“Voting shall be based on the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, their contributions to the team on which the player played.” -- BWAA's Hall of Fame Rules
|Spitballer Gaylord Perry|
Such arbitrary application of the so-called "integrity clause" is seriously misplaced. It is unquestionable that steroids were used by a large group of players -- hitters and pitchers -- from about 1995 until 2005, when the baseball establishment, under pressure, finally began to crack down on the use of performance enhancing drugs. During this time, when offensive numbers (and players’ heads) were suspiciously inflated, the fans cheered and the owners gleefully looked the other way. For better or worse, steroids were part of the game and unless we are going to disqualify everyone who played during these years, we simply have to accept it. Moreover, with the exception of the few players who have admitted steroid use or where the evidence appears overwhelming, we have no way of knowing with any hope of accuracy who juiced and who didn’t.
The best and most dominant players of every era should be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and steroid use or other alleged character flaws should not be insurmountable barriers to entry. Without Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mike Piazza -- who is apparently now suspect based on nothing more than hearsay and weak anecdotal information (as is Jeff Bagwell, perhaps a more borderline candidate)-- the Hall of Fame's avowed goals of "preserving history and honoring excellence" will be greatly diminished.
And don't get me started on Pete Rose.