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Should baseball's steroid era players be allowed into Cooperstown?

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Should baseball's steroid era players be allowed into Cooperstown?
** FILE ** Pittsburgh Pirates' Barry Bonds slugs his 31st home run at Chicago's Wrigley Field in this Sept. 19, 1990 photo against the Chicago Cubs. Bonds, now with the San Francisco Giants, has 712 career home runs. (AP PhotoJohn Swart)
Pittsburgh Pirates' Barry Bonds (24) trots past Los Angeles Dodgers' third baseman Pedro Guerrero after his third-inning homer off Dodgers' starter Orel Hershiser in Pittsburgh, May 13, 1988. (AP Photo/Gene Puskar)
Barry Bonds, left, of the Pirates, and Ken Griffey, Jr., of the Mariners, chat during National League batting practice, Monday, July 9, 1990, for the 61st All-Star Game at Chicago's Wrigley field. Bonds and Griffey's dads were also both all-stars. (AP Photo/John Swart)
San Francisco Giants' Barry Bonds hits a fly ball to center field in his last at bat against the San Diego Padres in the sixth inning of their baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2007. Bonds hit a fly out in his last home appearance as a San Francisco Giant.(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
San Francisco Giants' Barry Bonds offers some hitting instruction to teammate Nate Schierholtz, not shown, during batting practice before their baseball game against the San Diego Padres in San Francisco, Monday, Sept. 24, 2007.(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2009, file photo, Barry Bonds buttons his jacket after arriving to enter a plea at the Federal building in San Francisco. Federal prosecutors are urging an appellate court to let them present critical evidence they say proves Barry Bonds knowingly used steroids. A trial court judge excluded urine samples and other evidence from the upcoming trial of the San Francisco Giants slugger, who is accused of making false statements to a grand jury and obstructing justice. The judge says that evidence connected to Bonds' personal trainer Greg Anderson could only be used if Anderson testifies. Anderson says he'd rather go to jail than testify.(AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
Mark McGwire of the Oakland Athletics poses at Anaheim Stadium lockerroom on August 15, 1987 with the bat and ball he used on Friday night when hitting his 39th home run and setting new Major League record for homers as a rookie. The ball and bat will be sent to the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, in New York. (AP Photo/Bob Galbraith)
Oakland Athletic Mark McGwire (25) and Willie Randolph (30) prepare to give a high five as pitcher Dennis Eckersley walks off the field after the Athletics defeated the Boston Red Sox, 9-1 in game one of the American League Championship Series, on Saturday Oct. 6, 1990 at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Oakland Athletics Jose Canseco, right, bashes elbows with teammate Mark McGwire following Cansecos solo homerun in the third inning of game two of the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 1990, Cincinnati, Ohio. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire watches the flight of his 69th home run in the third inning off Montreal Expos pitcher Mike Thurman, at Busch Stadium, in St. Louis, Sunday, Sept. 27, 1998. At right is Expos catcher Michaell Barrett. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)
St. Louis Cardinals Mark McGwire salutes the crowd after hitting a pinch-hit solo home run in the eighth inning aginst the Atlanta Braves in game two of the Division Series Thursday, Oct. 5, 2000 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The Cardinals won 10-4, to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)
Former St. Louis Cardinal Mark McGwire testifies at a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday, March 17, 2005, on the use of steroids in professional baseball. (AP Photo/Win McNamee, pool)
Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs clowns with a bat in the dugout, April 1, 1992, prior to a Cactus League game against the Seattle Mariners in Mesa, Arizona. Coach Billy Williams looks on at right. (AP Photo/Gary Stewart)
Outfielder Sammy Sosa, of the Chicago Cubs, poses in 1994. (AP Photo)
Chicago Cubs' Sammy Sosa jumps as his ninth home run of the season heads for the right field seats in the fourth inning against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday, May 1, 2002, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Home run sluggers Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs, left, and St. Louis Cardinals' Mark McGwire laugh together during a news conference in St. Louis, Monday morning, Sept. 7, 1998. Both men are chasing Roger Maris' major league record of 61 home runs in a season. Heading into Monday's game between the Cubs and Cardinals, McGwire has 60 home runs and Sosa has 58. (AP Photo/Eric Draper)
New York Yankees Rickey Henderson, left, dives back to first base as Texas Rangers first baseman Rafael Palmeiro (3) makes the catch on a pick off attempt during the first inning, Thursday, May 4, 1989, Arlington, Texas. Henderson was called safe on the play. (AP Photo/WFJ)
Baltimore Orioles' Rafael Palmeiro first baseman works at first base during drills before their spring training game in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Wednesday, March 31, 2004. (AP Photo/James A. Finley)
Baltimore Orioles' Rafael Palmeiro watches his sacrifice fly in the third inning which scored Melvin Mora against the Detroit Tigers, Friday evening, May 28, 2004, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Jerry S. Mendoza)
** FILE ** This is a 2005 photo showing Baltimore Orioles' Rafael Palmeiro. Palmeiro was suspended Monday Aug. 1, 2005 for violating Major League Baseball's steroids policy, nearly five months after telling Congress that "I have never used steroids. Period." (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
** FILE ** Baltimore Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro testifies on Capitol Hill in this March 17, 2005 file photo. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
Boston Red Sox rookie pitcher Roger Clemens throws the ball on his way to a 15 strike out 11-1 win over Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park in Boston, Mass., Tuesday, Aug. 21, 1984. The 15 stike outs is the most since 1961 and 2nd highest in Red Sox history. (AP Photo/Mike Kullen)
Boston Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens speaks with manager John McNamara, center, and catcher Rich Gedman, right, as Clemens was taken out of the American League playoff game against California Angels at night on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 1986 in Boston. The Angels went on to win 8-1. (AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy)
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roger Clemens throws to the plate during the third inning of the 68th All-Star Game Tuesday, July 8, 1997 in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Beth Keiser)
FILE - This Aug. 24, 2007, file photo shows New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens throwing against the Detroit Tigers in the first inning of a baseball game in Detroit. The New York Times reported on its website Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010, that federal authorities have decided to indict Roger Clemens on charges of making false statements to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Clemens and his former trainer, Brian McNamee, testified under oath at a hearing before a House committee and contradicted each other about whether Clemens had used the banned substances. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson, File)
Houston Astros special instructor Roger Clemens watches during a spring training baseball workout Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, in Kissimmee, Fla. His appearance comes at the time of the apparent suicide of former country star Mindy McCready. In 2008, she claimed a longtime relationship with Clemens. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Roger Clemens leaves federal court in New York, Tuesday, April 29, 2014. A judge is asking Clemens, a former Yankees pitcher, to settle a long-running legal battle with Brian McNamee, a former Yankees strength coach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

