Baseball is one of the most popular sports in North America. Yet its many fans can’t deny that it suffers from regular and embarrassing controversies. From gambling scandals in the early twentieth century to the Steroid Era, the list goes on and on. Furthermore, many fans have different perspectives on these stories. For example, the Steroid Era coincided with baseball rediscovering its popularity. Meanwhile, there were few laws regarding the use of PEDs in this period so many players didn’t actually break any rules.
But despite this, they may never enter the Hall of Fame. Some fans believe that this is fair while others strongly disagree. Then, there are situations like the Houston Astros sign-posting scandal and Pete Rose’s gambling ban. These are all divisive issues and fans maintain strong opinions on them all. Check out the list below via Baseball Egg and Reddit.
30. An All-Time Great Bathed In Controversy
Barry Bonds is an all-time leader in many MLB categories and was a seven-time NL MVP. He became one of the most iconic players of his generation for many clear reasons. But the problem is that he almost definitely took performance-enhancing drugs. As a result, Cooperstown refuses to consider him for enshrinement. However, many fans still believe that Bonds deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame.
“You can’t just use steroids on any above-average player and get Barry Bonds as an end result,”walflez9000 said. “He obviously juiced up along with probably 90% of the league’s players at the time but no one came close to being the legend he was.” This is a great point. He had the most home runs in a single season as he competed against other athletes who were also juiced up. It’s not like he was the only one.
“I think after this it shows more than anything else Manfred has to go,”FreedomKid7 wrote after the Houston Astros’ sign-posting scandal. “He was willing to sweep this s**t under the rug instead of deal with it. Doing that ruins the integrity of the game on top of the fact a lot of pitchers that got rocked by the Astros lost potential money (Yu Darvish mainly.)”
Rob Manfred is one of the least popular sports commissioners in major league history. Mealy-mouthed and weak, he is also incredibly biased toward owners. The fact that the Astros’ scandal was player-led meant that he didn’t have to crack down as hard as possible. He didn’t strip the franchise of its ill-gained titles, but instead hoped that everybody would forget and move on. Fans have not forgotten his ineptitude.
“Maybe it’s because I’m not as familiar with it, but the owners’ conspiracy seems much less significant than a team purposely losing the World Series for gamblers,”johnnotmark observed. These were two of the most controversial moments in MLB history because they revealed the sport’s dark side. First of all, the owner’s conspiracy was deeply immoral as franchise owners colluded against their players.
But from a sporting sense, the Black Sox scandal was one of the worst ever. In 1919, eight of the Chicago White Sox received lifetime bans from the sport because they threw a World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. These included the legendary ‘Shoeless Joe’ Jackson. Historically MLB responds harshly toward gambling violations because of the legacy of this scandal.
“Bud 756* Selig is in the hall of fame. It was his lack of leadership that bloomed into this. If Selig* is in, let everyone in,”fajita43 surmised about the Hall of Fame issue. Selig was MLB commissioner from 1998 to 2015. During this period significant news about steroid use came to light. ‘756’ in this context refers to Barry Bond’s record-breaking home run in 2007.
Selig didn’t watch that game because he was meeting Sen. George Mitchell to discuss PED use in baseball. Furthermore, he was also a key player in baseball’s 400 percent increase in revenue. However, a lot of this came down to the insane change in the game because of increased steroid use. This happened under his watch and was slow to change because they saw the financial gain stemming from it.
“Baseball went through a mini-crisis after the ’94-’95 strike- baseball had long been declining in popularity, and add on the public outrage of millionaires squabbling with billionaires over money, and interest in baseball was at a nadir,”Yoojine reminded fans. This is a great point and also ties in with Selig’s antics as an MLB commissioner. They were prepared to overlook steroid use because it produced on-field entertainment.
The likes of Roger Clemens and Bonds changed fans’ perceptions of the sport after a dismal period. MLB faced serious problems after the 1980s and many fans felt disenfranchised from the game. The sudden injection of excitement into the game altered everything. While the legacy of the Steroid Era is dubious, the fact remains that it did revitalize the league.
