Yes to Ripken and Gwynn, no to McGwire

Baseball’s Hall of Fame (through the sportswriters who vote on this matter) has elected two great new members — Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn. Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Walter Johnson all fell short of unanimous selection, and that bit of history is the only defense I can think of for the writers who didn’t vote for Ripken’s admission.
Mark McGwire received the votes of only about one-fourth of the writers, whereas three-fourths are required. McGwire had a Hall of Fame caliber career, but is under deep suspicion of having used steroids. This was McGwire’s first time on the ballot (as it was for Ripken and Gwynn). Election in the first year of eligibility is considered a special honor, so McGwire’s rejection seems more than justified.
It’s less clear that he should be excluded year-after-year. Steroids were not banned by baseball when McGwire played, so he accomplished what he did within the rules of the game. Nonetheless, some purists will argue for McGwire’s permanent exclusion, and their case will not be irrational. This is one of those issues that reasonable people can, and will, disagree about for years.
Meanwhile, baseball’s sportswriters, including those who didn’t vote for McGwire, simply missed the steroid story that was starring them in the face during the 1990s. So the case can be made that no baseball reporter who was active during that time should be inducted into the writer’s wing (yes, there is one) of the Hall of Fame.
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