I've tried to avoid writing about steroids over the last year or so because it brings out the trait I hate most about sports writers. The self righteous "my morals are better than yours, and I'm the only person keeping baseball from becoming a cesspool" attitude. So, I'll try to keep this as objective as possible.
Mark McGwire getting only 23.5% of the votes for the Hall of Fame reveals what a joke this entire process is (crap, there went objectivity). It sets the incredibly dangerous precedent that if the BBWA decided that you used steroids, then you used steroids, and the Hall of Fame is not a place for you. The only signs we have of McGwire taking steroids is that Jose Canseco said he did, and that he's got some big-ol' muscles. Neither of which is exactly a smoking gun. McGwire has never tested positive for steroids, nor has he ever admitted to it.
The main thing that's brought up in regards to McGwire and steroids is his "I'm not here to talk about the past" speech. Now, it seems to me he was in a no win situation here. He says that he was on the juice, then there's no way he gets into the Hall (unless writers are even more hypocritical than I assume they are). If he says no, then we just call him a liar, and he's in the same situation. Which would you rather happen if you were McGwire? Would you rather he go through the "I never took steroids, period" speech that Palmiero went through? Maybe, we feel for that one hook, line, and sinker so maybe McGwire would be getting inducted with Ripken and Gwynn if he would have just done that. It seems like pleading the 5th was the best thing McGwire could have done if he actually was roided.
Now, I'm not naive. I believe Mark McGwire was on steroids, along with Sammy Sosa, Brett Boone, and several others, but I have no proof of this, so I can't hold it against them. You want to bring up steroids when Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, or Alex Sanchez are going to be elected, that's fine, but keeping someone out of the Hall without any actual evidence is a very dangerous game.
What's also odd is how we decided who's a roider. Haven't we learned from people like Alex Sanchez, Mike Morse and Jason Grimsley that you don't have to be a big guy to be roided? Why don't we automatically assume Roger Clemens is on something, his career took a sudden turn for the better at age 40? How about Mike Piazza, he went from a man drafted as a favor to the best offensive catcher of all time, must have had some assistance somewhere. Cal Ripken Jr? No one can could play 2600 games without some form of assistance. How come when Ryan Howard hits 58 home runs we automatically assume he's clean? Why is Davey Johnson's sudden jump from five home runs to 43 in 1973 not more closely scrutinized? I don't believe these arguments, but the point is that anyone can be roided, and in almost every player's career you can find a point where you can say "yeah, he was probably on the juice." Why don't we give these players the same treatment. Steroids are a sad part of baseball's history, but guessing about who was on the juice when and destroying legacies is far more detrimental to the game than a vote for Mark McGwire ever could be.
Oh yeah, Bert Blyleven losing votes this year is a travesty, but I've given up that fight.