Day of reckoning
Clemens gets my vote, but other opinions vary greatly
Posted: Thursday December 20, 2007 2:02PM; Updated: Friday December 21, 2007 12:06PM
Ten years have passed since I first held a Hall of Fame ballot in my hands, and it still ranks as one of the more awe-inspiring moments of my life. To realize that you have a say in who will be immortalized in Cooperstown -- and also who won't -- is a huge responsibility.
While it is fashionable in some circles to bash those of us who have been in the Baseball Writers' Association of America for at least 10 years and are eligible to vote, I have never met a colleague who didn't take the responsibility of voting for the Hall very seriously. People may not agree with the members' votes, but you can be sure that there is plenty of time and energy put into making the decisions.
Like other members, I have done my due diligence in researching each candidate, especially those who fall somewhere in the gray area between being an automatic selection and having no chance. However, there has been a major change in the process of reviewing a candidate's career since I first began voting in 1997. It now goes beyond studying a player's statistics and accomplishments. Today a voter must also be part of the morality police and attempt to determine which players cheated by using performance-enhancing drugs and which ones stayed clean. And assuming you don't categorically rule out cheaters, you also must determine which players -- we're talking Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens here -- had already accomplished enough to be a Hall of Famer before they reportedly began dabbling in steroids and human growth hormone, and which ones needed artificial help to boost them into the Hall-worthy category.
With Mark McGwire on the ballot for the first time last December, I considered from all angles how to treat players who had been associated with or accused of steroid use. In fact it nearly became an obsession until I finally mailed my ballot just before the Dec. 31 deadline. I have commiserated with plenty of other voters over the past year about how to view players in the Steroid Era, and have gotten a wide variety of responses. Clemens being prominently fingered as a steroid user in the Mitchell Report has rekindled those discussions in the past week.
Voters are divided on whether Clemens belongs in the Hall of Fame. The Sporting News' Gerry Fraley, who has covered baseball for a quarter century, believes that voting for Clemens will be easy when his name appears on the ballot. "It's impossible to separate who was and was not using steroids and HGH, and how it influenced performances," Fraley says. "Clemens is clearly a Hall of Famer, and was already a Hall of Famer if he had never won a game from the day he was first alleged to have started using steroids."