PED users are still being denied entry from the Hall of Fame by its voters. The Cardinals’ organization has taken a much more forgiving approach.
Like many avid baseball fans, I checked Ryan Thibodaux’s BBHOF Tracker each day for the past few weeks. The players of the most interest to me were Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Writers churned out articles each day about the apparent increase in Bonds’ and Clemens’ voting numbers. However, when the final numbers were tallied, Bonds and Clemens only received 238 and 239, respectively, of the necessary 332 votes to make it.
The percentages were higher than any other year for those two by nearly nine percent. Nevertheless, Bonds and Clemens needed higher numbers. With Bud Selig’s inclusion, many predicted that hall voters would loosen their stances on PED users. On publicly revealed ballots, Bonds and Clemens polled at 64 and 63 percent, respectively. The official results had them roughly ten percentage points lower. People who don’t reveal their ballots are likely older voters who no longer write as much (or use social media as much), so it makes sense that the final numbers were lower. But only 54 percent? There is still a long way to go.
It pays to cheat…Thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use
— Brad Ziegler (@BradZiegler) November 24, 2013
Cardinals show forgiveness
In November of 2013, the Cardinals signed Jhonny Peralta to a 4 year, $53 million contract. The decision angered many in baseball. As you may recall, Peralta received a 50-game suspension during the 2013 season for PED usage. Ted Berg of USA TODAY wondered how the Cardinals could give him so much money after the suspension. Ken Rosenthal remarked that “It pays to cheat.” They weren’t the only ones. Writers expressed their anger on their respective websites. Players expressed their resentment on social media. Yet GM John Mozeliak stood in the face of all that criticism and defended his decision.
To all of those angry at the Cardinals, he responded by saying that it’s not “the Cardinals responsibility to be the [morality] police.” On the character of the player, he stated that Peralta “had paid for his mistakes.” Ultimately, Mozeliak was telling everyone that it was time to move on. We’re well past that time now, and there are still many dissenters. Maybe you are one of them, but the Cardinals’ commitment to forgiving PED users should be admired, not jeered.
This past draft, Delvin Perez was a top prospect. Many thought of him as a top-five pick. Shortly before the draft, he failed a drug test. While many teams dropped the draft prospect far down on their draft boards, the Cardinals decided to take him in the first round. There are practical reasons to move a player down on your board due to a failed drug test.
At the time the Cardinals drafted Perez, I said this: “The problem isn’t that he took PEDs. The problem is that he got caught.” My idea is that there a many players who take PEDs (former players have acknowledged that the test can be beaten just by taking small doses each day). However, few players manage to get caught doing it, and Perez fell into the latter category. The fact that they caught Perez shows some carelessness on his part.
Despite any reservations that other teams had, the Cardinals forgave Perez immediately. They acknowledged the mistake, and said it was just that: a mistake. There is a difference between not valuing character and giving players another chance. The Cardinals’ signing of Dexter Fowler speaks to their valuation of character. Fowler’s teammates revered him for his ability to create a good clubhouse atmosphere everywhere he has been. Signing or drafting players who once broke the rules is not a disregard for character.
If in 2024 Delvin Perez leads the Cardinals to a World Series title I will not celebrate because he failed a PED test 8-years prior.
— Charlie Marlow (@CharlieMarlow_) June 10, 2016
While Reyes did not test positive for PEDs, he did test positive twice for marijuana. He earned sizable suspensions each time, but the organization stuck with him. I realize that this is another animal entirely, but it still counts. Reyes received a 50-game suspension for his most recent violation of the minor league drug policy.
The Cardinals could have tried to find a trade taker. That sounds ridiculous given his potential, but other teams have tried to move on from troubled stars. Reyes wasn’t a star yet, and wasn’t even a major leaguer yet. It would not have been that hard to trade the problem elsewhere.
Instead, the Cardinals stuck with their player. They forgave him for his mistake, again, and proceeded to work with him. While many HOF voters attempt to work against PED users by leaving them off of their ballots despite deserving careers, the Cardinals take the opposite approach. They give players second chances.
They bring them into their culture and surround them with players who want to forgive them. The Cardinals let these players know that it isn’t the end of the world for breaking one rule. Perhaps there should be harsher penalties, but these players shouldn’t be denied every opportunity for something good due to PED usage.
The Cardinals will likely continue to forgive, and writers will likely continue to bash the approach. However, that doesn’t seem fair. There are certain unforgivable crimes, but taking PEDs isn’t one of them. Most of you reading this can take steroids, amphetamines, or HGH. Baseball players can’t, so many people who can want them to suffer for doing so.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens make huge jump to 54%, and Sammy Sosa survives to stay on ballot.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 18, 2017
Praise the Cardinals
If it isn’t obvious by what I have already written, I want to see the worthy PED users in the HOF. I want Bonds, Clemens, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez, and even my personal least favorite Rafael Palmer to get their places in the hall. However, I am not trying to change your opinion here. I gave up trying to convince others that PED users should be enshrined awhile back. Instead, I want to point out the progressive stance by the Cardinals organization.
It’s easy to turn your back on the PED users. It’s easy to never sign one of them as a matter of principle. The Cardinals go above all of that. Instead of taking the easy route, they realize that people make mistakes. PED users take PEDs for all kinds of reasons, and some players do it with good intentions. The Cardinals should be lauded for forgiving and not taking on the role of moral judge.
You don’t have to respect the individuals that “cheat,” but you should respect the organization that gives second chances, that accepts that the player already served his punishment, and that doesn’t treat every PED user as a criminal.
Hall of Fame voters may never get to the point where 75 percent of them agree to let the PED users into Cooperstown. However, I am glad to be following an organization like the Cardinals. I like that I get to write about players trying to make the most of a second chance with an organization that gives them. Matt Holliday took the lead on this, publicly forgiving Peralta before the 2014 season.
The team continued as one unit, guided by the Cardinal Way and undivided by the past. In a world where people are trying to keep the PED users out of the Hall of Fame, it’s hard not to respect the Cardinals progressive approach to forgiveness when it comes to PED usage.
Photo Credit: Jeff Curry – USA TODAY Sports