However, not everybody agrees that the Steroid Era made baseball more exciting for fans. Furthermore, the players of this era captured the imagination. “I think it ruined baseball for that very reason,”reallifebadass disagreed. “The Steroid Era got fans used to a style of ball that wasn’t what it should have been. Now that things are getting back to normal some fans who got used to the old way are getting bored of the game.”
This is an excellent point because baseball doesn’t have the same casual viewership anymore. Furthermore, in 2021, none of its best players were recognizable in the mainstream. The Washington Post reported that less than one in five Americans recognized Mike Trout, the greatest player of his era. In contrast, 50 percent of Americans know the NBA’s Steph Curry and former Saints quarterback Drew Brees of the NFL.
One fan lashed out at the fact that MLB knew that teams were using video technology to steal signs. PodricksPhallus reacted furiously to the fact that they simply released a memo instructing teams not to behave in this manner. Of course, this isn’t the most heavy-handed manner to pass instructions to a team. As a result, the Astros totally disregarded them because they didn’t fear the consequences.
“Obviously teams are gonna do it,” he said. “How did they not put in safeguards to prevent that kind of cheating? Whether it be wristbands or a pitcher/catcher device, or whatever. It’s not an impossible problem to solve. It just seems weird that they knew teams were cheating in this manner, and the best they could come up with is “we’d really rather you didn’t do it.”
As we mentioned earlier, Barry Bonds is one of the most polarizing athletes in the history of American pro sports. But many fans still argue about his contribution to baseball. Some believe that his status as the undisputed best of his era means that he is worthy of a place in Cooperstown. They think that it’s petty to leave him out and wishful thinking to say nobody else in the Hall took PEDs.
However, far from every fan follows this train of thought. Other fans insist that his cheating was so obvious that he can never enter the Hall of Fame. “No way,” zorbathegrate said. “He would have been the greatest hitter of all time if he wasn’t a crap human and cheat to be a hike run idiot. Never. He should never be in the Hall of Fame.” This is a controversial opinion but a valid one.
One of the other issues with the Steroid Era is the fact that it tarnished the reputation of baseball as a whole. Fans lost their trust in athletes and their ability to succeed without being juiced up. In many ways, it’s similar to cycling because that sport also has an atrocious doping record. It’s sad but the reality is that so many elite athletes of previous eras took PEDs to enhance their performance.
“If you use cycling as an example almost every cyclist ends up a villain,”liteagilid observed. “There’s like a 20 year period where almost every person that finished on the podium at the tour was connected to cheating. Cycling is no better for that. Every time some solos to a mountain top win they’re accused of doping. No one trusts it. Baseball will suffer a similar fate.”
“There is only one steroid user that belongs in the baseball hall of fame: Jose Canseco,”PopeAlGore argued. “Hear me out. You don’t put Jose in as a player. You put him in as a “contributor to the game”. His plaque should barely mention that he played – he should be even wearing a baseball cap – instead, it should exclusively talk about his book that outlined and brought to light all the cheating that was going on in baseball.”
Canseco is one of the most colorful athletes in the world. His book rocked MLB because it revealed the extent of doping league-wide. Meanwhile, he was shameless about his own PED use. The four-time Silver Slugger award winner was a prolific home-run hitter and later became a combat sports athlete. However, not many fans will agree he should be allowed into Cooperstown.
“Sure, the steroid era was a huge ordeal, but it was never a full team conspiring together to create baseball’s version of the Monstars,”Nervette said. “The league knew that the Astros were cheating and allowed it to happen. The league knew that if this ever came to light there would be a huge uproar whether they uncovered it then vs. now.” Overall, the Astros’ scandal was an open secret.
However, the difference between it and the Steroid Era was the fact that ironically the latter was an even playing field. This was because players from every team, all across the league, were doping. But when it came to Houston, only one team had the advantage. The fact that MLB enabled them through inaction embarrassed many fans and turned some away from the sport.
