As a voter for baseball's Hall of Fame, I will vote for Barry Bonds.

He has my vote not because I like him. Bonds was one of the most unpleasant persons I met in my 30-plus years covering the sport. Bonds could take a sunny day at the beach and make someone feel like they were fishing for crab in the Bering Sea.

He has my vote not because I think all his 762 homers were hit clean, without chemical aid, without help from Dr. Feelgood. I saw his body change from the 1993 model of lithe, supple and strong to the 2003 model of the Michelin Man, muscles ballooning from places I didn't know had muscles. I'm surprised that when Bonds bent over green liquid didn't squirt out of his ears and sizzle like bacon when it landed on the sidewalk.

Bonds has my vote because I feel I have no choice. I can't keep him out of Cooperstown because of, well, just look at that puffy body! He had to use! You can't come by that look naturally! Suspicions, rumors, inflamed musculature, that will be good enough for some voters. Sorry, I need proof, not suspicion.

The feds came after Bonds like he was Al Capone. They invested millions of dollars, and probably as many man-hours, trying to put Bonds in a cell with Bubba for 20 or so years. All they got him on was this cheesy obstruction of justice charge which is like handing out a parking ticket to someone who just went 120 mph through a school zone. They got him to admit he rubbed himself with something he didn't know was a PED.

Of course we didn't believe him. We just know he lied. We just know he juiced. We just know he cheated.

Do we?

We won't, until he admits it. We won't, until his former personal trainer Greg Anderson, his chump, rats him out. Not until there's physical evidence, a positive test, or irrefutable testimony. When Bonds' reputation and image are flogged in public by the Giants administration, ex-teammates and the commissioner, then we'll know. Oh yes, by the way, the commissioner. Bud Selig, the purported protector of all that's good and holy in MLB — cough, cough, gag, gag — has not removed or even hinted at removing Bonds from the record books. Bonds is not banned from any stadium. Bonds is free to go as he pleases, like at AT&T for Game 1 of the 2012 World Series, where he didn't experience even a cursory search.

Yes, certainly, Bonds is a pariah in the sport. The man with the most home runs in baseball history is not being shown off like a parade car by the Giants. He is not excluded from anything but he is not welcomed, either. Baseball wants him to go away and, well, it should. There's nothing but a cloud over him wherever he goes.

But Bonds should get into Cooperstown because if he doesn't, the resulting slippery slope makes everyone a suspect, the innocent as well as the guilty. Houston's Craig Biggio, for example, he of 3,060 hits, couldn't have used steroids, it has been said, because Biggio didn't look like he did. Really? That's the proof? Using such vapid logic, pick a name, any name, and it's not above suspicion — that dirty little word fuels tabloids and Facebook.

And, by the way, when did the Steroid Era begin? When did it end? Has it ended? How much, exactly, did steroids affect performance?

Do you know the answer? I don't.

Moral outrage, of course, is the emotional currency of the day. Oh, no, not Bonds! If he goes in, the great and pure legends of yesteryear will be forever tarnished. The Hallowed Hall will diminish in value.

Please, put a cork in that fantasy and stop it from escaping. Cooperstown is not church. OK? Cap Anson wouldn't even allow his teams to play if there was an African-American on the field. Boozers and womanizers and cheaters and alcoholics are sprinkled liberally throughout its environs. Whitey Ford cut the baseball with his wedding ring. But when was the last time — or the first time — that moral outrage was so strong that there was a move underfoot to get rid of Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Don Drysdale and Gaylord Perry? Perry even celebrated being a cheat and wrote a book about it — "Me and the Spitter."

So, please, let's not use Cooperstown as a moral compass. It's for players, not saints.

One, and only one reason, has ever existed for banishment that is not influenced by shifting moral tides or developing public sentiment.

Don't bet on the game you are influencing as a player or manager. Pete Rose should never make it to Cooperstown.

Throughout baseball history anything after that has been open to interpretation. Once it was permissible, even tolerated and applauded, to throw the spitter, to scuff the baseball, to take that sphere and turn it into a meatball sandwich if it could give the pitcher the edge. Once "greenies" or "beans" — amphetamines — were staples in major-league clubhouses. Now they are banned.

If you aren't cheating, you ain't trying, so goes the baseball expression. So right now, in 2012, steroids are viewed as cheating. Fine. What to do about it? Ban the players who have admitted PED use or have tested positive for steroids. So, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, you don't get in. Melky Cabrera — though it's a ridiculous stretch to think he would qualify — you don't make it, either.

Every prominent name on the 2012 ballot — Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa — they get in.

Put an asterisk by their name, if you must, indicate that they played in the Steroid Era. And then let it go. We know the Steroid Era smeared baseball. In all its murkiness and inconclusiveness, that's the only sure thing we can say about it. Everything else is open to conjecture and, the worst kind of poison of them all, suspicion.

You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.