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Hall of Fame OK with election rules despite surge for Bonds, Clemens

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- More than a quarter-century after the National Baseball Hall of Fame changed its rules to make sure Pete Rose wouldn't be elected, the Hall's president, Jeff Idelson, told ESPN on Thursday that the Hall isn't contemplating a similar change that would slam the door on Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or other PED-tainted candidates.

Idelson said the Hall's leadership is "comfortable" with its current rules, despite the surge in support that has lifted Bonds and Clemens to more than 50 percent of the vote and to within about 100 votes of being elected.

"Rules are always a topic of conversation and thought," Idelson said. "There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about any of our sets of rules for election.

"[But] bottom line is, we still feel very comfortable with the character, integrity and sportsmanship portion of the rule that asks that those characteristics be evaluated in terms of candidacy for election. Could they change in the future? It's always possible. But sitting here today, we're comfortable [with those rules] as they are."

Rose is excluded from Hall of Fame consideration because he is on Major League Baseball's ineligible list. Gambling, not performance-enhancing drugs, is the central issue of Rose's ineligibility.

Idelson says he believes the character, integrity and sportsmanship provisions encourage writers to vote for candidates who "played the game the right way," showed that they clearly "respected the game" and were "elite athletes" when measured against their fellow players "on a level playing field." But he admitted those definitions were subjective and voters were still free to interpret those terms in their own way.

Asked if the Hall could look at the last election as a reason to offer the baseball writers more guidance about how to handle the PED era, Idelson said that was unlikely.

"I don't know how else to define character, integrity and sportsmanship, or how else to provide guidance," he said. "When I have conversations with writers about asking for guidance, there really isn't a follow-up as to what that would be. So I guess I'm not sure what more guidance writers would want."

One idea that has been proposed by some writers is to place informational signs among the plaques in the gallery that would put different eras, including the PED era, in historical perspective. Idelson said it's the job of the history museum section of the Hall to provide that type of information.

In 2015, the Hall included a PED exhibit as part of its "Whole New Ballgame" section of the museum. And that exhibit, Idelson said, is "very upfront and open" about the way it explains what happened in that era, by "presenting all the facts and allowing visitors to make their own value judgments."

Nevertheless, as Bonds and Clemens creep closer to being elected, a number of Hall of Fame players have said privately that they would consider boycotting the induction ceremonies of players they believe used PEDs. But Idelson said he had confidence that those Hall of Famers would continue to be supportive.

"You'd have to ask them," he said. "But the institution of the Hall of Fame is what's most important. And I don't think any Hall of Famer wants anything but to see this place succeed or would do anything to hurt this place.

"There's great pride in becoming a Hall of Famer. ... And given the respect that the Hall of Famers have for Cooperstown and the museum, it's evident that they want nothing more than to be supportive of that. And it would take a lot for them to change their mind."