I guess we all knew the Baseball Hall of Fame vs. steroids debate was going to reach a tipping point sooner or later. But now Hall inductee Joe Morgan has pushed it over the edge.
Last week the 74-year-old Morgan sent an email to HOF voters asking them not to vote for any steroid users who are up for consideration.
Morgan may have been the author, but the email came from the Hall of Fame account and the former second baseman is a member of the 16-member HOF board of directors. That reinforced his contention that he is speaking for “many” inducted members.
“We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame,” Morgan wrote. “They cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here.”
For the true hidebound traditionalist, this can be settled with three questions:
Did taking the substance increase speed and power, giving those who took it an advantage? Yes.
Did those users actively attempt to keep their use secret? Yes.
Isn’t secretly gaining an unfair advantage the very definition of cheating? Yes.
Ergo, the steroid crowd should never be admitted.
However, there are layers to this, beginning with why Morgan decided to write this year. Because until recently the voters had pretty much walled off the suspected steroid-ers. The eligibility of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro came and went without any of them coming within 50 points of the 75 percent needed to be inducted.
But last year Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez was voted in, despite persistent performance-enhancing-drug rumors. Also, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, long seen as the poster-people for drug-enhanced performance, received over 50 percent of the vote.
You can see the trend. It is likely it will not be long before Bonds is inducted. That is sure to set off mixed emotions, to say the least.
There’s another factor, too. In 2015, the Baseball Writers of America announced that Hall of Fame voters would be limited to those who are actively covering the sport.
Although there’s a 10-year grace period for longtime voters (meaning old and cranky), they are slowly being weeded out. Obviously, this is going to mean a younger group casting ballots. That means people who never had to deal with Bonds, who if not the most rude and condescending athlete I’ve ever met, is certainly in the top three.
So, it seems, after reading all that writing on the Hall wall, Morgan sent out his note.
A couple of problems, though.
First, Morgan and his old-school buddies are starting to sound like the wheezy members of the Showtime Lakers or Michael Jordan’s Bulls, who insist they could have beaten the Warriors in their prime.
Two points: No you couldn’t and nobody cares.
Also, who decides who was a steroid cheat? Clemens adamantly denies using to this day and Bonds’ complicated explanation that he only “inadvertently” took them is so convoluted it makes your head hurt. Put simply, there’s no smoking syringe.
And by the way, baseball has only itself to blame. While track and field was cracking down on ’roids and the NFL — in its own ponderous way — was developing testing, baseball had its hands over its ears and was shouting “La-la-la. Can’t hear you.”