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Joe Morgan, who are you talking about?

Tim Brown
MLB columnist
Joe Morgan penned a letter to Hall of Fame voters on whether admitted steroid users should be allowed in the Hall of Fame. (Getty Images)

Let’s grant Joe Morgan is right, that “known steroid users” have no place in his sport’s Hall of Fame, dagnabbit.

Now, if Joe would do us a solid and please point to the “known” users. In 2017. Nearly 13 years after the first official suspension under the league’s drug policy. Nearly 20 after we were all, like, “Hey, wait.”

I happen to agree with Joe. There is a building in Cooperstown, and in that building there is a room where the Hall of Famers dwell. There are a lot of other rooms in the building, which is a museum, and so plenty of places for those whose history is important to the game and who also cheated the game. They get a display or something. Just not in that room.

The argument is well wrung. We know who is on whose side. Morgan has lobbied before, though not ever with a letter to voters hours after the new ballots arrived. A good letter. No names, however, other than that of Dan Naulty, a relief pitcher who as Hall of Fame credentials go was short by an entire Hall of Fame career. Joe is allowed his opinion.

Here comes the issue, of course, even for those on Joe’s side. Define “known.” Does this ballot stop at Manny Ramirez, who tested positive twice? Are we talking Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa too? What about Gary Sheffield, whose admitted transgression, under oath, is trusting Bonds? And how does Joe feel about some of the recent inductees? He good with all of them? The guys supposedly outed in survey testing?

It’s complicated. And it has landed in the laps of the writers, which is among the reasons the writers probably need to get out of the Hall of Fame business, though I’ll let everyone else grapple with that. (I handed back my vote a few years ago.)

I had a conversation once with a very good player who’d only a few days before fallen off the ballot. He was unhappy. We were in the foyer of a local barbecue joint. He railed about the injustice of the era he played in, how he’d paid in salary and statistics and competitive edge for all those years, only to get screwed again five years after his career had ended. Those guys cheated, he said, and they get off, and he’s the one who pays for it, from his first day to his last. He was loud, and had a right to be.

And so I asked him, Where were you then? Did you push your union for stricter testing in the drug policy? Did you demand harsher penalties? Did you call out users in your clubhouse? If a writer had sidled up to your locker and asked if you felt wronged, and asked you to point out the “known” users, about how short would that conversation had been?

That was your job, he said. And I nodded, because of course it was.

So here we are. Again.

Joe’s heart is in the right place here. So, put some names in that letter. Put a few more names, fellow Hall of Famers, on the bottom of that letter, those who stand with you. Who are we talking about, Joe?

Who are you talking about?

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