La Russa: Asterisk for tainted stars

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Even without the likes of Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, there is abundance now where there was emptiness a year ago.

Three former players elected in their first year of eligibility (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas) and three of the five winningest managers in history (Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox) began their ultimate victory lap Thursday, after their arrival here for festivities culminating in their enshrinement Sunday in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Last year's Hall ceremonies were the first in nearly half a century that didn't induct a single living member, a clear consequence of the steroids era.

La Russa, who managed the White Sox, Athletics and Cardinals between 1979 and 2011, said that because he's one of the Hall's six new inductees, he now feels free to state his opinion on the candidacies of the tainted greats of the modern era.

"Treat them all the same," La Russa said. "If you were a Hall of Famer during that period as far as your pitching and playing, I would create some kind of asterisk, where everybody understands that, 'Look, we have some questions, but you were still the dominant pitchers and players of your time.'

"We have to acknowledge that that period for about 10 or 12 years, somewhere around the early '90s to the early 2000s, was a black spot, a negative mark in our history."

Vote totals for Clemens, Bonds and McGwire weren't close to sufficient for election to the Hall last year or this, and went down, with the trio finishing ninth, 10th and 18th, respectively, among players on this year's ballot.

La Russa said if he had his druthers, all three would be in the Hall.

"I might get voted out of the Hall of Fame with that attitude, but that's what I believe," he added with a smile.

Glavine, the left-handed pitcher for the Braves and Mets who won 305 games, said he has "no problem" with the baseball writers' voting that has kept players who have been linked to performance-enhancing drugs out of the Hall. He said if he had a vote, "I think my stance right now would be no.

"I think if you were to ask every other Hall of Famer, particularly some of the guys that have been in here a long, long time, how they felt about it, I'm pretty sure you'd get the same reaction," Glavine said.

La Russa says he can understand the argument that if there are asterisks for the era's inducted players, perhaps that should apply to its managers -- including him.

"I know that there's people that have accused me because of some of the guys that helped us win in Oakland and St. Louis, so the only thing I can say is I know 100 percent that our program was absolutely clean for everything that we could control," he said.