“In the end,” said Hampton Stevens in TheAtlantic.com, “cheaters lose.” That old-fashioned principle was upheld last week by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, which, for the first time since 1996, elected no former players to baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Among those rightly snubbed were Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, “unquestionably the best hitter and pitcher of their era,” whose achievements were later tainted by revelations that they used performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids and human growth hormones. The baseball writers got it right, said The New York Times in an editorial. Letting players with artificially enhanced statistics into the Hall of Fame would diminish the legends who got there honestly. It would also be an insult to those players who stayed clean during the 1990s and early 2000s, and “whose excellence was unfairly dimmed by the bulked-up competition.”
The baseball writers got it wrong, said the Chicago Tribune. It’s one thing to exclude known juicers like Bonds, who set both single-season and career home-run records after gaining so much muscle he looked like a cartoon character. But the voters also snubbed muscular sluggers Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, who are merely rumored to have used some chemical assistance. What happened to being innocent until proven guilty? Since literally hundreds of players used steroids during that era, said Allen Barra in TheDailyBeast.com, we can never be sure who was dirty and who was clean. If the guardians of baseball’s integrity are going to ban anyone even suspected of drug use, “then the only fair way to go is to institute a total ban on everyone who played during the steroid era.”
Why stop there? said Dave Zirin in TheNation.com. Shouldn’t the Hall remove the plaques of everyone who played before racial integration? “I’m sure it enhanced the performance of Babe Ruth that he never had to bat against Satchel Paige.” Or if drugs are the issue, shouldn’t we kick out everyone who played in the 1960s and ’70s, when players guzzled “amphetamines like M&Ms?” Of course not. The Hall of Fame is a museum of baseball history, and museums preserve the past as it was, not as it should have been. The best players of the steroid era should be voted in, with plaques that state their feats may have been achieved with the help of drugs. It’s childish to pretend that era never existed.