New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez became the sixth member of baseball's 600-home-run club yesterday, an achievement complicated by Rodriguez's 2009 admission that he used performance enhancing drugs from 2001-2003. On Thursday, voices from around the game weighed-in on A-Rod's Hall of Fame chances.
Generation Gap ESPN.com's Buster Olney says he'll vote for Rodriguez, for the same reasons he voted for Mark McGwire. "Within the context of their era -- a time when most of the best players were probably using drugs -- they were the best players," explains Olney. Without definitive knowledge about which players were on drugs "the only fair and consistent standard is to vote for no one at all from the steroid era, or to set aside the question of who used and just vote for the best players." It's a leap he realizes many of his colleagues will have trouble taking. Says Olney: "It's evident that among the older writers there is a significant and immovable bloc that will never vote for players at least suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs, and all it takes to prevent any player from gaining admission is 25 percent plus one voting 'No.'"
The Cheat Factor The Washington Post's John Feinstein dismisses the notion that Rodriguez and other steroid users were merely emblematic of baseball's culture in the 1990s. "Let's not perpetuate the myth that the players weren't doing anything wrong in the 1990s," writes Feinstein. He points out that former commissioner Faye Vincent "banned performance-enhancing steroids from baseball in 1991 after they were declared illegal by the government" but it ended up being "completely toothless because there was no testing until 2003." Parse the circumstances all you like, but "baseball remains in the steroids abyss, which is why none of the cheaters should ever be allowed in the Hall of Fame without buying a ticket...cheating is cheating."
Serving Time George Vecsey of the New York Times says that baseball players should get used to the "overt withholding of honor" by fans and the media. "All fans know there are no asterisks in baseball records," writes Vecsey, "but there are memories." Rodriguez's enshrinement depends on what he does over the next several years to change people's memories. As it stands now "A-Rod is running on the McGwire-Sosa-Bonds ticket."
Too Good to Keep Out Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star says A-Rod is the best player of his generation, a fact no amount of scandal can overshadow when it comes time for him to fill out his Hall of Fame ballot. "I have a vote for the Hall of Fame and I take it seriously," writes Griffin, "and as far as I am concerned, the best player I saw in the AL over the past 20 years was A-Rod and the best NL player over the same period was Barry Bonds. As such, they will each have my vote when eligible."
Statistics Not Enough Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnanski believes that while the steroid era might have cast a pall over A-Rod's gaudy statistics, he still has time to prove his worth as a player. But it will take more than numbers. Writes Posnanski:
Rodriguez's redemption story and journey to joining the Yankees greats in Monument Park cannot be simply about home runs. For now, this milestone is just a hollow number. Statistics alone are no longer convincing. His impact will have to come in other ways, such as his role in helping New York win last year's World Series. That's how he can change opinions about himself.