Steroid McCarthyism Keeps Jeff Bagwell Out of the Hall of Fame

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Former Houston Astros Jeff Bagwell was denied entrance to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame as “steroid McCarthyism” reared its ugly head. Bagwell’s statistics are worthy of the Hall of Fame but, unfortunately, Bagwell’s career has been tainted by the “steroid issue.”

Bagwell is not the first baseball player who has been prevented from being elected to Cooperstown because of steroids. But he may be the first player denied in the absence of any evidence that he ever used performance enhancement drugs. Bagwell never failed a drug test. He hasn’t been investigated by the government. He wasn’t named in the Mitchell Report.

Rather, there have been “rumors of steroid use”. He has been “tied to steroid speculation“. He also has “wildly irresponsible” beliefs about steroid use in sports. He was a power hitter who played during the “Steroid Era.” He played baseball with known steroid users. He hired a bodybuilder as a personal trainer. He became more muscular. He admired Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire. He sympathized with Andy Pettitte.

Many sportswriters feel this is sufficient to condemn Bagewell as a cheater. He is guilty by mere association and by his refusal to condemn athletes such as Bonds, McGwire and Pettitte.

Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports was one of the few sportswriters to criticize the steroid hysteria as modern-day McCarthyism:

Wow. Forget evidence or even eyeball-speculation. Now it’s enough to be merely “tied to speculation,” — query; who’s doing the tying? — to have defended oneself and to have engaged in “irresponsible” talk. That gets you branded a cheater by some writers now.

The possibility of  being in the Hall of Fame has lost its luster for Jeff Bagwell. In an recent interview with Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, he expressed his disgust for the steroid innuendo that surrounded his possible nomination to the Hall of Fame.

“I’m so sick and tired of all the steroids crap, it’s messed up my whole thinking on the subject. I hate to even use this word, but it’s become almost like a ‘buzz kill’ for me.

“So much has gone on in the last eight or nine years, it’s kind of taken some of the valor off it for me. If I ever do get to the Hall of Fame and there are 40 guys sitting behind me thinking, ‘He took steroids,’ then it’s not even worth it to me. I don’t know if that sounds stupid. But it’s how I feel in a nutshell.”

The Hall of Fame voting process needs to move beyond the steroid hysteria and rise above unsubstantiated accusations of steroid use and/or labeling players as steroid sympathizers.

About Millard Baker