Induction into the Hall of Fame is the crowning achievement of any baseball player’s career. It signifies true greatness in their sport and though all strive for that immortality, very few ever make it. As a result, the Hall of Fame is filled with the best of the best. With one notable exclusion– that of Pete Rose.
Rose’s name and his exclusion from the Hall stirs passions and generates an enormous amount of controversy. Some feel his ban is just desserts, while others feel that he’s gotten a raw deal. Judging only by his credentials, his 4,256 career hits– a record not likely to ever be broken– Charlie Hustle deserved enshrinement long ago. Except for the fact that as the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, Rose admitted to betting on baseball games. He denies ever betting against his Reds, and the MLB, though they’ve tried, have failed to turn up a shred of evidence, proving that Rose did anything to influence the outcome of game for his own benefit.
But for breaking league rules– and being stubbornly defiant about it– Rose received a lifetime ban, and will likely never be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Which brings us to today’s crop of cheats and rule breakers. If Rose, as some people assert, deserves his lifetime ban and denial of induction for his gambling habit, then these ten players should likewise never receive baseball’s highest honor, induction into the Hall of Fame. That’s because unlike Rose, their actions actually did influence the outcome of games.
10. Ryan Braun
Granted, with only six years of Major League service, it’s a little early yet to be discussing Braun‘s worthiness for the Hall of Fame. He’s still got quite a long way to go, and a lot to accomplish, before the pundits can start waxing eloquent about his worthiness of enshrinement. But, he is establishing himself as one of the game’s fiercest hitters, and is popping home runs at a pretty healthy clip. While he may or may not ever wind up challenging Barry Bonds for the title of Home Run King, Braun may very well have quite a distinguished looking resume when all is said and done.
The problem, of course, is that he is putting up the eye popping stats that allowed him to rack up five Silver Sluggers, lead the league in home runs in 2012 and be awarded the NL MVP award in 2011 under a heavy cloud of controversy and suspicion. Suspicions that became fact when Braun admitted to using PED’s. Though baseball did not make him forfeit his MVP award, if he ever reaches the level of consideration for the Hall, he should forever be denied entrance because his legacy will very likely– and very rightly– be tainted by his use of PED’s.
9. Éric Gagné
For a time, Eric Gagné was one of the most dominant closers in the game. He became the first pitcher to ever convert 50 saves in multiple seasons, set the MLB record with 84 consecutive saves, and was the fastest player to reach the 100 save mark in Major League history. Suffice to say, Gagné was a lights out closer. And for his accomplishments, he was twice named the Relief Pitcher of the Year, was a 3-time All-Star and also netted a Cy Young award.
Gagné is one of quite a few players who found themselves named in the infamous Mitchell Report– the report prepared by former Senator George Mitchell following his investigation into steroids in baseball. Gagné was identified by payment and delivery receipts as a user of Human Growth Hormone. In a 2010 interview, Gagné confirmed that he had indeed used HGH, but like a number of other players who had been caught using PED’s, claimed that it was only to speed recovery from an injury. The fallout from his admission saw him not garner enough support from Hall of Fame voters to stay on future ballots. Since his name has fallen off the ballot, Gagné will have to wait twelve years and hope for induction by the Expansion Era Committee. But the fact of the matter is that Gagné doesn’t belong in the Hall any more than the other players on this list.
8. Gary Sheffield
Over a career that spanned more than twenty years, Sheffield collected more than 2,600 hits and 1,600 RBI’s. He belted 509 home runs and hit a robust .292 for his career. Sheffield was a 9-time All-Star, won a NL batting titled and pulled in five Silver Slugger awards. His numbers make him a very viable candidate for induction into the Hall of Fame.
However, in the early 2000’s, Sheffield began training with Barry Bonds and shortly thereafter, found himself caught up in the BALCO/steroids scandal that continues to plague Bonds. For a long time, Sheffield denied ever using PED’s in any capacity and his relationship with Bonds deteriorated in the wake of the scandal. In 2004 though, Sheffield admitted to using a cream– applied by one of Bonds’ trainers– that was a testosterone-based steroid. Though he, of course, says it was for nothing more than to help speed recovery from injury. Sheffield’s admission, along with him being named in the Mitchell Report, casts doubt on the authenticity of his credentials, as well as on his worthiness of enshrinement in Cooperstown.
7. Rafael Palmeiro
Who can forget the image of Rafael Palmeiro sitting before a Congressional panel, defiantly shaking his finger as he denied ever using steroids. He was so earnest about it, you wanted to believe him. Until, that was, he was suspended a few months later after testing positive for the anabolic steroid, Stanozolol. Following the announcement of his suspension, Palmeiro changed his tune when he said that he never “intentionally” took steroids. Because people “accidentally” take steroids all the time.
Palmeiro is one of only four players in Major League history to have accrued 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. Those credentials along should have made him a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer. In the wake of his scandal though, support for Palmeiro’s Hall candidacy fell off the table. The number of votes he received this past January were insufficient to keep him on future ballots, and his only hope for induction into the Hall, lies with the Expansion Era Committee twelve years from now– a theme that will become very common with players during baseball’s “Steroid Era.” Palmeiro hopes that by the time the Expansion Era Committee convenes to vote, people will see things “in a different light.” But a cheater is a cheater in any light and hopefully, voters won’t lose sight of that.
6. Andy Pettitte
Andy Pettitte is one of the best pitchers to ever wear a Yankee’s uniform. With more than 250 career wins and five World Series titles to his credit, Pettitte was one of the most consistent pitchers in MLB history. He twice won twenty games in a season, has an incredible postseason resume, and is the only pitcher in league history to have at least eighteen years of service without having posted a losing record in any season. To say he’s a fine pitcher would be an understatement.
