Aaron: PED users can be Hall candidates
Legendary home-run hitter suggests asterisk by names
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Hank Aaron, who was baseball's all-time home run king until Barry Bonds passed him in 2007, thinks that players linked to performance-enhancing drugs shouldn't necessarily be excluded from the Hall of Fame.
However, Aaron does think that those players should have an asterisk next to their career numbers.
"The thing is, do you put these guys in, or do you put an asterisk beside their names and say, 'Hey, they did it, but here's why?'" Aaron told several reporters in an informal interview session at the Otsego Hotel on Saturday. "To be safe, that's the only way I see that you can do it."
Aaron, however, knows that not all of his Hall of Fame peers would be so lenient if there was an inductee associated with performance enhancers. In fact, he said that it was his understanding that some of the Hall of Famers would actually walk off the stage in protest during the induction ceremony.
"I don't need to tell you who," Aaron said. "But I think some players would do that. The people I've talked to certainly have some resentment toward it."
Two current players with Hall of Fame credentials -- Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez -- have both been associated with banned substances in 2009. Following a February report by Sports Illustrated that he tested positive during anonymous testing by MLB in 2003, Rodriguez admitted that he took PEDs from 2001-03. Ramirez received a 50-game suspension in May for using a banned substance.
Roger Clemens, the only pitcher in history with seven Cy Young Awards, was named prominently as a user of performance-enhancing drugs in the Mitchell Report. Clemens has vehemently denied taking PEDs.
The Hall of Fame class of 2009 will be enshrined Sunday, led by Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson. Rice was elected to the Hall of Fame on his 15th and final try on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot.
In light of the perceived inflated numbers of some recent sluggers, it has been speculated that Rice's career stats (382 homers, 2,451 hits) started to gain more respect from Hall of Fame voters the last few years.
"I don't look at it, I don't think about it," said Rice. "It's all said and done. My numbers didn't change. It basically depended on who was voting at the time. I don't know if the steroid era had anything to do with it. I don't think the steroid era should have had anything to do with it. As of right now, I can't change anything. The only thing I can say is that I'm happy with where I'm at right now. I could be somewhere in South Carolina playing golf right now. Instead, I'm sitting here talking to you."
Aaron is also in Cooperstown this weekend, along with many other members of the Hall of Fame.
Though Aaron belted 755 home runs during his legendary career, he never had more than 47 in a given season.
Mark McGwire, who has been unsuccessful thus far in his first three years on the Hall of Fame ballot, belted 70 home runs in 1998 to break Roger Maris' record of 61 in 1961. Bonds broke McGwire's mark by roping 73 homers in 2001.
Aaron was suspicious in both cases.
"I played the game long enough to know, and it is impossible for players -- I don't care who they are -- to hit 70 home runs," Aaron said. "It just does not happen. I think that's one reason why people's eyes started opening up and they said, 'How can this guy do this?'"
At the same time, Aaron isn't insinuating that the performance enhancers did all the work for the players who might have taken them.
"It's hard to say the reason you hit a home run is because you're on steroids," Aaron said. "I don't believe that. I believe your body can recuperate quickly to come back on the field. But I certainly don't think you can stand up there and hit a Nolan Ryan 100-mph fastball just because you put something in your arm or took a pill."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.