HOF voters shouldn’t judge steroid users

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Obviously, it is an honor to be voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame, and I have considered it such since I filled out my first HOF ballot over 10 years ago.

But perhaps like some other voters, I am uncomfortable serving as judge and jury for players suspected of using steroids.

Strip away those associations with steroids, and there is no argument when considering HOF entry for players such as Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire or Roger Clemens or Sammy Sosa and so forth.

Of course, we cannot simply ignore the steroid era and how performance-enhancing drugs bloated the statistical achievements of many players now on the ballot.

So, as a voter, do we exclude those players who have admitted using PEDs? Do we also exclude players we strongly suspect of using PEDs? What evidence do we use to do either?

Frankly, it is too much to ask voters to judge suspected steroid users. That is not our job. That is baseball’s job.

Let us voters crunch the numbers, and judge the merits of a player’s on-base percentage or his home-run total or his ERA.

The steroid issue, on the other hand, is one of those integrity-of-the-game matters, and baseball writers shouldn’t be asked to judge character on the HOF ballot. We are not qualified. And let’s be honest – it’s way above our pay scale.

The only logical solution is to take the issue out of our hands. Make commissioner Bud Selig be the judge.

Selig and his office have the power and the resources to determine whether players have hurt the integrity of the game through PEDs. He also has the power to permanently ban such players from baseball, under the same principle that Pete Rose was banned permanently by Bart Giamatti.

Under Major League Rule 21: “…any and all other acts, transactions, practices or conduct not to be in the best interests of Baseball are prohibited and shall be subject to such penalties, including permanent ineligibility, as the facts in the particular case may warrant.”

Using PEDs clearly violates this principle.

Selig already has instituted a three-strikes-and-you’re-out ban, meaning three-time steroids offenders are permanently banned.

But Selig also can go one step further – he can, based on evidence his office has collected, permanently ban from baseball those frequent offenders from the steroid era.

And if Selig did so, those players would not be on the ballot because in 1991 the Baseball of Fame voted to ban those on the permanently ineligible list from induction.

This would effectively take the steroids/HOF ballot issue out of the writers’ hands, and would allow us to vote on players based solely on baseball merit, where our voting mistakes are much more easily debated anyway.

Perhaps we can even force Selig’s hand to a degree. What if we all kept voting for Bonds and Clemens and the other suspects until one or two of them got dangerously close to getting in? That might actually scare Selig into action.

With that in mind, I will send my ballot in with the following names submitted for election into the Baseball Hall of Fame, a list that will include some from the steroid era and some that are not:

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmerio, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Tim Raines, Lee Smith and Jack Morris.