I guess they listened, Joe.
Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Morgan wrote a letter in November to baseball writers who vote for membership to Cooperstown, asking them not to cast votes for known cheaters — players with documented evidence of using performance-enhancing drugs.
“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.”
Despite the cries from the Cheated Generation about the persecution of “victims” like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, tantrums have failed to give either Clemens or Bonds the momentum needed to reach the 75 percent threshold for entry.
In the latest tally released Wednesday by the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Clemens garnered 57.3 percent — just a 3.1 percent increase over last year, and Bonds is at 56.4 percent, up 2.6 percent over his previous vote total.
That’s a long way from 75 percent.
Other known cheaters bringing up the rear were Manny Ramirez, 22 percent; Gary Sheffield, 11.1 percent, and Sammy Sosa at 7.8 percent — soon to disappear from the ballot as he falls close to dipping below the 5 percent cutoff that would removes him from the ballot.
We were led to believe by those carrying the banner for the Cheated Generation that there would be backlash against Morgan, a Hall of Famer who dared to express an opinion clearly shared by his colleagues in Cooperstown.
“Anyone who took body-altering chemicals in a deliberate effort to cheat the game we love, not to mention they cheated current and former players, and fans too, doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame,” Morgan wrote. “By cheating, they put up huge numbers, and they made great players who didn’t cheat look smaller by comparison, taking away from their achievements and consideration for the Hall of Fame. That’s not right. And that’s why I, and other Hall of Famers, feel so strongly about this.”
For this, he was vilified by the Cheated Generation. How twisted have we become when the Hall of Famer who wants to take a stand against known cheaters is the villain, and the cheaters — those who cheated their opponents, their teammates — are victims?
They should give Joe Morgan a second plaque in Cooperstown for having the guts to write this letter. Based on the small percentage bump for both Bonds and Clemens, his message was heard.
The howls from the Cheated Generation — angry that their era of baseball turned out to be fraudulent — will be loud and distorted. “There are others who are in Cooperstown who used steroids” (although for some reason, the Cheated Generation doesn’t appear to know who that is). “Everyone used steroids in that era” (an exaggeration that is patently false).
It is important to note that Morgan’s letter specifically focused on “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,” he wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”
To note — Bonds is an admitted steroid user, having testified in grand jury testimony he used the “cream” and the “clear,” but claiming he didn’t know what he was taking. Clemens and Sheffield were named in the Mitchell Report, the Major League Baseball sanctioned investigation by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell and conducted by a respected and successful federal prosecutor. Ramirez failed at least two known drug tests. Sosa failed the 2003 drug test, according to the New York Times.
This is the criteria that Morgan said Hall of Famers believe is right. It is also my criteria and has been since Bonds and Clemens first appeared on the ballot six years ago.
The arguments in favor of the cheaters are tired and weak. This notion that, since we don’t know who else took steroids, we can’t judge the ones we know about, how bizarre is this logic? Imagine appearing before a judge and arguing that you didn’t catch everyone committing the crime I’m accused of, so you can’t judge me?
There are six criteria for election to Cooperstown, and three of them are character, integrity and contributions to the game. There are cheaters and those of questionable character already in Cooperstown. That may be, but I didn’t vote for any of them. The notion that a voter today is bound by every vote that took place before him or her is ridiculous.
There are other phony arguments. “Steroids weren’t banned” (Commissioner Fay Vincent banned them in a memo to all major league clubs in 1991).
“Baseball turned a blind eye to steroids because it put money in their pockets and people in the seats.” (The Summer of ‘98 home run derby between Sosa and Mark McGwire had zero impact on attendance, once you account for the impact of new ballparks from that era).
The Cheated Generation, though, cares little for logic. When you have the passion of righting a wrong — rewarding cheaters — you are on a mission to be on the wrong side of history twice. Once when the cheating took place and again when it came time to have the guts to take a stand.
Come July, the stage at Cooperstown will be filled with Hall of Famers who will gladly welcome the new and well-deserved class — Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman and Jim Thome. There will not be, as Joe Morgan warned, empty seats on the stage if known steroid users had been elected.
Time is running out for the cheaters.
• Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.
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