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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

Once a joy, now a chore: Hall of Fame voting in the post-steroid era

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We're a decade and change away from the 1990's but baseball is still soaking in it, at least when it comes time to pick new members for its Hall of Fame.

The list of candidates includes the likes of Bonds, McGwire and Sosa who not only shattered the record books but who are also the poster children for the steroid era.

What a mess.

What was described as "baseball's renaissance" as it played out following the strike of 1994 is now back, not on the field but in Cooperstown.   Think of steroids as a growing stain, a toxic four-smelling brew spilled first between the lines and now spreading down the Hall's hallowed corridors.

Everyone has a take--let Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and McGwire in, say some who point out they had incredible numbers even before PED's proliferated.    Cheating is cheating, say others who think anyone who did "the clear", "the cream" or the needle should never have a plaque in the game's holiest of holies.

Remember where baseball was in 1995.  The stink of the game's second season-wrecking strike in 13 years was still in the air that spring, and passion for baseball had cooled among the passive fans who are so key to the industry's bottom line.

Then came McGwire, Bonds, Sosa and the home run chase.   Sure, Cal Ripken's consecutive game streak happened, as well as his classy farewell to the game but "chicks dig long ball" and soon baseball was all about the dinger.

Batting next: Jose Canseco, a bottle of andro in McGwire's locker and BALCO. 

MLB must've known something was going on.  The media, too.  And, any right-thinking fan had to be wondering as well.  Why were checked swings putting balls over fences?   Why was the average outfielder looking more and more like an NFL linebacker?   No one asked the questions.  Sure, there were whispers, but it seemed as if nobody wanted to know the answer.  The player's union is also guilty, fighting testing under the guise of protecting privacy and not worrying about the long-term effects of a dangerous substance because of the way it helped bloat numbers, as well as contracts.

Now we have the convicted and the suspected, but there's also the under-class from the steroid era: players who juiced but didn't show it, guys who took the needle just to keep up with everyone else.

There's no quick answer for this mess.  Baseball, the fans, the media and the players brought this on, and now the consequence has to be lived with.  MLB touts its PED regs yet we still have guys getting snagged. 

Athletes will always try to get the advantage no matter what the sport.  Lance Armstrong's allegations finally caught up to him.   Baseball's did years ago, but the crimes have yet to play their way out of the sport's system.  And, no matter what is done to legislate against PED's, there's a lab somewhere trying to find a way to beat the system and a player willing to be their guinea pig.

The steroid story is old.  The arguments are tired.  Yet baseball can't--and won't--get out from underneath it for years.  It'll come back each year like Christmas, when Hall of Fame voting rolls around again.

And what used to be a cherished time of the season is now a debate about The Hall Of Ugh.


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