What should be done with the Hall of Fame candidates who used (or might have used) banned substances to get ahead? Robothal is working on it ...
- If the plaques simply said, "Played in the Steroid Era," how would the Hall decide when that era began? How would it justify tarnishing seemingly innocent players? How would it distinguish between suspected users such as say, Sammy Sosa, and confirmed users such as say, A-Rod?
The Hall is not yet ready to entertain such a discussion; nor should it be. We live in an age of instant news and analysis, but players become eligible for the Hall only five years after they are last active in the majors.
The electoral process vote is sort of like a nine-inning game, unfolding slowly, allowing time for reflection. People ask me all the time, "If you had to vote today, would you vote for Bonds? For Clemens? A-Rod?" I invariably answer, "I don't have to vote today."
At this moment, I would have a difficult time voting for any confirmed or suspected user without an assurance from the Hall that the player's transgressions would be acknowledged.
If the players objected to such mentions, too bad. What would they do, boycott the Hall? Their mere inductions would reflect that they were the best of their tainted era. Many would argue that they do not deserve to be in Cooperstown at all.
I'm caught somewhere in between. And the clock is ticking on my time -- and every voter's time -- to figure out what is right.
Sometimes I wonder if the antipathy held by many of the baseball writers -- not necessarily Rosenthal -- toward the cheaters is simply a matter of inconvenience. It's bad enough that voters are supposed to look at all those pesky statistics and whatnot, but now they're supposed to consider morals and ethics, too? Why, it's enough to make a BBWAA member's head explode! ... or write a column wondering what are we going to tell the youngsters?
Look, I get it. This stuff's not easy. Well, you know what? Life's not easy. And all the baseball writers who believed -- or rather, reported, because I don't think many of them really believed it -- that baseball is some sort of haven from the real world were themselves living in Make Believe Land. Baseball's never been immune from the problems and the concerns of the real world, and I have a hard time believing that Hal McCoy and Tracy Ringolsby and Murray Chass didn't know in the 1970s that players were gobbling amphetamines like so many M&M's.
As usual, Rosenthal's take on this is sensible, and it's the same take as mine. If I keep my nose clean and my fingers in the game, in around nine years a Hall of Fame ballot will arrive in my mailbox. By then, maybe I'll have figured out what's right.