Houston Astros: Examining former players Hall of Fame cases

Houston Astros closer Billy Wagner pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning, 26 June 2001, in Phoenix. The Astros won 10-7. AFP PHOTO/Mike FIALA (Photo by Mike FIALA / AFP) (Photo by MIKE FIALA/AFP via Getty Images)
Houston Astros closer Billy Wagner pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning, 26 June 2001, in Phoenix. The Astros won 10-7. AFP PHOTO/Mike FIALA (Photo by Mike FIALA / AFP) (Photo by MIKE FIALA/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Several former Houston Astros are on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot this year.

It’s the time of year when fans and baseball writers are fighting like Hatfields and McCoys. That’s right, it’s Baseball Hall of Fame voting season. As the voters slowly and steadily reveal their choices on Twitter, the social media sharks get to rip them apart. There are several former Houston Astros players on the ballot this year, with varying chances to actually gain induction.

The players on the ballot who donned an Astros uniform at some point in their careers are Bobby Abreu, Roger Clemens, LaTroy Hawkins, Jeff Kent, Andy Pettitte, Curt Schilling and Billy Wagner. I’ll discuss each of their cases, whether or not I would vote for them given the opportunity, and what their chances are of actually making it to the 75 percent threshold.

The Conversation

But first I have to address the elephant in the room: steroids. A sizable bloc of voters steadfastly refuse to vote for any player linked to the use of performance enhancing drugs, with some even going so far as to withhold votes for players they suspect of using PEDs, regardless of the existence of any credible evidence. We saw that with Jeff Bagwell’s candidacy.

These voters frequently invoke the character and integrity clause of the voting instructions, which is rather convenient since that clause was largely ignored for decades. It’s hard to argue that players who used PEDs in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when MLB was turning a blind eye to steroid use, shouldn’t be in the same Hall of Fame as Bud Selig, the controversial commissioner who let it all happen.

By these writers’ standards, there are several people already in the Hall of Fame who don’t meet the criteria. For example, Gaylord Perry had a wide reputation for doctoring baseballs. By many accounts, Ty Cobb had quite the violent streak. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis was responsible for keeping black players out of the major leagues for a long time.

When it comes to PEDs, we simply don’t know for sure who did and didn’t use. I can guarantee there are already players in the Hall who used them, and there are players who took other performance enhancing substances in different eras. You can’t justify your attempts at keeping supposed cheaters out of a Hall of Fame that already houses several of them.

Besides, the Hall of Fame is a museum designed to celebrate the history of the game. You can’t adequately do that if you ignore the best players of an entire era. Keep in mind that players who used PEDs in the steroid era played against other players who were also juicing, so it’s not wrong to compare them to their peers.

Holier-than-thou baseball writers appointing themselves judge, jury and executioner is not the way to do this. If the Hall of Fame won’t police this, the Hall itself will lose legitimacy among fans. Like it or not, PEDs are a part of the history of the game, and shutting out the best players of the era simply because they were doing what the league basically allowed them to do is just wrong.

So with that out of the way, we’ll move along. For the record, if I had a Hall of Fame vote, it would be for Bobby Abreu, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Andruw Jones, Manny Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa and Billy Wagner. But since I don’t have a vote, I’ll run down each former Astros player on the ballot and what their chances are.

With all due respect to Hawkins, however, I won’t spend time on his candidacy since he has basically no chance. He’s yet to receive a vote on the public ballots thus far, and his career 4.31 ERA in 21 seasons, mostly as a reliever, isn’t going to get him any support. He had a nice career, but he’s not a Hall of Famer.

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