For some baseball players in steroids era, conscience may be only asterisk

"I just feel bad for the kids. You know, the ones who look up to him."

That was just some of the spin being rattled off last week on ESPN after The New York Times broke the news that yet another Major League Baseball player — one who was content to sit back and wait for that Hall of Fame vote — had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

For many — particularly those who remember the corked bat debacle — it came as no surprise that Sammy Sosa was the latest name added to a list that includes Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez. Now sportswriters throughout the country are wringing their hands over what to do about an era that seems to be filled with high-performing, record-breaking cheaters.

Should these guys, or others who are under the harsh glow of the steroid spotlight, be considered for the Hall of Fame?

In professional baseball, evidently, it's not as cut and dried as it was for School Board members in Centerburg, Ohio. They recently endured some parental outrage when they opted to mail home diplomas and cancel the commencement ceremony for the entire senior class at a local high school after discovering that one senior had hacked into the school's computer system, stole some tests and shared them with the bulk of the student body. Teachers, no doubt, thought something was suspicious when students earned higher-than-expected grades (although one student who used the test still flunked).

Many, it turns out, knew about the pervasive cheating, but chose not to tell. That didn't sit well with superintendent Dorothy Holden.

"I am alarmed that our kids can think that in society it's okay to cheat, it's a big prank, it's okay to turn away and not be a whistle-blower, not come forth," Holden said.

There would be no glory, no pomp and circumstance for them. But perhaps, instead, a lesson learned.

Now, back to baseball.

Some sportswriters are saying they will never vote any player into the Hall of Fame who has been proven to have used, or, in some cases, even been affiliated with the use of performance-enhancing drugs, even if it means there will be slim pickings in Cooperstown.

Others are thinking they will have to vote these guys in because they're just part of a larger culture. After all, Sosa is only one of 104 players who tested positive in an "anonymous" test back in 2003, and as time goes on, more names are apt to trickle — maybe even flood — out. Where, they want to know, do you draw the line?

So what's the lesson learned here?

That kids shouldn't look up to famous sports figures as role models?

That's old news when you remember how NBA player Charles Barkley generated ample debate when he said he wasn't a role model for anybody else's kids in a controversial Nike commercial.

It's a reality that some people — maybe a lot of people — cheat.

But do they ever really get away with it?

Maybe that's the lesson.

Vote the cheating baseball players in, and their record-breaking careers are forever tainted, maybe by an asterisk, perjury charge or just in the mind of fans who know better. For them, the Hall of Fame becomes the Hall of Shame.

But what about the cheaters whose names have not slipped out, who don't have to testify under oath, who don't have a scarlet asterisk placed next to their names or face any kind of public loathing?

Well, they do have to face themselves in the mirror. Grow a conscience or not, in the end they still come away a loser.

Michele Miller can be reached at miller@sptimes.com or at (727) 869-6251.

Sammy Sosa and other baseball superstars have had their names linked to performance-enhancing drugs in recent years. Will they be honored for their achievements or ostracized?

For some baseball players in steroids era, conscience may be only asterisk 06/21/09 [Last modified: Sunday, June 21, 2009 11:57pm]

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