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Major League Baseball sent out its ballots to baseball writers across the country for the 2013 Hall of Fame vote this week. Included on this year's ballot are a few interesting names like Craig Biggio and Curt Schilling.
The names that are going to attract the most attention, though, are folks like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens. Those guys, as I'm sure you know, are now and forever will be associated with the use of performance enhancing drugs.
The numbers those gentlemen put up in their careers is certainly not an issue. Roger Clemens has more Cy Young awards than any man who has ever pitched. Barry Bonds is the all-time home run leader in baseball history and Sammy Sosa isn't far behind in the home run category.
But, because of their use of steroids and/or other performance enhancing drugs, or PEDs as the cool kids call them, it's very likely none of them will get into the Hall of Fame, this year or any other year.
They cheated. There's no doubt about that. They made themselves stronger and lengthened their careers considerably with the use of PEDs. Their reputations will be tarnished forever and plenty of baseball writers feel if you took PEDs, you shouldn't be allowed into the Hall of Fame, period.
So, what's the right answer here? Frankly, I don't know. I tend to side with the view that if you're caught breaking the rules, you shouldn't be inducted into the Hall of Fame. And yes, I'm looking right at you, Pete Rose.
The issue isn't quite as clear-cut as that, though. Major League Baseball turned a blind eye toward the problem in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The problem was addressed by the Major League only when commissioner Bud Selig could, from a public relations standpoint, ignore it no longer. His office conducted PED tests of players in 2003, something that was more for show than for the purpose of weeding PED users out.
With its lax enforcement, some people say Major League Baseball was giving quiet approval of PED usage. I don't quite go that far, but those folks do have a point.
The worst part of this whole affair is what it's done to baseball's fan base. Baseball lost a lot of fans after a work stoppage in 1994. Those fans only started to come back in 1998, which might have been the best season in the history of the Big Leagues. That interest was fueled largely by the home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire to see who would be the first to break the single-season home run record.
Baseball again has an image problem and this Hall of Fame vote is almost certainly going to enhance that problem.
I've spent more hours that I care to admit lounging on the couch watching baseball and I certainly don't want to see Major League Baseball slip into the abyss of also-rans scrambling for the attention of sports fans. But, unfortunately, it might already be too late.