Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

3 for the Hall

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

3 for the Hall

Article excerpt

If you're a hardliner who believes PED users don't belong in the Hall of Fame, do yourself a favor and prepare for defeat. A new age is just around the corner - call it either tolerance or surrender, your choice. But the ramifications of Wednesday's balloting were clear and it's not good news for anyone who's still convinced Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens sabotaged the game.

Neither was elected, but both jumped 10 percent from last year and have now crossed the 50 percent threshold. Of the three winners, only one (Tim Raines) is controversy-free. The other two are proof the tectonic plates are shifting. Jeff Bagwell came in with an 86.2 percent landslide. Ivan Rodriguez joined Cooperstown's elite with first-ballot election. Both were suspected cheaters.

So what gives? Is the Hall now a bastion of progressive thinking or have weary voters decided to green-light anyone with pumped-up numbers in a shady era? There's truth in both answers. It won't please the old guard whose defense of Cooperstown comes down to Get Off My Lawn. But even that ethos required an impossible level of enforcement.

You want to block the cheaters. Fine. Name them. Then prove they were juicing. There are easy targets, of course: Mark McGuire was caught and confessed. Manny Ramirez failed not one, but two tests. And Alex Rodriguez finally admitted he was lying about steroids all along - baseball's Lance Armstrong.

But the investigation was more complicated once you drilled down to those who simply looked too big and too strong. Pumped up offensive numbers became an indictment, not an achievement. Everyone looked guilty 15 years ago, right?

But without evidence - a confession, a positive test, a suspension by the commissioner - voters were put in a tightest of vices. Withhold a vote on a hunch? Because of back acne? Because Goose Gossage said it was the right thing to do?

Sorry, I couldn't go along. That's why I voted for Mike Piazza as soon as he was eligible and never stopped until he was elected. Piazza, of course, was a walking bullseye: the hardliners saw him as a classic PED felon, even though he never failed a test, wasn't named in the Mitchell Report and was never disciplined by Major League Baseball.

But Piazza had back acne. Lots of it. That was enough for the hardliners to indict. Luckily, a majority of voters were open- minded, myself included. I never had enough proof to vote against Piazza and once he made it to Cooperstown, it was no longer possible to single out Bagwell or Pudge. Bonds and Clemens deserve a fairer hearing too.

Neither player was ever suspended or punished by Selig. Both remain in good standing with Major League Baseball. The government couldn't prove that either ever knowingly took steroids. I've heard from plenty of fans who ask why I'm ignoring such tell-tale signs as Bonds' surge in power after his 40th birthday, not to mention his Schwarzenegger-like physique at the end of his career. …

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