However, under pressure in 2007, Pettitte admitted to using Human Growth Hormones as far back as 2002. He says he used them to help him recover from injury– sensing a common theme yet? He had also been implicated by former teammate Jason Grimsley, and trainer Brian McNamee, as a user of steroids, and a participant in the Roger Clemens PED scandal. Pettitte isn’t eligible for the Hall for a few years yet, so it will be interesting to see if the voters punish him as they have other players involved with PEDs. The fact of the matter is that Pettitte knowingly took a banned substance and that alone, should ensure his denial of induction.
5. Mark McGwire
Undoubtedly, if you’re a baseball fan, you remember that amazing and historic Summer of 1998 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa waged an epic battle for the home run title– as well as a slice of history by breaking Roger Maris’ long standing record of 61 homers in a season. The race was magical, with both men eclipsing Maris’ mark. McGwire finished with 70 home runs to Sosa’s 66. A few years later, Barry Bonds would break McGwire’s record by clubbing 73 homers. But those records seem to lose a bit of their shine knowing that all three of those sluggers were juiced out of their minds as they waged war on baseball’s record book.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, McGwire has stood up and taken responsibility for his actions by admitting to his use of PED’s. He’s been very open, honest and remorseful for his actions, and has worked hard to ingratiate himself to the fans, the league, and even to the Maris family. Though he continues to say that he could have accomplished all he did without ever having used PED’s. But we’ll never know if that’s actually true or not. Big Mac was a great player, and by all accounts, a decent guy. But his PED use should prevent him from ever being honored in the Hall of Fame.
4. Roger Clemens
Once one of the game’s fiercest and most intimidating pitchers, the Rocket amassed 354 wins to go along with eleven All-Star appearances, seven Cy Young awards and two World Series championships. Clemens was a five-time strikeout champion and led the American League in wins in four different seasons. Simply put, he was one of the most dominating pitchers to ever take the hill in Major League history. Hitters feared him and with good reason.
However, in the latter stages of his career, Clemens found himself embroiled in a steroids scandal of his own– one that would grow to envelop his friend and former teammate, Andy Pettitte. Clemens’ former trainer, Brian McNamee, admitted under oath to having injected Clemens with steroids on several different occasions. Even his former teammate, Jason Grimsley, dropped the dime by naming him as a frequent user of PED’s. In addition to all of that, Clemens was named in the Mitchell report a whopping 82 different times. It’s a sad ending to one of baseball’s fiercest competitors and most storied careers. Despite his on the field greatness, Clemens should never set foot in Cooperstown for his cheating ways.
3. Sammy Sosa
The other half of 1998’s magical home run chase, Sammy Sosa‘s 609 career home runs put him among baseball’s all-time greats. He currently stands in eighth place on the all-time career home run list. But he is also reported to have been on a list of players who tested positive for PED’s in the mid-2000’s, and was also one of the players who testified before the Congressional committee that had been looking into steroid use in America’s favorite pastime. Sosa vehemently denied that he’d used steroids– through his attorney. As if his involvement with PED’s weren’t enough, Sosa proved to be a two-time loser after getting caught with a corked bad– which is a big no-no in baseball.
2013 was Sosa’s first year of eligibility for the Hall, and despite career numbers that put him among the sport’s all-time greats, he was delivered a stinging rebuke after receiving only 12% of the vote. 2014 was even worse for Sosa when his support for enshrinement dropped to 7%, barely enough to qualify him for next year’s ballot. The backlash over Sosa’s cheating looks likely to knock him off of the Hall of Fame ballot, and keep him out of Cooperstown. As it probably should be.
2. Barry Bonds
What can be said about Barry Bonds that we don’t already know? Single season home run record (73), all-time career home run king (762), fourteen time All-Star, seven time league MVP– including a run of four straight– both of which, are Major League records. He holds a number of different offensive records and despite his perceived lack of defensive hustle by some, Bonds is also the owner of eight Gold Glove awards. Many consider him to be one of the greatest players in Major League history. He was certainly one of– if not, THE– most feared hitter in baseball history.
Unfortunately for Bonds, he’s also the face of the league’s steroid abuse scandal. With his involvement at the center of the BALCO investigation and his obstruction of justice conviction in the case, Bonds’ reputation has been badly tarnished. With his credentials, Bonds should have been a first ballot lock, but like many others, the voters denied him induction, an obvious rebuke of his involvement with steroids. And if there is any justice in the universe, Pete Rose will get into Cooperstown before Bonds does.
1. Alex Rodriguez
If he never had another at-bat in the Majors, A-Rod already ranks among baseball’s all-time greats. Numbers-wise, anyway. He’s on the cusp of joining the exclusive 3,000 hit club and stands in fifth place on baseball’s all-time career home run list, stands in sixth place on the career RBI list, and is well within striking distance of Hank Aaron’s all-time record of 2,297 RBIs. And with 654 career home runs to his credit already, A-Rod is just a couple of good seasons away from eclipsing Barry Bond’s 762 and standing alone as baseball’s career home run king. Those are numbers and accomplishments, that should he never play another game, would ordinarily be first ballot Hall material.
The trouble is, A-Rod is also one of baseball’s most notorious cheaters. His ban for the entire 2014 season is just the latest in a long line of trouble he’s had with PED use. Rodriguez has previously admitted to being on the juice as far back as the early 2000’s– yet wants us to believe that he’s clean now. His history with performance enhancing drugs, and his defiance about it, all combine to render his accomplishments on the field absolutely meaningless as we’ll never know if he could have done all he did without the PED’s. In dealing with his season long ban from the fallout of the Biogenesis scandal, A-Rod has been utterly defiant, arrogant and hasn’t shown the least bit of remorse. It’s for reasons such as those, that Rodriguez should never be allowed to visit Cooperstown, let alone be enshrined there.