With the retirement of Manny Ramirez last week, we have seen a renewed debate on the Hall of Fame candidacies for players that are known to have used Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs).
With the selection to the Hall of Fame no longer a lock for players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Alex Rodriguez, it raises the question of whether we will see any players from this generation enshrined in Cooperstown.
We have already seen how Hall of Fame voters feel about players known to use PEDs. After finally admitting to steroid use, this year Mark McGwire received his lowest vote total (19.8%*) in five years of eligibility. Rafael Palmeiro received just 11.0% of the votes in his first year of eligibility. And even Jeff Bagwell only received 41.7 per cent of the votes, and he has never been directly linked to steroid use.
So if the steroid users won’t get it, who is left? Plenty actually.
Below I ranked the best players in baseball that started their career in 1985 or later, based on Wins Above Replacement (WAR; a look at how many wins a player was worth to their team, and allows us to compare all players on same scale regardless of position). Notes about the ranking can be found below the chart…
Starting with Bonds and going all the way to Sammy Sosa, we see that there are 36 players that have a 59.7 career WAR or better since the start of the 1985 season. Of these players, four are already in the Hall of Fame.
Among this group, nine players (25%) have either tested positive for PEDs through Major League Baseball’s testing program, were implicated through the BALCO investigation, or were listed in the Mitchell Report. But what we notice is that, while the top three players are all known PED users, most of the others have borderline Hall of Fame credentials anyway.
And in between the two groups of PED users, we see plenty of big names that should waltz into the Hall of Fame, including Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Albert Pujols, Ken Griffey, Pedro Martinez, Derek Jeter, and Frank Thomas.
What will be interesting moving forward, is not whether voters will find anybody worthy of their votes, but rather, whether they will vote in some of the borderline guys that were perceived to be clean. This includes guys like Jim Edmonds, Edgar Martinez and Craig Biggio. That would be ironic. While the other guys used steroids to boost their Hall of Fame numbers, steroids may actually push somebody like Biggio into the Hall because he stayed away from them.
NOTE: Wins Above Replacement includes a players defensive contributions in addition to their offence (in the case of position players). That is why you will see a guy like Jim Edmonds ranked ahead of Manny Ramirez. Edmonds’ all-around game was actually slightly more valuable to his teams than Manny’s bat was to his. In fact, Manny had a negative career defensive value. So Manny’s WAR would have been higher for his career if he had never played in the field.
All data via Baseball-Reference.com
*75.0% of the votes is needed to be elected to the Hall of Fame.