Henry Aaron threw me for a loop Sunday.
When I spoke to him by phone Sunday morning about his comments that all players with Hall of Fame credentials should go into Cooperstown with an asterisk, I never expected he would take his feelings to the next level. In our conversation, Aaron said he believed that any player who was proven to have taken performance-enhancing drugs should be banned from the Hall of Fame. He said there was “no room for cheaters.” He said all 104 Major League players who tested positive in baseball’s confidential drug-testing program six years ago should be exposed for all of us to see.
So much for that speak softly and carry a big stick thing — at least the speak softly part.
Of course, I was happy. It made for an easy column. But it also made me change my position on matters involving steroid use in baseball. I know. Many of you have grown weary of this topic. But Aaron’s remarkably candid comments adds new perspective for me. I believe his words are a general reflection of previous inductees. As a result, I’m changing my position on Hall eligibility.
My previous opinion, as a Hall voter, was sort of Switzerland-like: no absolute yes or no. If I believed a player would have had Hall of Fame credentials regardless of steroid use — Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens being the strongest example of that, in my mind — then I was going to vote them in. However, if I believed the player’s body of work was largely inflated by drug use — Mark McGwire being an example — then I wouldn’t vote him in.
But because of Aaron, I’ve hardened my stance. It’s simple: His opinion carries more weight than mine. Therefore in the future, nobody proven to have used performance-enhancing drugs gets in on my ballot, regardless of their credentials before drug use. I’m going to reserve judgment on Bonds and Clemens now until I see the extent of the circumstantial evidence before the become Hall eligible. But I know which way I’m leaning — against. Aaron’s right — there’s no room in the Hall for cheaters. Records are another matter. Statistics are difficult to vacate.
But here’s my question for you: I’ve received several emails and comments from readers who seem divided on the Hall issue. So for the first time, I’m setting up a poll. You get only four choices: 1) Everybody gets in, regardless of drug use; 2) proof of drugs, you’re out; 3) proof or strong circumstantial evidence of drugs, you’re out; 4) proof you’re out, but circumstantial evidence you’re in.
So weigh in with comments and the poll and tell me what you think.
And let’s all pray that several years from now, we aren’t addressing this issue with Albert Pujols.