Joe Posnanski has a great piece up about the "character" clause vis-a-vis the Hall of Fame and its application in the Steroid Era. A couple of key excerpts:
Meanwhile, the Hall of Fame is filled with people who admitted to using drugs (Paul Molitor, Ferguson Jenkins, etc.), who willingly cheated (Gaylord Perry threw spitballs, Don Sutton and Whitey Ford cut baseballs, players undoubtedly corked bats), who enthusiastically used illegal performance-enhancers (that would be anyone who ever popped an amphetamine to get a boost, and it's likely that represents a high percentage of Hall of Famers) and so on. It's all a matter of degree. And it's all how you look at it.
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I would ask the Hall of Fame to change the clause. I think the clause should have been changed a long time ago; it makes me queasy to think about sportswriters (or anyone else) trying to judge a man's character. I always come back to what Buck O'Neil -- the Negro Leagues player, manager, scout and spokesman -- said when people asked him how he could vote Enos Slaughter into the Hall of Fame. Slaughter was a noted racist during his playing days. Buck said you can't know what's in a man's heart.
"Could he play or couldn't he play?" he asked. "That's what matters."
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Point is: It's the Baseball Hall of Fame. That's all. Are people coming to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame without some of the greatest players of the last 20 years? Will people still view it seriously? I sort of doubt it. Baseball has been a messy game for more than 100 years. In the years before Jackie Robinson, there were no black players. Players caroused and gambled and boozed. Many cheated to get ahead. Many took drugs. There have been beanballs and stolen signals and thrown bats. There have been thugs and racists and liars and everything else. And, yes, there have been steroid users, too.
The Hall of Fame voters can try to sort through that jumble and pull out only the sportsmen with integrity and character. We can try. But we will fail.