Who does and does not belong in the baseball Hall of Fame is always one of the most debated baseball questions of the year. Voters write column after column in the offseason about who they wil vote for and why. Does Player A belong? Is he a first-ballot Hall of Famer? If Player A is in, what about Player B?

No ballot has been more hotly debated than one released on Nov. 28. The so-called Steroid Era takes center stage, with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire among the players on the ballot. All four of those players, and a few others on the ballot, have been associated with performance-enhancing drugs and voters must decide if they belong in the Hall of Fame or not.

It’s not an easy question to answer. Not only do voters have to consider a player’s credentials, they also have to consider whether he came about those credentials without cheating, or if they even care if he cheated. The arguments for or against a player no longer are limited just to his numbers or what he did on the field. How he came about those numbers, and how a voter feels about PEDs, must also be considered.

There are some who argue that the Hall of Fame is a museum and the Steroid Era must be acknowleged. I agree, to a point. As far as I’m concerned the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is two distinctly different things. There is the museum, which tells the story of the game’s history, warts and all. Then there is the Hall of Fame Gallery, which honors the best players and most signicant contributors in the game’s history.

To say players from the Steroid Era should be voted into the Hall of Fame because it is a museum that tells the history of the game is missing the point. The Steroid Era should be covered in the museum at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. It has to be. Performance-enhancing drugs had an enormous impact on the game. The existence of steroids and other drugs in the game helped rewrite the record books. To ignore that era would mean ignoring nearly a big chunk of the game’s history.

However, that doesn’t mean the best players from that era deserve to be voted into the Hall of Fame. To be voted into the Hall of Fame is the biggest honor a player can achieve in his career. Putting drug users in the Hall of Fame is not telling the story of the game, it is celebrating their careers, which are dirty. It is honoring players who came about their records in unethical and unnatural ways.

If a voter feels those players belong in the Hall of Fame, they should vote for that player. If they feel those players belong because they competed against other PEDs users and were still the best, fine. But they shouldn’t vote for them because the museum can’t ignore the era. Again, the Hall and the museum need to be looked at seperately.

I also disagree with the argument that Bonds and Clemens, for example, deserve to be voted in because they were Hall of Famers before they cheated. Regardless of what Bonds or Clemens did before the time we all believe they started using PEDs, if they used, they used, end of story. Those seasons happened. Those players who decided to use PEDs were doing something illegal that had a huge impact on how they played the game. Don’t tell me that PEDs don’t help you hit home runs. That’s baloney. Do you really believe McGwire or Bonds hits 70 home runs without some kind of help? I don’t.

You shouldn’t get a pass regardless of how good you were before you started juicing.

The problem is, do we really know who used and who didn’t? Sure, some players failed tests and some admitted using, but what about everyone else? We all have our suspicion and some of them are pretty obivous, but we don’t really know.

Jeff Bagwell? We don’t know.

Mike Piazza? We might think so, but we don’t know.

David Wells? It’s a pretty safe bet he didn’t, but, we don’t know.

If you don’t know who uses and who didn’t, how do you vote? Do you leave everyone out because the entire era is tainted or do you vote whoever you feel is a Hall of Famer in because they are the best of their era they played in? Do you not vote for guys you think used and vote for those you think didn’t?

So many questions.

And what about a guy like Pedro Martinez when he shows up on the ballot in 2015? Aren’t his numbers even more impressive when you consider he was pitching in an era of outrageous offensive statistic against players who were juiced out of their minds?

None of these are easy questions to answer. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America, who vote for the Hall of Fame, has never been delivered a more difficult ballot.

When this year’s class is announced on Jan. 9, the conversation doesn’t end. If accused PED users like Bonds and Clemens are elected, many will argue they shouldn’t have been. If they are not, they will be on the ballot next year (unless they fail to get five percent of the vote, which is highly unlikely).

Unfortunately, the Steroid Era will continue to be a huge part of conversation and the Hall of Fame conversation went from a fun topic to a difficult argument.

I’m glad I don’t have to vote.

Scott Martin — 621-5618

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