The Cheated Generation wishes Joe Morgan had kept his mouth shut.
They wish that this baseball Hall of Famer and perhaps the greatest second baseman of his time, had just kept silent about what many of those Hall of Fame voters who represent The Cheated Generation have known all along — that the players already enshrined in Cooperstown don’t want steroid users sitting with them on the stage come induction weekend.
They are angry that Morgan wrote a letter to Hall of Fame voters in November urging them not to check the boxes on their ballots for those former major leaguers who are documented cheaters.
I’ve heard it from Hall of Famers many times over the years. Others have as well. But words delivered secondhand, in often private conversations, lacked the weight of conviction.
So Morgan went public, with the blessing of most Hall of Famers, no matter what you hear. He spoke openly about those that cheated their opponents, their teammates and the fans by using performance-enhancing substances that inflated their Hall of Fame statistics far beyond their talent.
“The more we Hall of Famers talk about this — and we talk about it a lot — we realize we can no longer sit silent,” Morgan wrote. “Many of us have come to think that silence will be considered complicity. Or that fans might think we are OK if the standards of election to the Hall of Fame are relaxed, at least relaxed enough for steroid users to enter and become members of the most sacred place in baseball. We don’t want fans ever to think that.
“We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame,” Morgan wrote. “They cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here.”
I happen to agree with that, and, as a Hall of Fame voter, have set the same standard as Morgan outlined in his letter — where he specifically wrote “known” steroid users.
“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”
It’s why, as the voting closes for this year’s Hall of Fame class, with the results to be revealed later this month, I did not vote for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield and Manny Ramirez. And I will continue to do so as long as they remain on the ballot.
Bonds is an admitted cheater, having testified in grand jury proceedings that he used PEDs — the “cream” and the “clear” — but claimed with little credibility that he didn’t know what they were. Clemens and Sheffield were named in the Mitchell Report, an investigation that used some of the top former federal prosecutors in the country, led by a former U.S senator who brokered peace in Northern Ireland. Sosa’s name was on the 2003 positive test list reported by the New York Times, and Ramirez has two failed drug tests on his illustrious resume.
It’s the difference between documentation and suspicion. It’s why I voted for Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, both suspected by some of being steroid users but neither falling under the line in the sand I drew — the same line Joe Morgan drew.
Before we go any further, for the significant segment of the population that believes steroids were not illegal in baseball during this time: They were banned in 1991 by baseball commissioner Fay Vincent.
For the significant segment of the population that believes steroids saved baseball: The 1998 home run race between Sosa and Mark McGwire had nearly zero impact on attendance. In 1997, nearly 64 million fans came through the turnstiles. In 1998, it was 70 million. The difference was the addition of expansion teams in Tampa and Colorado that drew 6 million fans. Take away the two new teams, and attendance was virtually the same.
It was new ballparks and bricks and mortar that saved baseball, not steroids.
For the significant segment of the population that believes baseball commissioner Bud Selig and owners gave their approval to steroids by the lack of strict testing, the reality is it was a bargaining issue, and the players union stopped efforts for stricter testing at every turn. It wasn’t until its members were embarrassed being dragged up on Capitol Hill to testify about steroid use that the players themselves forced their union to agree to stricter testing.
This is not a narrative that The Cheated Generation wants to hear.
Some, or all, of these cheaters may get in before their eligibility runs out. If so, that’s the process, what voters want. If you get the required 75 percent of the votes for entry into Cooperstown, it certainly speaks to the will of the writers, and, unlike some Cheated Generation torch bearers, who have taken their ballots and thrown a tantrum, refusing to vote in some warped sense of justice for cheaters, I’ll accept those results, however distasteful they may be to me.
The Cheated Generation has lashed out at Morgan, who certainly has earned the right to voice his opinion. And save for former San Francisco Giant Willie McCovey’s recent interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, none of Morgan’s colleagues have come out and disputed his role as their spokesman.
There are six criteria for election to Cooperstown under the rules of the Hall of Fame. Three of them are sportsmanship, integrity and character. I chose to take those seriously. You can say there are all kinds of cheaters, reprobates and weasels in Cooperstown — which had nothing to do with my vote. I didn’t vote for any of them, and I am not bound by every vote that has taken place before me.
It is up to the voter how much they want to weigh each of the criteria. I chose to take them seriously.
The Cheated Generation voters use straw man arguments such as players who took greenies — amphetamines — before steroids, as if the apples and oranges are comparable. Bonds could have taken all the greenies in baseball. It would not have helped him hit 73 home runs — 24 more than any previous season in his career — in 2001.
Or this twisted logic — how can you make judgments about candidates like Bonds and Clemens if you don’t know about everyone? Imagine how the wheels of justice would grind to a halt if it operated under that system — you can’t pass judgment on those who you know committed a crime unless you know about the rest of the population in question?
Here is my ballot this year: Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mike Mussina, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel and Larry Walker.
If the steroid freedom-fighting wing of the baseball writers are successful in championing the cause of these PED victims, Morgan, in his letter, gave a preview of what lies ahead at Cooperstown — something I’ve also heard from Hall of Famers. “It’s gotten to the point where Hall of Famers are saying that if steroid users get in, they’ll no longer come to Cooperstown for induction ceremonies or other events,” he wrote. “Some feel they can’t share a stage with players who did steroids.”
It could fracture the baseball Hall of Fame for years.
⦁ Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.
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