PR in Sports

Looking at the World of Sports from a PR Perspecitve

Who Will be the First Steroid User Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame?

with 20 comments

Mcgwire testifying before congress in 2005

I’m not interested in getting into how Mark McGwire handled the steroids issue, and his revelation that he did indeed use PED’s, we all know this has been a complete disaster for Big Mac. He lied in front of congress and he’s basically been a pariah ever since. Now he’s returning to baseball as the St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach and was almost forced to admit his wrong doings, and even in doing so, is saying steroids did not help him hit homeruns.

I do think an interesting question is how McGwire’s admission affects the Baseball Hall of Fame. At some point there will be steroid users recognized in the Hall of Fame, and someone will be the first to get in. But who that player will be is up for debate.

Shortly after McGwire’s admission I participated in #SportsPRChat, a chat session on Twitter run by Mike Schaffer (@MikeSchaffer) Director of Social Media at Brotman-Winter Fried Communications and author of The Buzz by Mike Schaffer. During Monday’s chat I had a discussion with Matt LaCasse (@MattLaCasse) about who the first steroid user in the Baseball Hall of Fame will be?

LaCasse feels McGwire will make that claim, due to being likable, finally coming clean and that being “the face” of the steroid era makes him the right candidate. He might be right, McGwire certainly has time on his side as he’s eligible (he has seven years left on the ballot) and now has a day-to-day job in baseball where he can mend fences with sportswriters, the ones who actually do the voting. But, I’m not so sure “the face” of the steroid era being the first in the Hall of Fame is such a good thing for baseball.

I argued that from a PR perspective baseball would be better off with someone like Andy Pettitte. Pettitte seems to have created the blueprint for getting past the steroid issue. When baseball’s Mitchell Report outed him as an offender, Pettitte immediately faced the music by holding a press conference.

To this day he remains a respected player and citizen in the game. I don’t recall steroids being mentioned once during his two World Series starts in 2009. In contrast, we’ve seen guys like McGwire, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds deny their use of PED’s for years, and as a result be banished from the game for the most part.

A player like Pettitte going in first would minimize the negative PR at the time of his induction, and minimize the negative press when his peers finally enter. Yes, there would still be plenty of steroid stories when McGwire, Bonds, Clemens etc. go in, but it would definitely be tempered a bit with an admitted user already in. A strike against Pettitte is that he hasn’t retired yet, so time is not on his side, as we have to wait at least six years before he’s eligible.

No matter how it plays out, I think it’s an interesting question. So, who do you think will be the first steroid user inducted into the Hall of Fame and who would be best for baseball?

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Written by Brian Gleason

January 12, 2010 at 1:14 am

20 Responses

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  1. Like the site but disagree about Pettitte as he’s probably not good enough to be voted in the Hall on merit, regardless of how well he handled his situation.

    All the worthy guys will eventually go in and the numbers will be looked at in context (it make take another 5-8 years before that happens), because how can you leave out an entire generation (as some want to do) from the Hall? Would you go to a Hall with no Clemens, Maddux, Randy, Pedro, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Bagwell, Biggio, Palmeiro, etc?


    January 12, 2010 at 10:45 am

    • Hi Jay,

      Thanks for checking out the site, I hope you’ll continue to visit! Pettitte’s HOF status is definitely an issue. Even as a Red Sox fan though, I’m pretty sure he’ll get in. His win total and playoff numbers almost trump any deficiency, although he may not be a first-ballot guy. Plus, it could help his status if the writers are looking for a “safe” steroid guy to put in first. I agree that the worthy steroid guys will eventually get in, they almost have too at some point. The question is when and who will be first?

      Do you have an opinion on how they should be recognized? An asterisk on their plaque if they’ve failed a test or admitted steroid use? Bob Costas has an interesting idea of a steroid era wing in the hall. Something before you enter that says “This era was defined by steroid use, we know some used, we know some didn’t and there are some that used that we don’t know about, but these were the best of the era.”


