In 2017, the late Hall of Fame number two Joe Morgan sent a letter to voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, urging the group not to elect players linked to performance-enhancing drug use.
“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “Players who have failed drug tests, admitted to using steroids, or have been identified as users in a Major League Baseball doping investigation, otherwise known as the Mitchell Report, should not be inducted. Those are the three criteria that many (Hall of Fame) players believe They’re right.”
Morgan, who died in 2020, also wrote in the letter that if Cooperstown doping users were elected, those already inducted into the Hall of Fame would skip induction ceremonies altogether, rather than share a stage with a drug cheat.
Predictably, Morgan’s letter drew criticism from all corners of baseball after it became public, with several writers weeping at the hypocrisy and referring to an era in which Morgan was playing the scourge of “greens”—or steroids—club clubs.
And what if a steroid/PED user has already been entered?
Even Morgan’s fellow Hall of Famer and baseball contemporary, the late Willie McCovey, objected to Morgan being his “best friend” in San Francisco Chronicle story. McCovey defended his home-run King Barry Bonds, who is linked to doping and PEDs through his connection to the federal BALCO doping trafficking case.
“That letter that Morgan wrote is definitely not going to help Barry,” McCovey said Chronicle, referring to Bonds’ Hall of Fame nomination. “But I’m glad to hear a lot of the writers say the letter won’t affect their vote because I know a lot of it is aimed at him. I wasn’t too happy about that. You’re naive if you don’t think it was aimed at Barry.”
But nearly six years after Morgan’s letter was sent, the results of the BBWAA vote for PED-tainted candidates have, for the most part, gone in favor of Morgan’s wishes. Last year, Bonds and Roger Clemens – two of the leading players associated with the steroid era – fell short of the 75% threshold required for election. It was the men’s tenth and final appearance on the BBWAA ballot.
The Contemporary Era panel — made up of Hall of Famers, CEOs, and veteran writers — also rejected Bonds, Clemens, and Rafael Palmeiro (who failed a drug test in 2005) when the panel voted on eight nominees last fall. Only Fred McGriff was elected to Cooperstown from a group that also included Don Mattingly, Curt Schilling, Albert Bell and Dale Murphy.
The latest sign that doping in baseball is still a factor in the decision making of BBWAA members is the 2023 Hall of Fame results. Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez—the first to serve a season-long PED ban and the other to fail drug tests twice during his playing career—both finished with 35.7% and 33.2% of the vote, respectively.
This was the second year on the ballots for Rodriguez and the seventh for Ramirez. Third baseman Scott Rolen was the only player elected by the writers to the Class of 2023.
Rodriguez, 47, was a three-time American League MVP with 696 career home runs, but admitted in 2009 to using banned substances throughout the three years he played for the Texas Rangers (2001-2003). The last of those three seasons was when he won his first MVP.
Prior to his admission, he told broadcast journalist Katie Couric in a 2007 interview that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs. then Sports Illustrated It was reported in early 2009 that Rodriguez failed a drug test during the year of baseball’s sweep test (2003).
In 2013, Rodriguez received a historic 211-game suspension from then-Commissioner Bud Selig for violating a joint drug agreement stemming from his involvement in the South Florida doping scandal. Rodriguez fought the ban and at the conclusion of his arbitration session told veteran sports talk show host Mike Frances that he had never used PEDs and that he should not “serve one lap” of his suspension.
Later, an independent arbitrator reduced Rodriguez’s sentence to 162 games, for the entirety of the 2014 season, which A-Rod had served.
Ramirez, 50, was a 12-time All-Star, World Series MVP, won two World Series titles with the Red Sox and has a . As for Ramirez’s post-playing legacy, like Palmeiro’s positive test in 2005 that blew up his chances in the Hall.
As more younger baseball writers join the ranks of the BBWAA’s voting audience, it’s likely that opinions about steroids and PEDs will soften over time. But until that happens, players with doping links pay a heavy price.
“I hope the Hall of Fame’s standards don’t drop over time,” Morgan wrote. “For more than eighty years, the Hall of Fame has been a place to look up to, as hallowed halls honor those who have played the game hard and right. I hope it always stays that way.”