Rob Neyer wrote an article about keeping an open mind during Hall of Fame voting season, about putting process ahead of results, about how being thoughtful is more important than coming up with the right answer. I should be supportive of these sentiments, I know. But these sentiments are being deployed alongside a rather poor example of being thoughtful. Neyer writes in the comments, in response to a reader saying there's no more evidence Jeff Bagwell used PEDs than Barry Larkin:
That's right, folks—the increase in home run rates for shortstops and designated hitters was essentially identical. DHs do hit more home runs than shortstops, but that's always been the case. This suggests one of two things:
- That shortstops took steroids at similar rates to designated hitters, or
- That steroids were not the primary cause of increased home run rates.
Of course, both could be true – they're not mutually exclusive.
So I agree with Rob Neyer when he says everyone should be be thoughtful and consider all the available evidence when approaching these issues. I just wish he'd lead by example and do those things, too. Most people would tell you that someone like Edgar Martinez is more likely to have used performance enhancing drugs than someone like Derek Jeter. But that popular supposition isn't evidence of steroid use by Edgar (or any other big damn slugger), it's evidence of a preconception that distorts our perspective on baseball history during the past decade or so. Proponents of a "clean Hall" are truly proponents of a Hall without the defining power hitters of an age, while pitchers and players at defense-first positions are largely free from scrutiny. But the evidence we have at hand tells us that players of all stripes – pitchers and pinch-runners as well as power hitters – were guilty of the same crimes. Continuing to paint sluggers with a different brush than everybody else makes it easier for Hall voters to label players as "clean" or "dirty" but it does so at the expense of telling the truth about an entire generation of players.