Steroids Cloud Hall of Fame Prospects
Now that baseball's Hall of Famers have welcomed the fresh arrivals - some new neighbors get a plate of brownies, others get their plaques in Cooperstown - we'd like to make a small request.
Fellas, could we have a consensus on this steroid business? This plea for help comes from a poor slob who has to vote on the Hall of Fame, and humbly wouldn't mind some guidance.
Here's the problem: Listening to old and new Hall of Famers on the subject lately has been like listening to Congress discuss health care. According to various quotes in the press, they're all over the map.
Yeah, I know. Who cares at the moment? The pennant races are here, with a wave of the old guard - Yankees, Cubs, Phillies, Tigers, Dodgers - in first place. Mark Buehrle pitched a perfect game the other night, when his centerfielder reached into the next zip code to make a catch.
Nobody wants to be distracted by the same old story. Besides, we're not even talking about the scourge of the most pervasive, insidious performance enhancing weapon of our time - which, of course, is the polyurethane swimming suit. Greatest invention in apparel design since the blue jeans.
According to the latest dispatches from the world swimming championships, taxi drivers are jumping into the pool and smashing records. Remember the good old days, when we understood what was going on if a turtle suddenly turned into Nemo? It might take four specimen bottles and six lab technicians to tell us, but we'd find out.
Now it's the suit. So maybe they've been on the wrong track about what happened in baseball. Has anyone checked to see what Barry Bonds was wearing when he hit all those home runs?
But we digress. The main suspects from the steroid age will start appearing on the ballot in increasing numbers. The moments of decision will inexorably come on Bonds, on Roger Clemens, on Alex Rodriguez. Probably on players to be named later.
So it'd be nice to get input from those who ought to know, when they annually convene at Cooperstown. After all, those who can, do. Those who can't, vote.
But consider the confusing past days.
Goose Gossage said to keep the suspects out. "A no-brainer," was his quote.
Fine. Who am I to argue with a guy who saved a gazillion games with his heater? My fastball wouldn't break the speed limit in a school zone.
Then again, Bob Gibson said to let them in.
That's helpful to know, from a pitcher so competitive, he'd have knocked down his mother. On Mother's Day.
Jim Rice, new kid on the Hall of Fame block, offered that the correct vote for anyone who damages the game is a no vote.
But Hank Aaron said to allow in the violators, though only if they are told at the door that they get admitted with an asterisk on their lapel. Baseball's scarlet letter.
Listening to Aaron talk about baseball is like listening to Zeus. What he says matters.
See the problem? We come hoping for common thought as a guiding light, but get every flavor.
Actually, the split opinion from Cooperstown is a fitting snapshot of why the steroid issue is so difficult to move past.
Nobody knows for sure who did it.
Nobody knows for sure who didn't.
Nobody knows for sure when it started or whether it has stopped.
And nobody - or at least no group with any kind of unified voice - knows for sure what to do with those who might have gotten their game out of a bottle.
That hasn't changed and it never will. The subject might be ancient news in the clubhouses and the grandstands. But it is the persistent controversy to come as future ballots arrive.
That's when the guesswork and conjecture must be distilled into a go or no-go decision. And the current advice from the pillars of baseball?