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Oversimplifying the Hall of Fame debate

Terrence Moore on steroids and the Hall of Fame:

Reggie Jackson is right. So is Jim Rice, along with Rick Telander, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, who joins me as a baseball Hall of Fame voter and as a hardliner who agrees with Jackson and Rice:

No steroids guys in Cooperstown.

No Roger Clemens. No Barry Bonds. No Mark McGwire. No Sammy Sosa. No Rafael Palmeiro. No Alex Rodriguez. Nobody within a syringe of evidence showing they were artificially enhanced during any portion of their playing career.

Great, Terrence. And as soon as you tell us how you're going to figure out who did and who didn't do steroids, we'll implement your plan. The greater problem with Moore's column, however, comes after he raises and then ignores the "how do we know who used" question:

That brings us back to the BBWAA, which allows Hall of Fame voters to use their own interpretation of rules that are vague but specific. The rules say each voter should consider a player's "record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."

As a Hall of Fame voter, I'm a strict constructionist. To me, the key words in those rules are "integrity" and "character." You don't have integrity or character by using steroids. So no Hall of Fame entry for any of these knuckleheads.


Actually, a strict constructionist wouldn't so easily latch on to two of the six criteria and ignore the other four. To the contrary, he'd be required to figure out how the character and integrity aspects of the test interact with the record, playing ability, sportsmanship, and contributions to the teams on which the player played, because those are all part of the test too.

If it were me, I'd weigh the factors against one another, and if it were a close call, I'd keep the guy out. Such an approach might counsel that you allow in a Barry Bonds, whose clear ability and performance over the years -- including the years during which even his most vehement accusers admit he wasn't using -- likely outweighs whatever boost he received from whatever substances he was taking. On the contrary, it may counsel that you keep out a Rafael Palmiero, who has a much closer Hall of Fame case and a much more nebulous drug history than that of Barry Bonds.

Or maybe you approach it a different way. I don't know. What I do know is that taking the mindless approach Moore advocates -- even calling it "simple" -- is no way to do it. Because it's not simple. It's complicated. And more importantly, it's Terrence Moore's job and the job of the other BBWAA members to deal with. If they're simply going to abdicate their responsibilities in this regard, they should give the task to someone who wont.