Hall of Fame omission of steroid era players could teach moral lesson

The Hall truthas a morality play

Roger Clemens has a lot more to worry about than the Hall of Fame these days, what with his recent perjury indictment and all. But if the Rocket is found guilty of lying about his use of performance-enhancing drugs, it could make the balloting for the Hall class of 2013 a watershed moment in baseball history.

Voters have made their disgust of the steroid era apparent in the case of Mark McGwire, who broke the season-single home run record and retired with 583 homers, then fifth on the all-time list. Those numbers would seem to make him a lock for enshrinement. Yet in four years of Hall eligibility, he’s never received as much of 24% of the vote — far short of the 75% needed for induction.

The 2013 ballot will offer an even starker referendum on drug use in baseball. Not only will Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, be in his first year of eligibility but so will all-time home run leader Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, whose 609 homers are the third-most in history by a right-handed hitter.

All three would be obvious — perhaps even unanimous — choices without the taint of steroids. And though all three have denied taking banned substances, pleas of not guilty from Clemens and Bonds would ring hollow if both lost their perjury cases. The New York Times, meanwhile, has reported Sosa tested positive for PEDs in 2003.

Wouldn’t leaving them out of the Hall leave a big hole in baseball’s history?

“There are precedents for that,” says Andy McCue, president of the Society for American Baseball Research. All-time hits leader Pete Rose, for example, was also denied his place in the Hall when he was banned from baseball for gambling.

“History will always be there to tell these people’s stories. And even if they’re not in the Hall of Fame … their records will still be there. Essentially it becomes a moral question.”

A valuable moral question, McCue says, when it leads people to ask why they can’t find plaques for Bonds, Rose or Clemens in baseball’s most hallowed Hall.

“To me, when that person, presumably a kid, looks up and says ‘My God, he’s the hits leader. Why isn’t he in the Hall of Fame?’ That’s a classic teaching moment,” McCue says. “And that’s good.”

Rays hit the roaddressed for success

It won’t be hard to spot the Tampa Bay Rays when they arrive in Orange County on Sunday. They’ll be the only ones wearing kitschy plaid blue blazers with a yellow sunburst on the left breast.

Or at least we hope so.

Manager Joe Maddon likes choosing themes for trips, then having his team dress accordingly. And so far that’s worked because when the Rays pulled on their custom-made “Braysers” (get it? It’s a combination of “Rays” and “blazer.”) and headed for Oakland last Thursday, they had the best road record in baseball.

“This is something I’ve been cooking up for a while,” Maddon told reporters about the jackets, which are mandatory attire on the seven-game trip. “I like it as being a unifying aspect. I also like the way they look. It’s morphing Herb Tarlek [from WKRP in Cincinnati] with Ted Baxter [ Mary Tyler Moore].”

Few players are complaining. Before leaving, they even posed for a team picture in their outfits. And outfielder B.J. Upton finished off his ensemble with a crisp white dress shirt and black bow tie.

— Kevin Baxter