It’s All About Integrity

For the first time since 1996, no living players were selected for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

The voting results come in a year when players like all-time home run leader Barry Bonds and pitcher Roger Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young winner, were eligible for the first time. But both players had their careers tainted with the belief each used steroids to enhance their performance. As such, neither received 75 percent of the vote, which is required to gain enshrinement.

Instead, many members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, the organization that votes for the Hall of Fame, decided to send a message that steroids negatively impacts the game, and they refused to reward those players linked to drug use.

Among those voters is longtime Associated Press reporter David Ginsburg. The Owings Mills resident has covered the Orioles since 1990 and has been a Hall of Fame voter since 2005.

Ginsburg spoke with the JT and offered insight into his take on the steroid era and the impact it could have on future Hall of Fame classes.

JT: Who did you vote for?
Ginsburg: I voted for [pitcher] Jack Morris and [catcher] Mike Piazza.

You don’t believe Piazza used steroids as some voters have suggested?
He used Andro, the same [supplement] Mark McGwire used. I drew the line at that point. He didn’t use steroids, according to any reports out there, and Andro could be purchased over the counter. I didn’t find that as offensive as the other guys.

Your thoughts on how the voting turned out?
I was happy with my votes and happy none of the obvious steroid users got in because it was a commentary that if you cheat, this is what will happen.

Will you ever vote for a player found to have used steroids?
This is a tough one, but I plan on taking it year by year to examine what the climate is like. Certainly those guys [who used steroids] didn’t deserve to get in on the first ballot. Come next year, I have to consider whether I dismiss everyone in the steroid era or only those who tested positive [such as former Oriole Rafael Palmeiro], who I will not vote for.

I don’t know if I’ll eventually forgive everyone and say ‘that’s how it was in that era’ and ultimately vote in Bonds and Clemens. They probably would have gotten in without steroids, but they certainly didn’t deserve to get in on the first ballot. The climate may change, and I may be more forgiving and not use a 20-year stretch where I don’t vote anyone in because of steroids.

What message do you think the voters sent with this ballot?
These guys used steroids and illegal drugs to enhance their performance, and they don’t deserve to be in the Hall of Fame right now. That would be an insult to guys already in there like Hank Aaron, who hit 754 home runs without the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

What do you think the long-term impact of the steroid era will have on the game and future Hall of Fame voting?
Part of the criteria for voting for the Hall of Fame is examining a player’s integrity, and these players like Bonds and Clemens had none. Long term, the impact will be hard to ascertain, but I would say it is very possible that many of these players will be ignored by a majority of the voters forever.
Look at the local example of [former Ravens owner] Art Modell. His one digression in 1996 of moving the Browns to Baltimore has prevented him from being elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. All he did was move his team from one city to the next as a businessman, but many of the
voters have never forgiven him for that.

Ultimately, a new crop of voters may be more forgiving than the current guard.

Do you believe players who played in the steroid era — but were never linked to drugs — will be considered guilty by association?
It’s hard to tell. It’s really going to be on an individual basis.

Longtime outfielder Shawn Green, who is Jewish, rceived just two votes. Should he have received more Hall of Fame consideration?
Shawn had one of the best days of any player, when he hit four homers in one game [in 2002]. He was a really good player, but likely not a Hall of Famer.

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