      Brian Gleason

      January 12, 2010 at 11:26 am

    • 1. These athletes used sodrties or other types of PEDS to advance themselves ahead of other athletes and give themselves an unfair advantage.2. Athletes use PEDS to gain an unfair advantage over their fellow athletes and to win win.3. I can see an argument for legalizing PEDS in professional sports because it is just another piece of equipment to gain an advantage. When an athlete puts on a new shoe that allows them to jump higher, reduce drag, increase traction and the shoes are lightweight this gives that athlete an unfair advantage over the other athletes but nobody complains about that. When they put that shoe on it becomes part of their body. Why should PEDS be treated any differently then the new equipment that athletes use to gain an advantage over their fellow competitors?4. I agree with that to a degree because we as individuals know what we can and can’t handle. What may work for one person may not work for another person. Only when what you are injecting into your body puts others in harms way should the government step in. Whether you hurt yourself or improve yourself is up to you and only you should reap the benefits or consequences.


      May 24, 2012 at 8:30 pm

  2. After some further thought, I’m even more convinced McGwire will be the first guy in.

    There’s no one the media WANTED to love more in this whole mess than that guy. Once Sosa was exposed for being an egotistical jerkwad, everyone stopped paying attention to him. Same with Clemens. Bonds won’t get in because no one likes him. And the HOF is as much a popularity contest as it is a shrine of baseball.

    After a certain amount of time, McGwire will be the safe choice. He’s well liked by the fans and will have the chance over the coming years to make nice with the writers as he performs as the hitting coach for the Cardinals.

    He may have to wait for the veteran’s committee to put him in, but I think the writers will make him wait until his final ballot and then vote him in. It’ll be their way of “punishing” him.

    Matt LaCasse

    January 12, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    • Thanks for commenting Matt!

      I think McGwire is burning even more bridges by not being honest when he finally came clean. There’s no way he doesn’t remember what he took and there’s no way he seriously beleives that steroids didn’t help him hit the homeruns. He might be turning off a lot of writers for good. The one thing he has going for him is exactly what you said, he’ll have seven more years to work the writers behind the scenes. It will be interesting though, if Pettitte plays just one more year then his first year eligible will be the year before McGwire’s last year on the ballot.

      If McGwire doesn’t get in by the writers I highly doubt the veterans committee puts him in. He definitely burned too many bridges there.

      Brian Gleason

      January 12, 2010 at 11:00 pm

  3. I cast my vote for Canseco….he’s been the only one upfront and honest about steroids since day 1!!!


    January 13, 2010 at 11:52 am

    • That’s definitely a creative take on it Chappy! I do agree that honesty should play a part. Not that Pettitte was probably completely honest, but McGwire has had tons of chances to come clean and didn’t do it until he had something to gain, and even then he seems to be playing the “I do not recall” card a lot.

      Brian Gleason

      January 13, 2010 at 2:49 pm

  4. Actually, McGwire has 12 years left on the ballot. Tony LaRussa made some comments this week suggesting he’d consider adding Mac to the Sept. roster as a PH. If so, Mac’s Hall clock would stop and restart in 2016 with 12 years to go. Cynics suggest that might be part of the rationale for re-activating him, to give the PED issue more time to blow over. This may not come to fruition, though.

    There’s an argument that Pud Galvin (active 1875-1892, 364 career wins, HOF Class of 1965) was the first PED user elected to the HOF. In 1889, Galvin openly used the Brown-Séquard elixir, which contained monkey testosterone.

    But that probably wasn’t what you had in mind. I don’t know who exactly will be the first, but Jim Caple of makes an excellent point: HOF voters can only vote for a maximum of 10 players. If none of the players clouded by PED controversies can muster the 75% of the vote needed for induction, then by 2014, you could see the ballot clogged by Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa. There will be a lot of voters who will vote for all four of those guys. Given that the 2014 ballot will be plenty deep even without those guys on the ballot, it creates the possibility that few players will be able to clear the 75% bar, and the logjam will contiune compounding.

