Most sportswriters don't like to put down their notepad and pen (or in today's world, their voice recorder and iPad) for anything. They made an exception on Wednesday, when they did so long enough to collectively thumb their noses at the players of the steroid-era.
10 years ago, this would have been considered a dream ballot for the Hall of Fame, with 3, and maybe as many as 5 first-ballot inductees. The lineup looks like its own brand of Murderer's Row; Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio. All of these, in a normal year, would have been first-ballot selections for baseball's highest honor.
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That's happened before. 7 times to be exact. But never with this type of class. The other times, it was because there was no one perceived to be good enough numbers-wise to be elected that particular year. Few question the numbers of many in this class, only the way they earned them.
We can debate all day if this was the right move by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). My guess is this vote was more symbolic than anything. I think eventually that Clemens, Bonds, Piazza and Biggio will get in (Biggio being the only player in the group that was never linked to steroids in any way, other than just the timing of his career). Sosa will be less likely to get in. I believe he and Mark McGwire, who were credited with reviving baseball when they had their historic chase to break the single-season home run record, will both be left out in the long run. Especially when you consider that Sosa had the fewest votes of any of those considered to be sure-fire first-ballot guys.
Which begs the question, "Where do you draw the line?"
If you are going to make the players of this era pay the ultimate price of Hall of Fame exclusion, how do you make the call of which ones are in and which ones are out? Do you simply go on the rumor and innuendo of the ones most likely to have used (Sosa, McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro)? If so, the evidence is pretty strong against Bonds and Clemens, too. Less so with Piazza (his accusers weren't under oath when they pointed the finger).
ESPN Radio personality Colin Cowherd has the best philosophy I've heard on the matter. His opinion is that it really doesn't matter to him if you let the users in or keep them out, but if you let them in, you have to let them all in based on their numbers, or you have to keep them all out based on their career timing. Without hard proof (a positive test in hand), you can't go on speculation or rumor, thus picking and choosing based on who you think may have used.
If the BBWAA really wanted to make a statement, and show those who may have played the game dirty that they only want "good guys" in the Hall, they should have voted in former Atlanta Brave Dale Murphy in his last year of eligibility. Murphy was a 2-time MVP, had 398 home runs, 1,266 RBI, 161 stolen bases, was a 7-time All-Star, a 5-time Gold Glove winner, a 4-time Silver Slugger winner, and probably one of the nicest, and most well-liked players in the history of the game. If you really wanna make a statement, put a guy like that in.
After all, there was a time when integrity was taken into consideration on the Hall of Fame vote.
Speaking of integrity, Pete Rose was banned from baseball and the Hall because his gambling "compromised the integrity of the game." Are you telling me steroids didn't do the same thing? Of course, baseball itself didn't benefit from Rose's exploits. The same can't be said of steroids and Major League Baseball.
Personally, I believe that if anyone was closely linked to steroids (Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, McGwire, Palmeiro, etc.), they should never get in. Maybe they can create a new wing in Cooperstown for those guys and label it the Hall of Shame.