Follow Up on the Mitchell Report
One of the reasons that I don't like the idea of immediately black-listing any player connected with the use of performance enhancing drugs is that we have very little information on the extent of use for any player. Pettite's situation highlights that perfectly -- he admits to two injections in 2002 while recovering from an elbow injury. What's the effect of two doses of HGH? How "potent" were the injections? Did they help Pettite recover more quickly? Perform better when back on the field? How long did the effects, such as they were, linger? We have no idea what the answers to these questions are. All we know is that Pettite made the decision to illegally use HGH -- that's worthy of condemnation, yes, even though it wasn't specifically against baseball rules at the time.
Just as an aside, the defense that HGH use wasn't against baseball rules at the time is a very, very poor one. From my very quick research, HGH is not listed under the Controlled Substances Act -- however, it is covered under the 1990 Anabolic Steroids Control Act, which makes it a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison to distribute or possess HGH "for any use . . . other than the treatment of a disease or other recognized medical condition, where such use has been authorized by the Secretary of Health and Human Services . . . and pursuant to the order of a physician . . .". That means that, whether baseball has singled HGH out as "against baseball rules" seems relatively irrelevant -- it seems to me that the knowing use of an illegal drug is, shall we say, and implicit breach of baseball rules. In other words, Pettite was wrong to use HGH regardless of whether baseball had specifically said "no."
That's enough legal stuff -- let me get back to the situation now facing fans and HOF voters. Are we really willing to take a player like Pettite, who seems to have used HGH in a very limited fashion and for the purpose of recovery, and lump him into the same category as we put Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, whose use at least seems to be much more consistent, and much clearly against the spirit of competition? It seems to me that there's an awfully big difference between those players who make a habit out of the illicit use of PED's in order to play at a high enough level to stay in the big leagues, and those who stupidly decided to try the stuff to recover and then stopped using it.
I've stated before that I think, even if the allegations against Clemens are true (and I'm inclined to believe that they are), he still should go into the Hall of Fame. Even if I were to change my mind on a player like Clemens (who seems to have been engaged in sustained use), however, I don't think one positive test, or being implicated for use over a very short period, should be enough to keep a player out of Cooperstown. Give me proof of sustained use, and I would think about changing my stance on a player's Hall-worthiness. Short of that, it doesn't seem to me that there's nearly enough to keep a great player out of the Hall. I don't know whether Andy Pettite will be seriously considered for the Hall of Fame 5 years after he retires or not -- I'd vote no if I were lucky enough to have a ballot -- but that decision should not be impacted by what appears to be an isolated incident from a few days of a lengthy career. Rather than giving in to the hysteria, the baseball writers who are talking about frauds and cheats need to step back and consider all of the details. Heck, this even makes me happy for the somewhat overlong 15-year ballot eligibility requirement, because by the time players like McGwire and Bonds and Clemens would be removed, there will have been a lot of time for sober consideration of the issue.