This is a question that I find very hard to answer because I can see where both sides of the argument have very valid points. There are rules in baseball that exist now that did not in the years the players in question were competing. The way steroids are handled by the league and CBA has changed drastically in the last decade, making this a very complicated question.
The first argument is that they should be allowed in the hall of fame, and this argument is justified through valid reasoning. Ted Berg of USAToday released an article stating four key reasons these players should still be allowed in, and the last one is the one that caught my eye the most. The guys in question like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire played in an era of baseball where everyone was taking PEDs so the guys in question were taking them to compete and succeed against other guys who were doing it, and the league was not doing anything to stop it. All of Barry Bond’s 762 homeruns still count in the box score, and we continue to celebrate the teams who won championships behind guys using PEDs. It wasn’t until 2003 that the MLB did anything to prevent players from using steroids, so how can you punish a guy when he was playing well within the rules of baseball? That doesn’t seem fair, now does it?
The other side of the argument, the one stating these guys should be kept out of the hall of fame, also presents a very valid set of supporting evidence. Wallace Matthews, an actual hall of fame voter, wrote an article for ESPN where he said these guys should not be allowed in. He presented a piece of compelling information; rule number 5 of the hall of fame ballot states “Voting shall be based on the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” It’s the good character clause, and based on this, these “cheaters” should be left out of the hall of fame. They clearly violated the ideas of integrity and sportsmanship that are needed to be voted in. Cheaters never win.
Again though, is it cheating if it was not against the rules? And if this good character clause is so important, how can the presence of owner Tom Yawkey who worked to keep baseball segregated, and Gaylord Perry who admitted to doctoring baseballs, and Ty Cobb who climbed into the stands to beat up a man with no hands once, be justified. They are also in clear violation of rule number 5. Where does the line exist? I really don’t know.
After much thought and a very informative debate I think the right answer is to allow these guys in but in their own category, a specification that sort of says “hey these guys used PEDs but they did so when the MLB wasn’t really doing anything so we have to let them in, but just so you know…” I don’t think there is any denying their greatness, and taking away from their legacy when they were playing inside the rules just does not seem fair to me, but until they give me a say these great players will continue to look on from outside the hall of fame. What a shame.