“I miss the innocence I had while watching the game in that era,”mike_rotch22 remarked. “Being able to watch the home run chase of ’98, especially getting to see a couple of Big Mac’s home runs in person, really drew me closer to the game. It drew my dad and me a lot closer as we watched as many home runs as we could. After the strike in ’94, the home run chase made baseball fun again.”
Mark McGwire was one of the most lambasted athletes involved in the Steroid Era but he was a massive fan favorite at the time. As the Reddit user note, this was ironically a golden age for baseball because it created so many exciting moments for fans. Furthermore, there was a sense of romanticism about this era while it was in progress. Fans don’t experience that same joy these days.
Despite the excitement of the Steroid Era, many fans firmly believe that it created a false perception of what baseball really is. Purists think that it damaged the sport because casual fans lost an appreciation of the technical aspects of the game. It also reduced baseball to raw power as opposed to tactical brilliance and innovation on behalf of the coaches and athletes.
“I think an overabundance of power-hitting removes a lot of depth from the game,”socsa said. “Baseball is such a cool sport because it is a unique combination of individual match-ups, team play, and game management. When everyone is just hitting dingers all the time, the team play and game management aspects become diminished.” To sum up, this isn’t wrong but it definitely doesn’t help the game’s mainstream appeal.
One of the most dramatic exclusions from the Hall of Fame came in 1989 after MLB permanently banned Pete Rose. The Cincinnati Reds manager was one of the league’s greatest ever players but bet on the results of his own team. The 17-time All-Star set an obscene number of records as a player, so many fans think his exclusion is petty and a waste of time.
However, not all fans agree with this. Some believe that his personality and antics outside of the sport also played a part. MikeyA6790 argued: “I don’t think it’s a HUGE deal but he hasn’t apologized and continues to be a s****y person. I think he had charges for tax evasion and came out with a book admitting what he did after denying for like 15 years.” This is all true but it doesn’t convince everybody.
“In my opinion, the prevalent steroid use of the 90s and early 00s was not the main cause of the explosion in offense,”DaHalfAsian argued. “I think it had more to do with a restricted strike zone and changes made to the ball. At any rate, I’d prefer a game that’s somewhere between what we had then and what we have now. Pitching is too dominant at the moment, thanks to the increased prevalence of the low strike.”
This is a compelling argument but ultimately it’s a little futile when what happened after the steroid era is taken into account. Yes, there were rule changes that an impact on play, but the sudden rise in offense clearly correlated with the prevalence of steroid use at the time. The drop-off in home runs in the present era clearly shows that steroids had an impact.
“Ever since the Black Sox scandal of 1919, professional baseball has been trying to make sure there is no doubt in the credibility of the players/games. It’s also why they are particularly and historically so sensitive about betting in baseball as compared to say PEDs,” feintise noted. This is an excellent point because gambling was the bane of baseball before PEDs were ever in the picture.
The early twentieth century in particular saw an obscene number of games thrown because of dubious bets. Indeed, after the Black Sox scandal, baseball saw its first commissioner appointed to ensure the sanctity of the sport. Of course, throughout history commissioners have not proved to be infallible. But this did provide more of a structure to the sport.
Gambling and sports have a dubious relationship because so many things can go wrong. A lot of fans suffer from gambling addiction while many athletes suffer suspensions after betting on the outcome of their own games. Pete Rose is one of the most high-profile casualties of this but nobody proved that he bet against his own team. Furthermore, his record as a player builds his own case.
“The problem I see is that if he bet on the Reds losing he could influence that outcome, but if he bet on them winning that all comes down to skill and talent, and as far as we know he only bet on the Reds winning,”textpoops argued. However, MLB has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to players and coaches betting on their own teams. Fans might not like it but Rose is out.
