Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, right, talks with spring training instructor Mike Schmidt during a workout at baseball spring training, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Clearwater, Fla. / Matt Slocum / AP
At Phillies' camp in Clearwater, Fla. on Thursday, Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt offered a sober stance on the Hall of Fame credentials of great players suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs during the late 1990s and early 2000s, saying he would not object to Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds entering Cooperstown since neither has failed "a legitimate test."
Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports:
"I really feel uneasy about linking players of that era to PEDs who may not have been involved, players where there may be suspicion of involvement," Schmidt said. "I think it's totally wrong that that whole generation is being linked to PEDs. If you had a friend that used them you're linked to them. It seems now if you're a Hall of Fame-caliber player that you're going to have a really tough time getting in the Hall of Fame. It's really too bad. It's a problem we have in our sport right now, but time will cure it."
Mike Schmidt's right, you know.
If the Hall of Fame essentially blackballs an entire generation of baseball players based on circumstantial evidence and speculation, it risks nose-diving into irrelevance. Being a Hall of Famer won't mean nearly as much if several of the greatest players of all-time are never called Hall of Famers.
There may be more evidence linking Bonds and Clemens to steroids than many of their similarly shunned contemporaries, but as Schmidt points out, neither ever failed "a legitimate test" or was suspended by Major League Baseball for using illicit substances. Beyond that, all of Bonds' home runs and all of Clemens' strikeouts counted â?? and still count â?? and helped their teams win ballgames. Unless those feats are somehow stricken from the record, the players responsible for them stand as some of the most valuable in the history of the game.
Those players were never adequately policed while they were playing, so it's downright silly to try to police them now. Playing hunches and picking favorites when electing Hall of Famers will only end with a handful of guys who did use steroids making the Hall of Fame because they were able to defy suspicion for whatever reason, and maybe also some guys who never used steroids missing out just because they hit a lot of home runs in an era when too many guys hit too many home runs.
That's not to excuse steroid use, of course. But as long as people have been paid to play baseball, they have sought competitive advantages -- from the latest advancements in medical treatment and training to more nefarious methods, like amphetamines and steroids and elixirs made from monkey gonads. And players will continue to seek competitive advantages for as long as they're paid to play baseball. The burden is on the league to keep the proverbial playing field level.
Schmidt knows what's up:
"I believe those are moral issues that men have to deal with themselves internally. They're decisions men make for whatever reason, caught up in the world in which they play, the big-money environment in which they play. They're all being penalized tremendously for the association. You can't penalize these guys much more than they are."
That's just it. If guys did something they know or believe to be egregiously wrong, they'll suffer with it forever. It's not my place or your place to judge when we've all got our own closets full of selfish and greedy misdeeds. And it certainly shouldn't be the burden of the Baseball Writers Association of America to attempt to police the integrity of ex-ballplayers, as the Hall of Fame suggests by including a morality clause on its annual ballot.
The plaques on the wall of the Hall of Fame celebrate great baseball players. But great baseball players are humans, and humans are human, so the Hall of Fame's ranks include no shortage of drunks, liars, racists and wife-beaters, not to mention guys who sharpened their spikes and doctored the ball and distributed greenies. Great people -- wherever they are -- can sleep soundly, above reproach. Great baseball players should make the Hall of Fame.
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Read the original story: Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt weighs in on PED suspects' candidacy