    I think that at some point, some of those guys have to get in rather than languish on the ballot for 15 years. Maybe Clemens is the first one, because it’s so easy to rationalize his PED use as coming well after he’d already solidified his HOF cred. Maybe it’s Sosa because the whole taint around him has always been based exclusively on association and conjecture. But I think once a few guys with the PED taint get in, it becomes real difficult to keep others out on the same ground. And then the levee breaks and all four of those guys eventually get in.

    Just my thoughts.

    David Donovan

    January 13, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    • Hi David,

      Definitely appreciate your comments. I was thinking more modern day, but nice pick up on Pud Galvin:)

      I’m not so sure McGwire was a sure-fire HOFer prior to his steroid use. There’s definitely an argument to be made that, minus steroids, injuries would have derailed his career, and I think we can all agree he wouldn’t have two 60+ HR seasons on his resume. I think Bonds and Clemens fit the “would’ve been an HOFer regardless argument better”.

      The ballot logjam is a great point and something I hadn’t heard before. I’m definitely going to check out Caple’s article. Seems like an issue that could really effect the process in ways we never thought of before.

      Brian Gleason

      January 13, 2010 at 2:55 pm

      • Here’s the link to Caple’s article in case you hadn’t found it yet. He’s got a lot of other good points in there.

        I agree that it’s easier to point to Bonds’ and Clemens’ body of work before PED became an issue and induct them into the Hall based on that alone. I like to bisect Bonds’ career into Stick Bonds (pre-PED) and Thick Bonds (post-PED). Stick Bonds won three MVPs, eight Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers and stole 400+ bases and was in some ways the better all-around player. Those 13 years alone justify HOF induction. Clemens is even easier; by 1992 he had won three Cy Youngs, four ERA titles and an MVP.

        McGwire obviously doesn’t have that kind of pre-PED resume. There were only six years pre-PED when he was an elite player, and even then not a historic one the way Bonds and Clemens were. But I am hearing writers try to argue that even if you include McGwire’s PED era, he’s not a slam-dunk HOF inductee … which is just ludicrous. And the frustrating thing is that there’s simply no way to know how good Mac would have been without PED. I think that’s one of the things eating at him, the way he also cheated himself. I think he still would have been very good. PED can add quite some length to flyballs, but they won’t help you make contact.

        Upon more thought, I think Clemens will be the first PED tainted player to get in. I’m sure Bonds won’t be simply because so many of the writers so actively dislike him.

        David Donovan

        January 13, 2010 at 4:00 pm

  5. We’re all assuming that McGwire did the smart thing on Monday and told the truth. It’s beginning to look like that may not be the case.

    If this article at Sports By Brooks holds any water, then I retract everything I said about McGwire getting in.

    Matt LaCasse

    January 14, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    • Thanks for posting the link to that article Matt! Very interesting. If McGwire is worried about the HOF, then it definitely doesn’t help to lie about what really happened or tell half-truths. I do not believe that he doesn’t remember what steroids or PED’s he took. I also can’t believe that he thinks steroids didn’t help him at all, it’s just insane and almost insults the public’s intelligence.

      It’s going to be interesting to see if this dies out or if it gets worse for McGwire.

      Brian Gleason

      January 14, 2010 at 1:04 pm

      • Wow, that’s a really clever way of thnkiing about it!


        May 3, 2011 at 7:29 pm

  6. I used to be so against steroids that I was infuriated by the thought of someone who used them being admitted into the hall of fame. I have come to realize that baseball is now over-run by steroid users. I feel like many players use them, it is just a matter of getting caught.
    Although steroids enhance performance, you still have to hit the ball. McGwire and Bonds still had to go to the plate and make contact with a 95 mph fastball. If you put the Metrex world’s strongest man in the batters box he wouldn’t make contact. You still need baseball skills to be successful on steroids.

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