Jonah Keri: Expos-in’ the negation nation.
So why not digest the accomplishments of modern sluggers on similar grounds? Because players cheated, we’re told. It wasn’t Ruth’s fault that the country was rife with institutional racism at the time, or Koufax’s fault that he pitched at the most favorable time for pitchers since the Dead Ball Era. But players who were found to have taken performance-enhancing drugs, conventional wisdom goes, should be stripped of their accomplishments, of their esteem with the game, and their shot at a place in the Hall of Fame.
...Here’s the bigger issue: Where do we draw the line? Do we paint every slugger of the Steroids Era with the same guilt-tinged brush, even if they’ve never so much as been rumored to have taken something illicit? Does throwing the book at Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa mean that all their peers are also disqualified from the Hall, and from recognition for their accomplishments?
We can take this argument pretty far too. Plenty of pitchers were linked to PEDs, either through admissions of guilt or via the Mitchell Report. Does that mean we should assume that every pitcher of the Steroids Era may have been guilty too? Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine might have been skinny and couldn’t reach 98 mph in a 747; but guilt is guilt, right?
Fans, writers, broadcasters, Hall of Fame voters … some time soon, we’ll need to decide how far we want to take this, how far we want to go with absolutes. Thome is, by any objective measure, a Hall of Famer. If we’re still debating this years from now, then we’ve probably gone too far.