The greatest thing about sports is its ability to bring out the passion in its fans while giving them the chance to join their comrades in support of a common purpose. But perhaps the second-best aspect of sports is that it provides endless fodder for people to debate which team, player, or coach is the best - or is at least better than specific members of their peer group. After all, sports fans can go on for hours talking about who the best quarterback, NHL team, or pro basketball coach was in a given year or throughout history.
A corollary to this phenomenon is the frequency with which sports fans argue about who is the worst at something - or at least identify who is far from the best. Sometimes, this discussion leads to whether a player is worthy of a given honor or not. In this specific niche, one regular topic centers around admissibility into a sports Hall of Fame.
Think about it. You've probably been involved in one of these conversations yourself. Does Karl Malone deserve to be in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame? Should LaDanian Tomlinson receive Pro Football Hall of Fame honors in 2016 when he becomes eligible? What about Daniel and/or Henrik Sedin when they retire from the National Hockey League?
But among the major American sports, the most revered Hall of Fame is the one set aside for baseball in Cooperstown, New York. So it stands to reason that some of the most vehement sports discussions center around which players should be honored with an enshrinement among the sport's greats.
There will always be debates about whether a player's statistics warrant his enshrinement into the Hall. But in recent years, numerous baseball players have come under scrutiny for their "training regimens" as well. Which begs the question: how might these off-the-field decisions impact the Hall of Fame selection or prohibition of modern players?
Taking all of these issues into account, here is a list of the top 20 players who do not deserve to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
20 Jay Bell
Sure, he played for 18 years in the big leagues with five different clubs. But everyone knows a person who's worked at the same company for decades, yet is one of the most incompetent morons on the planet. To be fair, Bell posted some solid numbers over his career with 1,123 runs scored and 1,963 hits. But the infielder only homered 195 times and his career batting average was a mediocre .265. That said, Bell will always be remembered for scoring the winning run for the Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series.
19 David Segui
Again, here's a first baseman with 15 seasons with seven teams in the bigs who rarely stood out from the pack. Segui, who started and ended his MLB career with Baltimore, never earned an All-Star bid and didn't even reach the 1,500 hit mark. Another strike against Segui was the fact that back in 2007, he admitted to using anabolic steroids he received from Mets' clubhouse manager Kirk Radomski, who pled guilty to illegally distributing performance-enhancing drugs.
18 Todd Stottlemyre
He's got two World Series rings and 14 years of big-league pitching under his belt. But Stottlemyre averaged less than ten wins each year, never won more than 15 games in a single season, and posted a very mediocre career ERA of 4.28. Somehow, Stottlemyre received a vote on a Hall of Fame ballot in 2008. In addition to his years with Toronto, the Washington state native also played with the A's, Cardinals, Rangers, and Diamondbacks (but was hurt during the D-backs World Series season).
17 Armando Benitez
The Dominican reliever had a standout year in 2004, his only year as a Marlin, when he tallied a career-high 47 saves. But Benitez would go stretches where he would blow saves, especially late in his career (when he failed on three straight save opportunities with the Giants in 2006). And he didn't shine in October, compiling a postseason WHIP of 1.451. In short, the two-time All-Star's 15-year career wasn't consistent enough to merit Hall of Fame consideration.
16 Jacque Jones
Jones did amass over 60 RBIs in seven of his ten Major League seasons. But he only averaged about 16 homers each year, and he ended with a batting average under .300 in all but two seasons. It didn't help that Jones ended his MLB career with a .147 average in 2008. The former Twin/Cub/Tiger/Marlin never garnered All-Star honors, and the lefty outfielder was never a real fan favorite - though he somehow did receive a Hall of Fame vote in 2014.
15 Brad Radke
Twins fans undoubtedly have fond memories of this pitcher, who played all of his Major League games in a Minnesota uniform. And Radke's story of unheralded eighth-round draft pick-turned-regular-starter is impressive and heartwarming; plus, he didn't walk many batters and performed well in the postseason. But the Wisconsin native only had one 20-win season and posted a career earned run average of 4.22. He was inducted into the Twins' Hall of Fame, but he doesn't belong in Cooperstown.
14 Josh Hamilton
There's no question that Hamilton has produced some extraordinary numbers at times during his career. The outfielder/DH drove in 130 runs in 2008, batted an amazing .359 in 2010, and is a five-time All-Star. But lately, injuries have plagued Hamilton and limited his ability to play in the outfield - and he can't really play the "alcohol-addiction vanquishing" card after relapsing twice. Barring a marked improvement in the near future, Hamilton should be remembered as a very good but not great ballplayer.
13 Eric Gagne
Now we're getting to the part of this list where the names start to mirror those found in the infamous Mitchell Report of 2007. In the report, Gagne was ID'd as a purchaser and user of Human Growth Hormone, the notorious performance-enhancing substance, from the aforementioned Radomski - and that both the Dodgers and the Red Sox were aware of the allegations. In 2010, Gagne admitted to using HGH - but only to "recover from an injury." The reliever won the Cy Young Award in 2003.
12 Gary Sheffield
Nine-time All-Star. National League batting title in 1992. One of only seven players in history with more than 2,500 hits, 500 home runs, 200 stolen bases, and 1,500 runs batted in. But Sheffield was also named in the Mitchell Report in connection with the BALCO scandal. A little over a decade ago, Sheffield began training with another player on this list and admitted to using a testosterone-based steroid cream. Though he admits to using the cream to help him heal from an injury, Sheffield insists to this day that he never took drugs to enhance his performance.
