By: Joe Strupp
Baseball’s steroid scandal hit the Hall of Fame front and center today as Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn were voted in, while slugger Mark McGwire was perhaps the first worthy candidate to be denied because of suspicion of steroid use.
Several sportswriters said publicly that they would not vote for McGwire, and one voter, Paul Ladewski of the Daily Southtown outside Chicago, revealed that he has sent in a blank ballot as a protest this year.
In a column published Monday, Ladewski said his choice makes sense given that the recent steroid era has brought virtually every player under suspicion.
“After much serious thought in the last year, my decision was based
on this belief: At this point, I don’t have nearly enough information to
make a value judgment of this magnitude,” he wrote, in part. “In particular, that concerns any player in the Steroids Era, which I consider to be the 1993-2004 period, give or a take a season.
“This isn’t to suggest that Gwynn or Ripken or the majority of the other
eligible candidates padded his statistics with performance-enhancers and cheated the game, their predecessors and the fans in the process. In fact, from the contact I’ve had with Gwynn and Ripken over the years, I like them as players and people. And, no, this has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Gwynn and Ripken helped deprive Chicago of two World Series appearances. In consecutive years, no less.
“But tell me, except for the players themselves, who can say what they put into their bodies over the years with any degree of certainty?” Ladewski adds. “I mean, Hall of Fame hopeful Rafael Palmeiro swore under oath that he was innocent, right? The same Rafael Palmeiro who played with Ripken for five seasons, by the way. Palmeiro tested positive for steroid use during the 2005 season.”
But he adds that his position may change over time. “Rest assured that I haven’t written off anyone who played in the ‘Roids Rage Age permanently,” he writes. “At this time next year, the Barry Bonds case may have revealed more substantive evidence on the subject. Maybe some of the names of the nearly 100 big-leaguers whom federal investigators said tested positive for steroids will become public information. And maybe a few of them will come forward to tell us what they know, good or bad. Until then, I stand firm. Better one year too late than one year too soon, I say.”