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Nick Cafardo: A change in thinking on Hall of Fame ballot

Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz.
Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz.(AP)

It is my belief that the majority of players who played in the steroid era dabbled in them in some shape or form. I don’t have a percentage. I’ve covered baseball full time since 1984.

I’ve certainly asked players of that era about it, and most of them play dumb. The fact they weren’t caught, and will likely never be caught unless they volunteer it, has saved their reputations.

The others have been exposed and not forgiven.

Voters still have their suspicions about Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, and Randy Johnson. Gary Sheffield, who amassed great numbers, is on the ballot for the first time. He admitted to doing a steroid cream.

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So I have come to a conclusion in the way I vote: I don’t vote for players who got caught after the steroid policy was in place. Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez — all worthy of Hall of Fame consideration because of their great careers — didn’t know enough after a strict policy was in place — not to do it. And I don’t vote for steroid users such as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa because I don’t believe they were Hall of Famers.

The others?

I’ve stopped the guessing game.

I’ve decided I’m not going to dismiss an entire generation of baseball because of performance enhancing drugs. They were part of the framework that baseball was played under during that era, just as amphetamines were part of other generations from the 1950s to now. Not the same as steroids, I understand, but they were a drug that got players ready to play and to be alert on the field. Without them, how would performance have been affected?

I’ve stopped listening to the players who claim they didn’t do it, knowing there’s no chance they’ll ever get caught now.

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So I go by what I see.

Was Barry Bonds one of the greatest hitters I ever saw? Yes.

Roger Clemens.
Roger Clemens.(File/The Boston Globe)

Was Roger Clemens one of the greatest pitchers I ever saw? Yes.

Did they always do steroids? Probably not. And, in my opinion, they were great before I think they started doing them.

The rest of the ballot is made up of people I feel strongly about.

The new candidates — Pedro, Randy Johnson, and John Smoltz — all had incredible careers. Craig Biggio amassed the numbers, played three different positions; Jeff Bagwell was such a consistent force for so long; Jeff Kent amassed the biggest numbers for a second baseman; Ditto Mike Piazza at the catcher position. I have voted for Alan Trammell forever and I know he won’t make it, but he was a great performer on both sides of the ball.

And there are steroid whispers about the above mentioned. But I now ignore the whispers.

There are several players who I believe are Hall of Fame caliber that were left off.

In the future, I hope to vote for Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina.

How Cafardo voted: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Jeff Kent, Pedro Martinez, Mike Piazza, John Smoltz, and Alan Trammell.


Follow Nick Cafardo on Twitter @nickcafardo.