11 Jason Giambi
The power-hitting first baseman has reached 440 homers this year and notched his 2,000th career hit last season with the Indians. But he was implicated in the BALCO scandal when it was reported that Giambi's personal trainer, Greg Anderson, supplied the slugger with PEDs that were supposed to be undetectable. Reports later surfaced that Giambi told a grand jury about his illegal drug use, and he eventually admitted his transgressions in a 2007 interview with USA Today, saying that he was "wrong for doing that stuff."
10 David Ortiz
Unlike many guys on this list, Ortiz wasn't named specifically in the Mitchell Report. Instead, the New York Times reported in 2009 that he was one of more than a hundred players who tested positive for performance-enhancing substances during spring training in 2003. Ortiz, who earlier had supported harsh penalties for PED users, held a news conference to deny that he had ever knowingly used these types of drugs. But the Hall of Fame voting bloc isn't comprised solely of Red Sox fans, so he probably won't get into Cooperstown.
9 Manny Ramirez
The other half of Boston's "Bash Brothers" was long considered to be the real deal. From 1998 through 2006, Ramirez hit at least 30 homers and drove in 100 runs or more. But the 12-time All Star was also named by the New York Times in that 2009 piece. And prior to that, Ramirez had also tested positive for abnormally high testosterone levels and was suspended for 50 games. When he recorded another positive drug test in 2011, he retired rather than accept a 100-game suspension.
8 Rafael Palmeiro
Palmeiro vehemently denied ever using steroids in front of a Congressional panel in 2005. Unfortunately, Palmeiro tested positive for the steroid Stanozolol later that year, prompting him to "revise" his statement to say that he never "knowingly" took steroids. Over his 20-year career, the Cuban-born lefty amassed over 3,000 hits and 500 home runs; one of only four players to achieve that milestone. But his hypocrisy a decade ago will likely keep him out of the Hall.
7 Andy Pettitte
Accomplishments like five World Series titles, 256 wins, most-ever postseason starts and innings pitched, and zero losing seasons in 18 years should be enough for anyone to get voted into the Hall of Fame. Except that in 2007, Pettitte admitted to using HGH multiple times in 2002 to recover from an elbow injury. The Yankee great has been linked to another PED scandal involving a teammate on this list. Pettitte retired at the end of last season.
6 Sammy Sosa
He's among the top ten home run hitters in baseball history with 609. But from 1990-1992, Sosa only tagged a total of 33 home runs. Then he matched that figure in 1993 alone before notching at least 25 dingers in each of the next 12 seasons. Perhaps fans shouldn't have been shocked when he suddenly struggled to understand English while testifying in front of Congress (he denied steroid use through his attorney). Not only did his name allegedly appear on the New York Times list, but he was also busted for using a corked bat back in 2003.
5 Roger Clemens
The seven-time Cy Young Award-winner has never, ever admitted to illegal drug use - and he was recently cleared in the courts of all wrongdoing. But when your name appears in the Mitchell Report 82 times, and your former trainer (Brian McNamee) and two former teammates (Jason Grimley and Pettitte) say that you were injected with HGH, it's hard to believe that everyone is lying but you. That's why Clemens' 354 wins and 4,672 strikeouts won't be enough to punch his ticket to the Hall.
4 Barry Bonds
It's a tragedy, but the all-time home run king shouldn't have a place in Cooperstown. It was apparent to anyone who was paying attention that Bonds' physique had changed suddenly during the mid-2000's, and that his home run numbers were rising even though he was in his mid to late 30's. In front of a grand jury in 2003, Bonds did admit that he used two topical substances (later found to be steroids) supplied by his trainer Greg Anderson to help aid in injury recovery. In 2011, Bonds was put on trial on perjury charges, but was only convicted of "giving an incomplete answer to a grand jury question."
3 Mark McGwire
"I'm not here to talk about the past." Remember how you felt when the single-season home run leader uttered those words in a Congressional hearing in 2005? That was the moment when countless "Big Mac" lovers pushed him off his pedestal. And in 2010, McGwire admitted to using steroids periodically over more than a decade, including during his famous 1998 season when he went yard 70 times. But he still insists that he never used drugs to enhance his performance - and that he would have hit all those homers without the help of steroids. Nice try, Mac. No HOF for you.
2 Alex Rodriguez
It's one thing to get caught using banned drugs. It's another to insist that you've put that behavior behind you - only to get busted again for the same offense. That's A-Rod's story. After tearing up the league for 15 seasons, two Sports Illustrated reporters revealed that Rodriguez used testosterone and steroids back in 2003 while with the Rangers. He later admitted to using PEDs during that time, but claimed to be clean. Then Rodriguez was named in the Biogenesis scandal and suspended for the entire 2014 season. Despite his gawdy hitting numbers, A-Rod should not be enshrined in Cooperstown.
1 Ryan Braun
Yes, he's still playing and may have his best years ahead of him. But Braun has already tested positive twice for banned substances in his young career. In 2011, ESPN reported a positive urine test for testosterone, but because the sample wasn't shipped to the MLB office in a timely manner, Braun won his appeal on this technicality and was not suspended. However, Braun was implicated in the Biogenesis affair in 2013, and was suspended for the remaining 62 games of the year as well as the playoffs. (Strangely, Braun's offensive numbers this season are off from his previous levels). Banning Ryan from the Hall of Fame would send a message to all young players who are thinking about trying PEDs for the first time.
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