Manny Ramirez’ Hall of Fame numbers should be indisputable. He hit 555 HRs and had 1,831 RBIs (not that those really matter). His lifetime OBP was .411, and his lifetime OPS was .996 (lifetime OPS+ was 154). An average season for him was .312/39/129. His lifetime EqA is .321, and his VORP numbers will make your eyes bleed. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be in the HOF — but he never will be because of his association with “performance enhancing drugs.”
I think part of our current discourse about steroids and so-called “performance enhancing drugs” comes from our lack of knowledge about them. I could take all the steroids I wanted to and grow 25-inch arms, but I’m still not going to step immediately into the show and hit 50 home runs. It’s not going to improve my hand-eye coordination or give me quick wrists. The purpose of steroids is to help someone recover faster and heal more quickly, enabling them to work out for longer periods. Even the term “performance enhancing drugs” is so blindly vague that it’s nearly impossible to clearly define. Cortisone (which, ahem, is also a steroid, and a pretty hardcore one at that) and painkillers can clearly be defined as PEDs, but if you got rid of them, sports would shut down tomorrow. Besides, you can’t even convincingly prove that steroids definitively improve numbers.
So with Manny, we’re left with someone with obviously great numbers who is going to get railroaded by the most morally ambiguous people on the planet: baseball writers and those who suffer from what I call “Field of Dreams” syndrome — named after the execrable film that was such gooey, schamalzty pap that I’m fairly sure it was directed by Pappy McGooey Schmaltzerton. They are people willing to overlook the fact that baseball has never been populated by saints, and has no era that is truly “clean” in terms of play, and if you don’t recognize that, you’re living in a fantasy land. Players took “greenies” for a thousand years. Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb (and everyone who had his prime before 1947) never played against players of color. They gambled and stole and threw the World Series. Gaylord Perry is immortalized as being “eccentric” for using the spitball, which has been illegal since 1920. He’s also in the HOF.
Above all things, the HOF is a museum, dedicated to history. It’s not some glorified cathedral with those small bench things where you genuflect to the Holy Mother of DiMaggio. What would all our other history museums look like if we took out everyone we considered morally dubious? How would we ever learn about where we came from? Who decides what constitutes that moral dubiousness? It certainly shouldn’t be baseball writers.