With Monday's announcement that Barry Larkin will enter this year's Hall of Fame class, the issue of steroids and the Hall has become a touchy issue. This year's ballot included several players known or believed to have used steroids. Next year will bring more. The following year even more. Soon, Hall voters will have to decide the fate of players like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and others who were believed to be dirty.
The Hall is supposed to be a showcase for the greatest that ever played the game. The only guideline given to voters is to vote based on merit. Since Mark McGwire has already failed to make it in three years, with numbers that are clearly worthy of Hall of Fame induction, it is obvious that voters are already taking PED use into consideration. The issue becomes whether or not players who used PEDs are worthy of Hall of Fame consideration.
We will also never know for sure who used and who didn't. We have the Mitchell report to consider, along with men like Brain McNamee, Game of Shadows and a million other anecdotes about players using, but we will never know for sure who used and who didn't. Further muddying the issue is the idea that many players who did not use are being penalized by the dirty players they played against. Guys like Jeff Bagwell and Fred McGriff are great players that should already be in the Hall of Fame as well. Is the fact that they might have used keeping them out?
With the cloud of steroids now hanging over the Hall, what should be done?
The only fair thing to do for steroid-era, Hall of Fame candidates is to consider that players were among the best in their era. Their numbers have to be judged as such. It is not fair to the players that were clean to not get into the Hall because of the guys that were dirty. For every McGwire, Bonds, Sosa and Clemens there are a thousand other players who were doing it clean.
Commissioner Bud Selig needs to issue a memo to all Hall voters before next year's vote in order to maintain some semblance of historical accuracy for the Hall.
If this happens, players like Bagwell, McGriff and others will have a fair playing field against others who used PEDs and would likely gain entry into the Hall, as they rightfully deserve. By the numbers and by the impact they had on the game, there is no way these guys should not be elected.
It is also true that players who are known to have used, or are likely to have used, will get into the Hall. Much as it kills me to think that Bonds and Sosa would get into the Hall, they were great players and their numbers reflect their greatness. Let history decide if they will be remembered as cheaters. If needed, include information about it on their plaques in the Hall. I can live with that. What I can't live with is worthy players being excluded simply because of the era they played in.