I got an email Tuesday from Joe Morgan. So did every Baseball Hall of Fame voter.
Morgan, the former Reds second baseman who was voted into the Hall in 1990, wrote that he and ‘‘many Hall of Fame members’’ think it’s time to speak out about the ‘‘possibility of steroid users entering the Hall of Fame.’’
He started his letter with ‘‘Dear Rick,’’ so I thought that was nice.
But then I groaned in depression and disgust. Haven’t we been here before? Haven’t we done the steroid debate ad nauseam and visited every physical, mental, legal and moral ramification of taking performance-enhancing drugs in baseball and every other sport?
What’s new now, Joe, that you can write a deeply emotional appeal to us Hall voters and complain that something has sparked you and your pals to agree that ‘‘we no longer can be silent,’’ that ‘‘silence will be considered complicity,’’ that people might think ‘‘we are OK if the standards of election to the Hall of Fame are relaxed, at least relaxed enough for steroid users to enter and become members of the most sacred place in baseball.’’
I think I’ve been writing about this since Sammy Sosa hit home runs like Paul Bunyan and Barry Bonds’ head swelled to the size of a magic pumpkin.
The Steroid Era in baseball happened, and few people — certainly not I — have declared it over. That it started about the time Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire became the ‘‘Bash Brothers’’ in the mid-1980s even can be debated.
My feeling is that a few players were more attuned than others to the football/powerlifting/bodybuilding culture of steroid-taking as early as the mid-1970s. But who knows for sure?
That’s the problem. It’s the one I’d like Morgan to contemplate, even as we all agree on the obvious cheaters, players such as Rafael Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Canseco, Miguel Tejada, the late Ken Caminiti, etc.
Morgan said he’d like ‘‘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,’’ banned forever.
Roger Clemens was mentioned 82 times in the Mitchell Report. And we can check off alleged users Eric Gagne, Wally Joyner, Kevin Brown, Mo Vaughn, Ryan Braun, Andy Pettitte, Jason Giambi, David Justice, Juan Gonzalez, David ‘‘Big Papi’’ Ortiz, on and on, forever and ever.
How does Morgan know steroid users aren’t already in the Hall? Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Ivan ‘‘Pudge’’ Rodriguez are in, and each has been linked in some way to steroids.
I never will vote for clear-cut cheaters such as McGwire, Bonds, Sosa and the like. They lied and lied and helped turn my career as a sportswriter — and many other sportswriters’ careers — into tales of false joy, regret, anger and damaging cynicism.
Along with cheating ‘‘heroes’’ such as Ben Johnson, Marion Jones, Michelle Smith de Bruin, Bill Romanowski, Lance Armstrong and just about every Tour de France cyclist and Olympic shot-putter and sprinter of the last four decades, these baseball jerks helped destroy whatever innocence even old men might have had covering sporting events.
The reason Morgan is writing now, I suspect, is twofold. First, he is a 74-year-old man who is not in the greatest health and is thinking about his legacy. Second, he knows the steroid users who might be in the Hall are nothing compared to the ones coming down the pike who might be let in by more lenient voters.
I’ll give you just one name that surely infuriates him: Alex Rodriguez.
A-Rod should be a shoo-in when he becomes eligible for voting in 2021. What do 3,115 hits and 696 homers say? But A-Rod is more connected to PEDs than a chemist with a loaded gym bag.
So I appreciate Morgan’s email, but I wonder how he feels about all the ‘‘greenies’’ guys in his era took. Some of his Reds pals lived on them.
On the ballot this year is big Jim Thome, who hit 612 homers. A nice man, beloved by all, Thome was a slender rookie who looked nothing like he did at the end of his career.
What do you think, Joe? Steroids or country-strong?
Now you know what a mess this is for us voters, none of us doctors or cops with subpoena power.
One more question, Joe: Where were you when we needed you?
Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.