Commentary: Will "Steroids Era" Taint Votes for Cooperstown-Worthy Candidates?

DETROIT - APRIL 20:  Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox looks on prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on April 20, 2005 in Detroit, Michigan. The White Sox defeated the Tigers 9-1.  (Photo by Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images)

Commentary: Will "Steroids Era" Taint Votes for Cooperstown-Worthy Candidates?

Finally, Baseball Hall of Fame voters have more than Barry Bonds to choose from now.

Published December 26, 2013

Frank Thomas. (Photo: Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images)

We will learn shortly how deep the anger runs over the “Steroids Era” in baseball, because baseball writers and editors who will vote on the Hall of Fame Class of 2014 have four intriguing candidates to judge. None of them had the public taint of using performance-enhancing drugs attached to their names.

Yet what ballplayer who starred in the 1990s and early 2000s can escape being linked to the proven or admitted PED abusers?

That’s what men and women who have a Hall of Fame vote must weigh as they consider the major league careers of Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina. In a different era, all would have been first-ballot shoo-ins, as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio and Sammy Sosa would have been had they been on a ballot in 1994 or even 2004.

What baseball fans learned a year ago from watching how the vote went on the latter four, all first-timers, was that steroids or the hint of steroids can wreck a ballplayer’s chances of making it into Cooperstown.

Disregard the fact that no one knows with certainty which ballplayer were clean during the steroids era. For a while now, we have heard high-profile athletes like Lance Armstrong, Marion Jones and Rafael Palmeiro lie about their use of ’roids even when the evidence, as in Armstrong’s case, overwhelmed the lies.

Can we be so certain that Thomas, Maddux, Glavine and Mussina aren’t lying as well?

That’s the muck Hall of Fame voters have to wade through. Do they believe the athlete or do they let their tunnel vision sway their voting?

Even more perplexing a question is what do voters do with the three managers whose names are on the ’14 ballot? Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre each lorded over a franchise that won a World Series during the steroids era. La Russa (Mark McGwire) and Torre (Alex Rodriguez) both had one of the most notorious of the tainted stars.

Voters showed their disdain for the era last time they cast votes. They didn’t elect a single player to the Class of 2013, although the credentials of Bonds, Clemens, Biggio and Sosa should have gotten them into Cooperstown. In the case of Biggio, he finished with less than 75 percent of the vote needed for induction for no good reason other than the retribution to which these self-righteous voters are using to judge an era.

Their retribution will linger, and it might be what keeps the Fab Four on this Hall of Fame ballot from getting their due when results are announced Jan. 8, 2014. If Thomas, Maddux, Glavine and Mussina have to wait another year (or years), if they aren’t worthy of induction into Cooperstown either, who from the era is?

Derek Jeter — maybe?

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Written by Justice B. Hill


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