The 2018 Hall of Fame ballot was announced on Monday and it included alleged steroid users Manny Ramirez, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield, and San Francisco’s very own Barry Bonds. Although nearly everyone in baseball has their own opinion on the fate of these tainted players, the Hall of Fame has remained a voiceless partisan on the issue.
Until Tuesday morning.
Vice chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Hall of Famer Joe Morgan made his opinion crystal clear in a letter to the BBWWA that expressed his belief that steroid users have no place in Cooperstown.
— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) November 21, 2017
Morgan spent 22 years in the major leagues from 1963-1984, during which time he briefly played for both the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics. He spent a majority of his career with the Cincinnati Reds; where he not only won back-to-back World Series championships from 1975-1976, but he received back-to-back MVP awards in those same years.
After retiring in 1984, Morgan was inducted into Cooperstown in 1990 and eventually became a Hall of Fame director in 1994. Morgan was promoted to vice chairman in 2000, the position he holds to this day.
Morgan began his letter by expressing that although he’s the first one to speak out against steroid users, there have been murmurings among the members of the Hall of Fame that this issue needs to be addressed. Nonetheless, Morgan admitted he doesn’t speak for everyone in Cooperstown.
“Over the years, I have been approached by many Hall of Fame members telling me we needed to do something to speak out about the possibility of steroid users entering the Hall of Fame,” Morgan wrote. “This issue has been bubbling below the surface for quite a while.”
As a Hall of Famer himself, Morgan expressed his utmost respect for the Hall and what it takes for an athlete to get there.
“I think the Hall of Fame is special,” Morgan wrote. “There is a sanctity to being elected to the Hall. It is revered. It is the hardest Hall of Fame to enter, of any sport in America.”
For this very reason, and the fact that players in the steroid era are beginning to become eligible to enter Cooperstown, Morgan believes the Hall of Fame can no longer be silent.
“The more we Hall of Famers talk about this – and we talk about it a lot – we realize we can no longer sit silent,” Morgan wrote. “We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame. They cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here. Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in. Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”
Of the players mentioned in the Mitchell Report, many have claimed they never used steroids and Morgan understands that their situation is a “tricky issue” and “there are shades of grey here.” Yet, to those Hall of Fame-caliber players who were found guilty of using steroids, Morgan wrote that, “by cheating, they put up huge numbers, and they made great players who didn’t cheat look smaller in comparison, taking away from their achievements and consideration for the Hall of Fame.
“That’s not right.”
Morgan recalled the career of Dan Naulty, who admitted to using steroids and said it increased his fastball from 87 to 96 mph, as evidence that steroids do in fact make a weaker player stronger.
“[Naulty] told Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci in 2012, ‘I was a full-blown cheater, and I knew it. You didn’t need a written rule. I was violating clear principles that were laid down within the rules. I understood I was violating implicit principles,'” Morgan wrote.
As the members of the BBWAA sift through their options of who to elect into the Hall of Fame next January, Morgan implored them to make the right decision. According to Morgan, baseball is at a crossroads and, “for over eighty years, the Hall of Fame has been a place to look up to, where the hallowed halls honor those who played the game hard and right.
“I hope it will always remain that way.”