Steroids cloud Coop­er­stown

Vot­ers chal­lenged to up­hold moral­ity af­ter many cheated.

Austin American-Statesman - - NFL - NOAH BERGER / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

We live in a world of sports that is broad­cast in full color high def­i­ni­tion, yet we try to view it through a prism of mo­ral and eth­i­cal ab­so­lutes. When faced with the great is­sues of our time, ev­ery­thing ends up cast in shades of gray.

If you doubt that, just look at the bal­lot that will de­ter­mine who will be in­ducted into the Na­tional Base­ball Hall of Fame in 2013.

More than ever, it’s a snap­shot of base­ball’s steroid era, for the first time adding Barry Bonds, Roger Cle­mens and Sammy Sosa to a list of can­di­dates that al­ready in­cluded Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and a hand­ful of other play­ers who fell un­der sus­pi­cion dur­ing one of the sport’s dark­est pe­ri­ods.

Base­ball fans can be for- given for want­ing to wipe the tawdry episode from their col­lec­tive me­mory, but the vot­ing mem­bers of the Base­ball Writ­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica can’t.

The dead­line for fill­ing out the bal­lot is Dec.31, which leaves only eight more days to ag­o­nize over the list. The vot­ers have hereto­fore shown lit­tle sym­pa­thy for play­ers who ad­mit­ted us­ing il­le­gal per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs or tested pos­i­tive for any of them, but they have never been faced with a bal­lot that in­cludes so many of the most ac­com­plished and con­tro­ver­sial play­ers of our time.

I likely would vote for Bonds and Cle­mens be­cause I be­lieve they were well on their way to the Hall of Fame be­fore the steroid era really kicked into gear.

Based on any strict stan­dard of ethics or moral­ity, plenty of play­ers in the Hall of Fame must have sneaked in through the back door. Pitcher Gay­lord Perry is not only fa­mous but beloved for his rep­u­ta­tion as one of base­ball’s most ac­com­plished cheaters, and sev­eral of the greats of the early 20th cen­tury were con­sid­ered men of ques­tion­able char­ac­ter.

The steroid era put a ter­ri­ble stain on the na­tional pas­time, but it wasn’t base­ball’s first drug scan­dal. Am­phet­a­mines used to be the drug of choice in ma­jor league club­houses, but no­body is call­ing for the great play­ers of the 1960s and 1970s to be kicked out of Coop­er­stown.

Cheat­ing is wrong, and us­ing il­le­gal drugs is cheat­ing, but it’s only fair to take into ac­count the time and cir­cum­stances that gov­erned each in­di­vid­ual sit­u­a­tion. The vot­ers have done a pretty good job of that over the years, and it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how many vote for Bonds and Cle­mens on their first bal­lot.

Many feel that the records of play­ers like Barry Bonds, who is sus­pected of us­ing per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs, have been stained.

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