By Jeff Weisinger

It was probably the darkest period in the game of baseball, and, unfortunately, it's the one era in baseball that the sport wants to forget.

When the baseball writers elected Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and managers Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox into Baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, they made their stand very clear: nobody with even a suspicion of using PED's will get into baseball's hall of fame.

All three players inducted this year were clean throughout their career, however some of the others on the ballot weren't.

Those "dirty" players starting to come up on the Hall of Fame ballots led to baseball changing it's eligibility from 15 years to 10, more evidence that baseball is trying to forget the steroid era.

The funny thing with baseball trying to look down on the steroid era is forgetting the fact that the steroid era, highlighted by the home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, revived the game following the 1994 strike.

(For those wondering why the game nearly died following the '94 strike, here's the highlights of 1994: The Montreal Expos who made the postseason just once ever, were the best team in the game, the Padres' Tony Gywnn was on-pace to become the game's first .400 hitter since Ted Williams and the Giants' Matt Williams was on-pace to break Roger Maris' single season home run record.

In the six years following the strike (1995-2001), baseball was revived by the aforementioned home run chase, and then brought back to full health when Barry Bonds broke McGwire's 70 home run record in 2001.

Baseball fans who returned to the game bitter after the '94 strike were rewarded just a few years after.
Everyone loves the long ball and the 44 percent increase in attendance during that six year span was proof. From 1995 to 2001, MLB revenue grew from $1.4 billion to $3.7 billion, a compound annual growth rate of 16.3 percent.

If numbers never lie, then those players who helped bring the game back need to be recognized for helping the game. Most fans know it and most writers know it, so it's time to give some credit where credit is due. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received over 30 percent of the BBWAA ballot this year, McGwire received 11 percent while both Rafael Palmeiro and Sosa each earned less than 10 percent.

"If you were a Hall of Famer during that period as far as your pitching and playing, I would create some kind of asterisk, where everybody understands that, 'Look, we have some questions, but you were still the dominant pitchers and players of your time," La Russa said prior to his induction into Cooperstown.

"I might get voted out of the Hall of Fame with that attitude, but that's what I believe."

La Russa hired McGwire to be the Cardinals hitting coach in 2009 and explained that the steroid era in baseball "is not as easy to explain as people would think" in an interview on National Public Radio.

"Baseball is still not sure how to explain that 10 or 12 year period."

Not everybody, of course, agrees with La Russa's beliefs. Baseball's older generation has stuck to their tough stance on baseball's steroid era.

"The game has no place for cheaters," Hall of Famer Hank Aaron said.

Yes, how they went about their job was wrong, and this isn't an article saying cheating is okay. However, without those players knocking all of those balls into the seats (or in Bonds' case, McCovey Cove), the game wouldn't have the prosperity and notoriety it has now.

Athletes always look for a way to get an edge and keep their job. There's no other job in the world that gives anyone the benefits and financial security that being a professional athlete does. That mentality of doing anything possible to be the best at your job will never change for high-level athletes. That mentality leads to players doing anything possible including new physical and mental trainings, diets and evolving supplementation.

While the steroid era was the biggest black eye for baseball since the infamous Chicago Black Sox scandal of the early 1900's, the game needed it. The fans needed to get excited about the game again after 1994 left the most disgusting taste in their mouth, and seeing two division rivals chase a historic landmark in the game. Follow that with seeing Barry Bonds break McGwire's 70-home run mark, then Hank Aaron's 755 career home run mark keep the fans in their seats.

If anything, Bonds chase for 755 kept Giants fans in the seats even when the Giants began to struggle.

If Cooperstown is supposed to be a museum, telling the story of baseball, then guys like Barry Bonds (.298, 762 HR, 1,996 RBI), Mark McGwire (.263, 583 HR, 1,414 RBI), Sammy Sosa (.273, 609 HR, 1,667 RBI), Rafael Palmeiro (.288, 569 HR, 1,835 RBI) and Roger Clemens (354-184, 3.12 ERA, 4,672 K) need to get in, even if it's on their last ballot. To completely do everything to avoid the steroid era would be irresponsible.

The steroid era is a big chapter in baseball, whether we like it or not. It's the black eye that actually saved baseball and brought it back from its near death in the mid-90's.

To try and forget about this time of the game would be wrong, and would keep Cooperstown incomplete. It's time for baseball to admit its mistakes and admit that regardless of the steroids that these players were still the best in the game during their time.

It's time for baseball to be honest with itself.

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