One fan had an interesting point to make about the Astros’ method of cheating. “Given how common hand signs are in baseball you’d think they could work out something more subtle than banging on a trash can. Heck, even just a plant in the stands where they’re clearly visible who holds up a distinctive “Go Team!” sign on non-fastballs would be less likely to turn up in broadcast recordings,”CeramicLicker noted.
This is an excellent observation because it shows how brazen they really were. It also proves that MLB simply chose not to notice Houston’s cheating until pressure forced them to engage with it. The pathetic punishment that they dished out to the franchise also disenfranchised fans because they felt that players should have also been hit with suspensions and sanctions.
Ironically, MLB’s reaction to the Astros’ cheating prompted a response from Pete Rose. He was furious because he believed that their punishment was disproportionate considering the magnitude of their offense. Meanwhile, they hit him with a lifetime ban and tarnished his legacy because he personally gambled on some games. Some fans agree that he certainly has a point.
Wiseoldprogrammer said: “I’m in the camp that Pete Rose should never be a part of baseball again. Betting on games you are involved in is a huge no-no. With that said, I do agree with him here. MLB should’ve dropped the hammer on them. Instead, it’s a weak punishment that does nothing but drives fans away from the game.” At the end of the day, this helped nobody.
“Cheating in MLB can have economic impacts, believe it or not, on private citizens,” eidetic noted.“Not hard to believe, when you have teams building stadiums that are partially funded by taxes. (I’m not saying whether that is right or wrong, that’s a whole different debate).” This is an interesting argument because it does raise the bigger picture of how big franchises influence their communities.
Many NFL franchises have a history of bullying their local governments into building the teams new stadiums. While MLB teams don’t move around as much in recent history, they can still coerce the relevant authorities into building new infrastructure from tax money. This directly affects fans because, at the end of the day, it is their money. Success on the field is guaranteed more likely to yield results.
“Say steroids became legal,”Rlight wrote. “Then it would be almost necessary in order for anyone to compete. Now we have tons of players doing steroids in the MLB. Well, how are you going to move up from the minor leagues without that boost? So now we’ll have tons of players in the minor leagues doing steroids. Well, how do you get into the minor leagues? Now we have high school kids trying to get their hands on steroids so they can play ball.”
Some fans believe that MLB and other sports organizations should simply accept the use of PEDs. They argue what is the difference between taking EPO and a protein shake if everybody is doing it? But the problem is that this will definitely impact children as their bodies are developing. Unfortunately, everybody will try to get an advantage by altering their internal chemistry.
Other fans think that it is naive to try and ban PEDs outright. Some suggest that there should be an alternative league where players can juice themselves to the gills and play. This is unlikely to happen because it would require serious financial backing but it could prove more entertaining for casual viewers because of the increased offense. At the end of the day, adults should be able to do what they want with their bodies.
Imasunbear made this argument: “If people don’t want to support a league where all the players use steroids, they should be able to, if the league arises, pay to watch a league with more strict rules on drug use. If people want to watch a game where every other hit is a home run, they should be able to pay to watch a game run by the league that allows steroid use.”
“I’m a San Francisco Giants fan, and I became a San Francisco Giants fan because Barry Bonds was hitting 73 home runs,”MohnJarston said. “So yes, I absolutely miss the absurd offensive production of that era.” Since then the mantra is that 40 is the new 50. While several players continue to break through that barrier and achieve high returns, the reality is that this is true.
Furthermore, when Bonds smashed 73 home runs, he was in his late 30s. This simply shouldn’t have been achievable without steroids because his body required recovery time. But for fans who came to the sport during the Steroid Era, there is definitely a certain romance about the excitement of this period. They shrug their shoulders when people say it was cheating because that’s just how baseball was.
As we have explained, there are two trains of thought when it comes to steroid use and the Hall of Fame. First of all, some fans believe that it’s pointless to exclude a generation of players considering the lack of regulation and the commonality of PED use. But others firmly think that anybody who took PEDs definitely cheated and nobody should consider them for enshrinement in the Hall.
