Major League Baseball just felt its first major backlash from the steroid era of the late 1990s and early 2000s when not one player was inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. This was the first time since 1996 that no player was elected. Most of the players on this year’s ballot had exceptional statistical careers. Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, and Rafael Palmeiro were the signature names that were denied entrance into baseball’s most sacred fraternity. Players such as Piazza and Craig Biggio that were never directly associated with steroids were even left out. This was a statement by the voters declaring all players who played in that time period are guilty by association and have an asterisk attached to their careers. This darkens the cloud that was already cast over this era.
Mike Piazza was one of the greatest catchers of all time, producing a career stat line of a .308 batting average, 427 home runs, 1,335 runs batted in to go along with 12 all-star appearances, and 10 silver slugger awards. Amongst the all-time leaders at the catcher position, Piazza is first in home runs, first in slugging percentage, third in batting average, and fourth in runs batted in. Piazza never failed a drug test or was even speculated to have used performance enhancing drugs. But because of the transgressions of some of his peers he now has to wait another year to receive a chance to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Piazza was not linked to steroids and many think that this was an injustice. Mets owner Fred Wilpon issued a statement in which he reached out and supported Piazza; “We hope in the not-too-distant future that Mike Piazza will take his rightful place in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The statistics he compiled as a catcher were unmatched by anyone in the history of the game. We are optimistic one day soon Mike’s plaque, with a Mets cap, will be hanging in Cooperstown where it truly belongs.” They say that time heals all wounds, so hopefully the next time he is eligible the voters will have a change of heart and give the great Mike Piazza the accolades he deserves.
Craig Biggio received the highest percentage of votes and was another player not directly linked to steroids that was punished for the actions of others. Biggio started his career as a catcher, moved to centerfield, then became a Gold Glove second baseman. He accumulated a .281 batting average with 3,060 hits, 327 home runs, and 414 stolen bases. Biggio was a seven time all-star, four-time Gold Glove winner, and won five Silver Slugger awards. Craig Biggio’s long-time teammate Jeff Bagwell, who was also eligible for induction but did not get in, is shocked that Biggio was not selected. “I hurt for ( Biggio),” said Bagwell ” I know it means a ton to him… That doesn’t make any sense. That’s a travesty. You’re talking about 3,000 hits and you don’t get in on the first ballot. That sucks. He deserves to be in right now.” I’m sure many of Biggio’s fans share this same sentiment. He was one of the good guys in baseball, and represented everything that’s good about the game, as with Piazza. Biggio, staying true to himself, kept things in perspective and was somewhat humorous about the situation “I kept an open mind to the whole thing,” said Biggio. “Who knew how the voters were going to vote? It’s something that’s out of your control… Was I disappointed? I’m pretty close [to getting in]. We got a 68 [%], and I’m going to go back and study a little harder and hopefully I’ll get a 75 next year.” It’s a shame that these two players are left out due to the shameful actions that took place in the tarnished years of the steroid era.
We have now learned that everyone who played in those years is either guilty, or guilty by association. This is an unfortunate circumstance for the players who stayed clean during this era, their legacies will forever be tainted.