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Bonds and Clemens are referendum on steroids in Hall of Fame voting

By Daniel Brown, San Jose Mercury News Published: January 9, 2013
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Tom Verducci, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and among those who left Bonds off his ballot, said: “To me, a vote for someone that you know has used steroids is an endorsement of steroids. And I can't go there.”

“They cheated — all of them,” wrote Thom Loverro, another non-Bonds voter and a columnist for the Washington Examiner. “And this Hall of Fame is not just about numbers. Three of the six criteria for election to Cooperstown are sportsmanship, integrity and character. Bonds, Sosa and Clemens fail on all three counts.”

On the other hand, Richard Justice, a columnist for MLB.com, voted for Bonds, as well as Clemens and eight others on the ballot, by reason that steroids were so pervasive during the era of Clemens and Bonds that there was no use in “punishing them.”

“I decided it was just too cloudy,” Justice said on the MLB Network. “I don't know everybody that did and didn't, so I'm going to vote for the best players and let somebody else sort it out.”

ESPN's Buster Olney agreed, saying MLB's loose rules and lax enforcement created the steroid era, “whether we like it or not. ”& The baseball writers ought to get out of the way rather than acting like overzealous crossing guards empowered by their ballots. The writers' work should always reflect history, not determine legacies.“

Bonds has denied knowingly using steroids. A positive test was introduced as evidence during his criminal trial last year, when he was convicted of obstruction of justice by a jury that failed to reach a verdict on charges he made false statements to a grand jury when he denied knowing using performance-enhancing drugs.

Clemens has repeatedly denied drug use and was acquitted this year on charges he lied to Congress when he said he didn't take steroids or human growth hormone.

The writers who chose to leave Bonds and other accused steroid users off their ballots have come under fire as sanctimonious, sermonizing moralists. But they also have the backing of some noted Hall of Famers, who support the tough stance.

”There's no place in the Hall of Fame for people who cheat,“ Hank Aaron has said.

”I think if you cheated, I think you made a decision and I don't think you belong,“ Barry Larkin has said.

”If you cheat, you don't fit,“ Wade Boggs has said.

”I am hoping that those guys that get caught don't get into the Hall of Fame,“ Reggie Jackson has said.

So what to do? Cooperstown is leaving that up to the baseball writers. Idelson, who will read the results live on the MLB Network, said writers have ”done an excellent job, historically, in evaluating candidates.“

Idelson said that if a player is elected who has ties to steroids, there are no plans to denote that on his Hall of Fame plaque. That text is limited to approximately 90 words, highlighting the achievements of a player's career.

MCT Information Services


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