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Baseball Hall of Fame voters split on steroid-era candidates

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are eligible for election in January, but there are two factions within the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America, whose members determine who gets into Cooperstown.

November 27, 2012|By Bill Shaikin

"They were all part of a union that had the power to enact testing earlier, and did not," Rosenthal said. "As voters, we have no idea who did what, so I'm not going to equate them to first-ballot Hall of Famers from the past."

Bob Nightengale of USA Today agrees that voters have no idea who did what but comes to a different conclusion. He said he would judge players against their contemporaries, whether in the steroid era or the pre-integration era.

"I will vote for players linked to performance-enhancing drugs, provided they were the best of the steroid era," Nightengale said. "I refuse to penalize players for using PEDs simply because it was such a widespread problem.

"We can't play judge and jury and guess who used and who didn't use, while mindful that several players already inducted into the Hall of Fame likely used performance-enhancing drugs."

A player can remain on the Hall of Fame ballot for up to 15 years, so long as he gets 5% of the vote each year.

For players linked to steroid use by circumstantial evidence rather than a positive test, Scott Miller of CBS Sports said he hoped decisive evidence would emerge over that 15-year period. For now, Miller said, he would not vote for players tied to steroid use.

"As Hall of Fame voters, we are asked, among other things, to consider a player's sportsmanship and character," Miller said. "I understand the Hall is not exactly filled with choirboys.

"At the same time, the steroid scandal stands as one of baseball's darkest hours, a time when the record book was bastardized and some players stained the integrity of the game with their actions."

However, the use of performance-enhancing substances was so rampant then that Jayson Stark of ESPN said that it is "impossible" for voters to try to keep every one of the so-called "cheaters" out of Cooperstown.

"I think we're almost forced to vote for the best players of that generation and let the Hall of Fame figure out how to explain what happened in that era," Stark said. "They can write the details on their plaques, hang an informational sign that sums up the steroid era or ignore it all if they choose.

"But asking the voters to serve as some sort of morality police force is growing increasingly outrageous. And this ballot is the ultimate proof."

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillShaikin

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