Shortly after the 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot released, Hall of Famer (and former ESPN analyst) Joe Morgan wrote a letter to Baseball Writers Association of America voters in which he asked them not to support eligible players who have been linked with PED use.

That letter has prompted one prominent national baseball writer, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan, to decide that he will no longer submit a vote for the Hall of Fame.

Morgan’s plea stoked plenty of debate among baseball fans, commentators and Hall of Fame voters. Some share Morgan’s belief that players who have been linked to steroid use during their careers were cheaters who should not be considered for baseball’s highest honor. Others feel that PED use was so prevalent during the “steroid era” (generally considered from 1994 to 2005) that it’s impossible to know who was taking such substances and who wasn’t, so particular players shouldn’t be singled out.

Considering that support for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens — two players with Hall of Fame resumes tainted by PED association — continues to grow each ballot (each received approximately 54 percent of the vote last year), the Baseball Hall of Fame apparently felt that something had to be said before ballots for the 2018 class were submitted.

But didn’t Joe Morgan write the letter to BBWAA voters, not the Baseball Hall of Fame itself? Well, there’s the rub. As many writers, such as MLB.com’s Joe Posnanski, noticed, Morgan sent the letter from the Hall of Fame’s email address. That effectively makes Morgan’s letter an official statement from the institution. Using Morgan as a spokesperson to lend supposed credibility to a stance against PED users is the gesture that pushed Passan to his decision.

It was funny, after all these years of waiting for the Hall to stake out officially a position it so obviously believed, to see it arrive in an email, cloaked in the signature of Joe Morgan, as if his imprimatur would imbue something so vacuous with a little gravitas. Instead, it felt desperate. The Hall sees the rising tide of support for steroid users among writers who increasingly believe that denying entry to the best players of an era would amount to whitewashing history. This does not dovetail with the image it cares to project.

As Passan points out in his column, asking voters to leave PED users off their ballots is to ignore the history of baseball. And above all, the Hall of Fame is a museum which is supposed to chronicle the sport. That history includes plenty of players who used performance-enhancing substances that weren’t steroids, such as amphetamines.

To link steroid use to a flaw of character or lack of judgment is also overlooking the sordid history of many players enshrined in Cooperstown. Furthermore, asking voters to ignore the contribution that alleged PED users made during their careers continues a pattern by the Hall of Fame to refuse transparency in the voting process. For instance, the Hall won’t allow all BBWAA ballots to be made public. And it refuses to let the ballot be expanded to include 15 players instead of 10.

The Baseball Hall of Fame was never supposed to be a gatekeeper, deciding who should and shouldn’t be a celebrated part of the sport’s history. Telling voters to ignore virtually an entire era is contrary to properly chronicling the game. Passan no longer wants to be a part of that “charade,” as he puts it. Will other baseball writers with Hall of Fame ballots follow his lead?

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is an editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has covered baseball for Yahoo! Sports, MLive.com, Bleacher Report and SB Nation, and provides analysis for several sports talk radio shows each week. He currently lives in Asheville, NC.

  • It does seem a shame that people who could use his vote won’t get it, but not voting is better than submitting an incomplete or blank ballot. But I really can’t say he’s wrong. The HoF is trying to game the system, and that stinks

  • Keith P.

    The difference between drunks/racists et al and steroid users is that only the steroid users inflated their stats thanks to their poor judgement and lack of moral character, thus getting them on the ballot in the first place.

  • bff426

    You can always play the game of “what about”. The drunks, racists and wife beaters exist everywhere. The question here is whether the performance of the player elevates him to be considered among the best to ever play the game. For Casselberry or Passan to ignore the competitive advantage that PED’s, specifically steroids, gave players is to willfully deny reality. You can have standards or not. I would choose to have standards. I would not vote for those players, like Bonds and Clemens, who took steroids. And yes, I understand that court cases did not establish to a criminal level, that they took them. My judgment is based on a common sense look at the evidence, whether a judge considers it admissible or not. (And for what it’s worth, Barry Bonds has never denied taking steroids. He admitted that he used the substances given to him by Victor Conte and his trainer Greg Anderson. He just claimed he didn’t know what was in them.)

    • JeffinOKC

      What standards? No Negroes? No amphetamines? No designated hitter? No specialist pitchers? No indoor stadiums? No artificial playing surfaces? No night games? No “Tommy John” surgery or other medical advances? No advanced metrics? No dead ball? No live ball? No international players? No free agency?
      Or do you mean the legal in the eyes of the law and legal in the rules of baseball thing that players could do to help their game? Baseball was much more than willing to go along when Sosa and McGuire were engaged in their homer derby. MLB made a tremendous amount of money during the “Steroid Era” with the full knowledge of what was going on.

      • bff426

        I told you my standard- no to those who took PED’s . You use whatever you like.

      • PAI

        All of those questions you have above. The players had no to very limited say in those. They had 100% say to what chemicals they put in their body. THAT is the difference.

  • Loud Noises

    More moral preening from a group of sportswriters who have never unanimously voted in any player to the Hall. Ever. All their votes should be taken away. It’s not 1970. Fans see more games than beatwriters now and have access to every stat and highlight.

  • PAI

    And a guy who writes about baseball for a search engine no one uses deserves a vote for the HOF?

  • Toad

    For decades, the Eastern bloc Olympic programs were held up as paragons of evil for their steroid usage. Ben Johnson smoked the American Carl Lewis in Seoul, but he was a dirty cheater; he’d never have been able to do that for real.

    Times change, attitudes change. In this case, attitudes of American sports writers started to change when it wasn’t foreign athletes that were getting busted, but American athletes. It used to be rotten and dirty stuff that foreigners did because they weren’t good good enough. Now that it’s Americans, oh well, what are you going to do, kids these days you know.

  • MetaphysicalMan

    If the PED era needs to be chronicled, then how about a little ‘PED room’ in a closet in the outskirts of the Hall. Busts of Bonds, Clemens, Sosa’s enlarged heads can be featured, but not life-sized of course, they would take up the whole room.

    • PAI

      After death, like in Futurama.

  • Parts

    The HOF lost my respect when they decided to keep Pete Rose out. When I heard about this letter, what came to mind was “same ol sh*t, different effin day..”

    • Mike

      The HOF didn’t make that decision. MLB declared Rose permanently ineligible. The HOF had no say in that.

      • Parts

        MLB permanently suspended him from baseball. The HOF then decided they would not consider anyone permanently suspended (see rule 3(E) enacted Feb 4, 1991). The HOF could at any time declare Rose eligible for consideration while he remains permanently suspend from MLB. Yet they chose not to. Most recently they discussed and once again ratified the rule 3(E) decision in June of this year. It is ENTIRELY an HOF decision to keep Rose from consideration.

    • Billy Sweeney

      Baseball has always excluded those who bet on baseball. Rule was well known. No sympathy for me for Rose. Heck, they even gave him a chance to come clean and possibly be forgiven and he still lied about the details.

  • sportsfan365

    It all comes down to whether you believe baseball is competition or entertainment. Those who value the former hate the PED users, those who see the game only as entertainment love them. I would think that “real” baseball writers would be in the competition camp.

  • Billy Sweeney

    Jeff Passan is taking himself way too seriously. Buh-bye, no one cares you are leaving, no one will miss you.