Hall of Fame voters are out of touch

There is one little problem with the heroic stand taken by the Baseball Writers' Association of America to keep the Hall of Fame steroid-free.

It came too late. You can be virtually certain that there already are Hall of Famers who used performance-enhancing drugs. You can be even more positive that PED users will be enshrined in the future.

And guess what: There are just as surely PED users in the football, basketball, and hockey halls of fame. The difference is in the quasi-mystical shroud under which the BBWAA votes, as if the organization were considering candidates for sainthood.

Wednesday's little charade left several of the game's all-time greats out of the Hall. It is an absurd situation, and nobody involved appears to grasp just how ridiculous it is.

The BBWAA continues to pretend it has some sacred obligation here, when it should have dropped out of the process years ago - about the same time writers stopped riding on team charters.

Major League Baseball proved it still prefers to cover its eyes and pretend nothing is happening. Commissioner Bud Selig told reporters in Phoenix that "this year, for whatever reasons, you had a couple of guys come really close."

For whatever reasons? Care to take a couple of guesses, Bud?

Michael Weiner, the head of the MLB Players Association, said the voting results were "unfortunate, if not sad." Not because the union willfully endangered the health of its members by blocking every attempt to implement testing, but because voters chose "to ignore the historic accomplishments of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens."

These are the people in charge of the game. No wonder it's a laughingstock.

The worst thing, though, isn't the hollow gesture of leaving candidates off the ballot for a year or two. The worst thing is the amount of pretending everyone involved here is willing to engage in.

They have agreed to pretend the so-called "Steroid Era" began in the early to mid-1990s. They have agreed to pretend that it ended the moment testing was belatedly introduced in 2004. And they have agreed to pretend they have a pretty complete picture of what transpired in between, thanks to the Mitchell Report and the Balco case.

All of that pretending is dangerous and misguided.

Remember the investigation into Pete Rose back in the 1980s? The guys he was hanging out with weren't just bookies. They were steroid dealers based at the local Gold's Gym, and Rose gave them free access to the Cincinnati Reds' clubhouse.

Based on that and on what we know about PEDs in other sports, baseball's steroid problem almost certainly began by the mid-1980s. A generation of players escaped scrutiny. Some of them, you can be sure, are in the Hall of Fame.

And it is laughable to think either that cheating stopped with the introduction of easily beaten testing, or that we know more than a fraction of what really went on. Balco was one lab. The Mitchell Report unearthed one trainer, who ratted out Clemens. Basic logic dictates that scores of other players were cheating and that plenty are using more sophisticated PEDs right now.

So it is folly that the same BBWAA voters who are taking a stand on Bonds and Clemens have chosen to anoint other players as "clean" or untainted.

Craig Biggio was on nearly 70 percent of ballots this year. During the discussion on MLB Network, people kept talking about how Frank Thomas would be a lock on next year's ballot.

Are Biggio and Thomas clean? Only they know for sure. But it is either foolish or supremely arrogant to pronounce as clean any player who excelled during the Steroid Era. It's like Lance Armstrong: If you're dominating a sport filled with cheaters, you're automatically suspect, too.

Voters who don't grasp that will cheerfully elect untold PED users to the Hall in the years to come.

So here's what happened Wednesday. The people who watched as steroids warped baseball beyond recognition took action to keep some of the worst cheaters out of a museum about baseball. They proved nothing, except that they are as oblivious to what's really going on as ever.


Contact Phil Sheridan at psheridan@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Sheridanscribe.