The steroid conversation isn't going anywhere. It's going to escalate further every year until people can come to terms with it. While current drug testing and standards have "cleaned up" the current game, the "Steroid Era" isn't even close to being put to bed. It's unfortunate but it's Major League baseball's own fault.
Instead of celebrating the careers of some of baseball's greatest players by putting them in the Hall of Fame, we now watch as they are vilified and tried in federal court. Barry Bonds, baseball's home run king and 7-time MVP, was just convicted on obstruction of justice during his grand jury testimony in 2003. Jurors couldn't agree on the three other perjury charges related to steroid use.
Now Roger Clemens will go on trial for lying to Congress about using performance-enhancing drugs. I'm not here to condone anything but baseball players should have never even had to testify in front of a congressional hearing in the first place. Things had spiraled so far out of control in Major League baseball that Congress had to step in. Taking steroids was the culture in the 1990s and early 2000s. A culture supported by every team and owner, and especially Commissioner Bud Selig. Major League baseball needed to take care of its own problems, not call Congress.
Now the government and baseball writers/Hall of Fame voters want to condemn the best of the best. Baseball has turned its back on the people who made a struggling sport popular again. Remember how ugly the 1994 strike was? What brought people back to a sport that shut down because of greed? "The Long Ball." "Slammin' Sammy and Big Mac." The historical 1998 home-run race.
No one knew or cared what they were putting into their bodies at the time. If they did, it was swept under the rug. People maybe thought MLB was actually administering drug tests. Nope. The national attention and success of players made it almost necessary to "juice."
This is how it could be viewed - why would a great player like Barry Bonds let an average player achieve the same success or get a bigger paycheck because he is taking steroids? It's not like it there was any repercussions for doing it. Sure, it wasn't "ethical" and didn't show great "moral character" but baseball has never been known for either. A great player before PEDs becomes a Hall of Fame player. A Hall of Fame player, like Bonds was on pace for before any of this, becomes the greatest ever. And that's exactly what he became.
Now voters for the Hall of Fame are trying to make a stand against people with any ties to PEDs. Rafael Palmeiro, who also testified he didn't use to Congress and later tested positive, was eligible for the first time last year. He's one of four members of the 3000 hits-500 home runs club (with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray). He received 11 percent of the vote. The other three members were first-ballot Hall of Famers. Way to make your point, voters. Who are these guys to judge these players anyway? Because they were fooled and "lied" to? They're as guilty as the rest of us for letting it go and basking in the popularity. Now they feel foolish and want to take it out on the "cheaters."
The conversation will continue to rage on this summer during the Clemens trial, and continue every single year as the Hall of Fame ballots come in. McGwire and Palmeiro will be people of interest each year. Bonds and Clemens will be eligible in a few years. After them, Alex Rodriguez will be up.
The Hall of Fame cannot exclude an entire generation of players. Baseball playing ability and career achievement must rule over integrity because determining integrity and character becomes much too subjective. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens might not have been the greatest guys ever but they are the two greatest players many people have ever see play. They accomplished more than nearly anyone to ever play the game. They were never suspended for any reason during their playing career. Major League baseball never saw a reason to take them off the field of play.
The reality is steroids ran rampant in Major League baseball for 20 years. It inflated some numbers, no doubt. It's also fact that amphetamines were widely used way back into the 1960s and 70s. Other Hall of Famers took stuff to gain an edge. It's not the players' fault. They weren't bad guys because of it. It's no one's fault and everyone's fault at the same time.
It's time to move on and start looking at accomplishments during each's career. Don't condemn the greatest players because of a problem created by the league. The Hall of Fame is for the greatest players in the history of the game. It's for the people who you can't leave out when retelling baseball's story. My version of the Hall of Fame one day includes Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and other greats regardless of steroid ties. And yes, even Pete Rose.