“Do I think there are players in the hall that did steroids or something like them?”theseeker323 asked. “Yes. If they are found out to have done it, then they should not get in. If they can get away with it without being caught, then they can get in. You just cannot let someone in the hall who is publicly known to have cheated.” Technically this would permit Bonds to enter because technically nobody has confirmed his PED use.
“To be fair, it was perfectly fine for players in the 70s and 80s to pop greenies before games,” Acascio19 argued. “There are interviews where guys said they literally had them in a bowl in the locker room. The steroid era happened while it wasn’t “illegal” by baseball terms so if we’re gonna come down hard on them why not be hard on the old-timers too?”
This is an excellent observation and definitely opens up a Pandora’s Box for MLB executives and Cooperstown. There’s no doubt that there was rampant recreational drug use throughout the 1960s and ”70s, so why shouldn’t those players receive retrospective punishments? Or else, Cooperstown could say that everybody who played before the end of the Steroid Era is exempt from PED-related exclusions.
The likes of Barry Bonds, Pete Rose, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, and Alex Rodriguez were some of the most exciting and successful players of their respective eras. But none of them are eligible for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. When fans look at the record books, this does create issues because lesser athletes are in there. How can the HoF have a players’ section without the best players?
Siicktiits made the case: “Barry, Roger, and Arod all need to be in the h.o.f. and if they let them in, which they should, then Pete needs to get in as well… Can’t have a hall of fame without the all-time home run and hit leaders. Poor Pete Rose is going to be shunned until the day he dies and they will let him within months after, just watch.” We will just have to wait and see.
“Pete Rose goes in as a player only. All steroid-era players go in. There were no rules about it. Any player who received a suspension does not. There were rules, and they broke them.”OldTimerNubbins makes the case plain and simple. His point about Rose is definitely an interesting one because it’s difficult to argue that his gambling negatively affected his player performances considering his ludicrous number of records.
Even if he entered with an asterisk, it might satiate the demands of some fans who think the whole thing is just stupid. Furthermore, the fact that PED use wasn’t properly regulated before the Mitchell Report suggests that these players should be in the clear. When players clearly violate rules it is definitely a different story because the rules are then set in place.
“Sit with a person who thinks Rose shouldn’t be in the HOF long enough because he gambled on baseball and it “tarnishes” a sport, a sport that didn’t allow players of a certain skin color to play for several decades, and you’ll learn the definition of context,”Playingwithfire said. In 1959, the Boston Red Sox became the final team to integrate black players into their team.
It’s curious how the league makes a big deal out of certain issues and not others. MLB finally integrated Negro League statistics in 2020 but there are a lot more issues in this sport. It’s fair to say that the reaction toward Rose and his gambling may be one of the most disproportionate in baseball history. But it doesn’t look like it will change anytime in the near future.
“Does Pete really want in though? Sometimes I think he likes the controversy it drums up. It was sad to see the Reds be forced to ask for special permission to honor him before a game but hilarious they decided to hold the ceremony at a local casino,”Cracker_please asked. There is a case to be made that Rose accepts and even enjoys the notoriety at this point.
He still has many fans who reckon that he should be in the Hall of Fame but it’s unlikely during his lifetime. As we alluded to earlier, he is a controversial character outside of the field so it’s not against the realms of possibility that he simply doesn’t care. But it shouldn’t be about what any individual wants. At the end of the day, the record books speak for themselves and perhaps should be taken seriously.
Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch were the main scapegoats of the Houston Astros scandal. Houston fired the pair after MLB suspended them but this discounted the role the players played. However, the athletes themselves didn’t suffer any personal punishment. Furthermore, their World Series wins remain on their records. Many fans believe that this is nothing short of an outrage.
“The manager admitted to knowing about it and not being willing to directly stop it (he says he broke the monitor a couple of times to try and get them to stop) but everything else was the players,” Feintise argued. “The rationale for not punishing the players is that’s it too hard to figure out exactly who was part of it and who wasn’t, but honestly, I have a hard time believing that not all of them knew about it.”