I’ve heard over and over the argument that there’s a double standard when it comes to the writers’ stance on steroids and amphetamines. It’s very unusual that I will disagree with Rob Neyer, but in this case I do. He says “that steroid guys have been held to a completely different standard than amphetamine guys. And…there's little reason for doing that.” There is little reason? I couldn’t disagree more.
This isn’t simply a case of a double standard because we’re not comparing likeness. Amphetamines don’t do for ballplayers what steroids do. They’re not apples to apples and they aren’t even the equivalent of apples to oranges. We’re certainly not holding one era of baseball players to a different standard than the other. The fact of the matter is that while both steroids and amphetamines are both performance enhancers, the gap between the effects of one vs. the effect of the other is so great that they should never ever be uttered in the same conversation. Well, that is probably going too far. But I do take exception with making the argument that it isn’t fair to disallow the steroid players into the Hall when writers have allowed the greenies players into the Hall without hesitation.
Now if my dad walked into my room while I was in grade school and caught me smoking a little weed (or in his words, reefer), I’m sure he wouldn’t have been thrilled or condoned it but he wouldn’t have gotten hysterical either. Had he walked into my room in grade school and saw me shooting up some heroine I think he probably would have dropped dead. They are both drugs and both illegal but there’s clearly a chasm between the effects of one and the effects of the other. It’s my opinion that the gap between amphetamines and steroids (regarding their ability to enhance a baseball player’s performance) and the gap between the effects of marijuana and heroine is similar. That is to say it’s a huge gap. You can certainly understand why a parent would make a big huff about their child using heroine and not pot and I think you can certainly understand why a writer could (and in my opinion should) make a big huff about players using steroids but not amphetamines.
I agree with the large majority of the argument. Amphetamines, like steroids, were both illegal and against the rules of baseball. Amphetamines, like steroids, enhance performance. Unfortunately, the comparisons really end there which lends to my stance (and obviously the writers’) that steroid users should be scrutinized much more so than amphetamine users.
I also want to make one more thing very clear. I don’t think a steroid admission should be a deal breaker on entrance to Cooperstown. Moreover, I don’t even blame the players for using them. I just feel the writers owe it the game and the players of the past to dissect the statistics and body of work of players from the steroid era much more so than they did for players that used amphetamines. And when Neyer says that he believes McGwire was a Hall of Famer with or without the steroids I have no problem with that. And when an old time writer says he refuses to vote for any player linked to steroids I can certainly understand where he’s coming from. The bottom line is that perhaps some people are being a little too lenient and others are too harsh. It remains to be seen if we will ever arrive to any consensus on this subject but my gut feeling is that we will not. The only thing that I’m truly convinced of is what a terrible mess steroids have created.