Steroids cloud Cooperstown
Voters challenged to uphold morality after many cheated.
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.