to hold up a hand and say "'let's just vote on their baseball accomplishments." What then?

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I know Hall of Fame voters who think that's all that should matter, you know. We had a spirited discussion over dinner one night, asking if baseball should be in charge of morals. And if not, why allow Ty Cobb and Gaylord Perry to remain?

Of course, the sign-stealers of Houston and Boston will see if there is any backlash to their deeds.

So let's look at 15 players. If one gets in, and one alone, then take the No. 1 guy. If four get in, then take the top four. And so on.

  1. Pete Rose. Rose broke the prime directive, so I won't stay up nights weeping for him. Worse, he lied about it, then only came (partially clean) to sell books. But baseball has always insisted it had more on Rose than what he is telling; it maintains it has evidence he indeed bet on his team. So, no, I don't think he will get in and no, I don't think he should.

But you can't argue with Rose as a player.  He's the all-time leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at bats (14,053), singles (3,215), and outs. 10,328). He won three World Series Rings, three battling titles, one MVP, two gold gloves and made 17 all-star appearance at five positions.

For him to get in, however, it would take a removal of his name from the banned list, and then a vote, which is unlikely. Unless someone powerful steps in, Rose is outside the Hall.

2. Barry Bonds. The shame of it is that Bonds would have cruised into the Hall based on his performance before anyone ever heard of steroids.

Bonds hit more home runs that anyone (762). He won seven MVP awards, eight Gold Glove and 12 Silver Slugger awards. He was an all-star 14 times. His 73 home runs in 2001 is a record, although it's tainted.

3. Roger Clemens. Clemens won seven Cy Young Awards and 354 games and his 4,672 strikeouts is third all-time. But Clemens rebooted his career during the steroid era -- although many feel baseball was partially to blame.

4. Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez is the perfect example of someone who had it all but wanted more. His 25 grand slams is the most in baseball history. He had 696 home runs, more than 3,000 hits and more than 300 stolen bases. He was a 14-time all-star and was MVP three times.

But as the money got bigger, Rodriguez broke more rules. He's received good reviews as an analyst, but that's a long way from being back.

5. Shoeless Joe Jackson. There is a segment of the population that would forgive Jackson for his part in the 1919 Black Sox scandal because he had good numbers during the Series. But he did accept the money, and no one knows what he might have done if he was at bat with the winning run at second base in the deciding game.

6. David Ortiz. In 2003, Ortiz' name was on a list of more than 100 players listed in the New York Times, alleging steroid use. Ortiz has denied it, but so too have others. But if you're leaving room for doubt, Ortiz would probably slip in.

7. Buck Weaver. He wasn't as flashy a player as Jackson, but if you're arguing anyone's innocence in the 1919 scandal, it's Weaver. The history books are kind to him, but he is lumped in with the others.

8. Gary Sheffield. Sheffield admitted to using "cream," although he said he didn't know it was a steroid. Yeah...maybe.

9. Andy Pettitte. Pettitte tugged the heartstrings with his emotional confession. That doesn't mean, however, that he didn't do it.

10. Mark McGwire. McGwire was the breakout star when he and Sammy Sosa dueled in 1998, hitting a then-record 70 home runs. But McGwire's power grew incrementally during the Steroid era. He hasn't come close in the vote.

11. Sammy Sosa. Another player who has been judged by the public as being guilty. He hit more than 60 home runs three times.

12. Lenny Dykstra. Dykstra was a three-time all-star and a very good player. But he was named in the Mitchell Report, and it's been alleged he used Steroids throughout his career.

13. Jason Giambi. Giambi has admitted using Human Growth Hormones. He probably wouldn't have been a Hall of Famer anyway, but his confession has removed all doubt.

14. Manny Ramirez. The old line about "Manny being Manny" was a one-liner to describe his goofy demeanor. But he tested positive twice, retiring rather than facing another ban. Not funny, Manny.

15. Jose Canseco. Canseco was the poster-boy for Steroids, a walking example of how someone could bulk up to cartoonish proportions. If you wanted to pay with Steroids, Canseco was your Timothy Leary.

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