I'm on the fence. On one hand, journalists are trained to be thorough and objective, two qualities that lead to educated decisions about things like who belongs in the Hall of Fame. On the other hand, it is an uncomfortable position to be making the news, especially now that so many of the names on the ballot have artificially enhanced numbers and accomplishments.
Even the first paragraph of the Associated Press' story announcing the names on this year's ballot made me wince because it referred to first-time candidates Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez as "suspected steroid users" but made no such reference to Jeff Bagwell.
Palmeiro deserves that label because he failed a drug test 136 days after wagging his finger in front of Congress and saying, "I have never used steroids, period." Gonzalez was never suspended by baseball for steroids, but his name did show up on the 2007 Mitchell Report and in one of Jose Canseco's books.
Bagwell, meanwhile, never tested positive and his name did not show up on the Mitchell Report or in any of Canseco's books. Still, there are people out there who suspected he used steroids, a theory you could offer simply by looking at his cartoonish forearms. Add the fact that he played with admitted steroid users Ken Caminiti and Jason Grimsley and there's at least reason to "suspect" that Bagwell may have used performance-enhancing drugs.
I don't know if Bagwell did or did not. I do know I'm not ready to give him the benefit of the doubt right now simply because of the era in which he played the game. Mark McGwire appears on this year's ballot for the fifth time and so far I have not voted for him. I'm not sure if I ever will, but I'm not willing to say never in his case.
The same applies to Palmeiro, whose 3,020 hits and 569 home runs would have made him a first-ballot Hall of Famer a decade ago.
Even though I'm convinced Palmeiro lied to Congress and McGwire despicably remained silent for way too long, my feelings about how these players should be measured are constantly changing. It's possible that one day they'll change to the point where I'll vote for both of them. I'm not there yet.
I truly believe most of us would say yes to steroids if we saw them as an opportunity to be set financially for life, especially if the offer was presented in our mid-20s when health risks seem impenetrable. If somebody had told me in college I'd be able to write like Kurt Vonnegut if I just took a few pills, I'd have ingested first, lunged for the keyboard second, and worried about the implications later.
What's sad about the "Steroid Era" is that most of the great players probably would have been great without them. The thing that really jumps out when you look at the Mitchell Report is that most of the players named on it were not good enough to find their way on to the Hall of Fame ballot. No syringe could cover the hole in the swing of former Phillies catcher Bobby Estalella or the hole in the head of former Atlanta reliever John Rocker.
The other thing you realize when you look at the Mitchell Report is that a lot of players who used steroids or undetectable human growth hormones are nowhere to be found on the list compiled by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell.
Filling out a Hall of Fame ballot was never easy and now I need some ibuprofen to keep the swelling in my brain down when I start checking off names.
The only thing I'm sure about again this year is that I'm voting for Bert Blyleven, which is something I've done every year since 1999.
Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.