The Baseball Hall of Fame has left it to voters to use their judgment when it comes to the issue of performance-enhancing drugs and potential inductees. But one prominent Hall of Famer decided to make his voice heard on the subject.
Hall of Famer Joe Morgan -- who also serves as the Hall's vice chairman -- penned a letter that was e-mailed Tuesday to all eligible Hall voters from the Baseball Writers' Association of America, urging them to keep known PED users out of Cooperstown.
"Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball's investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in," Morgan wrote. "Those are the three criteria that many of the [Hall of Fame] players and I think are right."
• Complete text of Morgan's letter
Although some Hall of Famers have spoken publicly against PED users in the past, none have done so as extensively or passionately as Morgan did in his letter, which the Hall of Fame sent at Morgan's request. The Hall of Fame had no official comment on the letter, other than to say it provided administrative support to get his message out.
Morgan noted, "Please keep in mind I don't speak for every single member of the Hall of Fame," though he added, "I do know how many of the Hall of Famers feel."
Morgan didn't address any players by name, but his letter comes a year after Roger Clemens (54.1 percent) and Barry Bonds (53.8 percent) -- two suspected users who were in the Mitchell Report but never failed a drug test -- were listed on more than half the ballots for the first time in their five years of eligibility, leading many to believe they will eventually get the required 75 percent for induction during their five remaining years on the BBWAA ballot.
"The more we Hall of Famers talk about this -- and we talk about it a lot -- we realize we can no longer sit silent," Morgan wrote. "Many of us have come to think that silence will be considered complicity. Or that fans might think we are OK if the standards of election to the Hall of Fame are relaxed, at least relaxed enough for steroid users to enter and become members of the most sacred place in baseball. We don't want fans ever to think that."
Morgan called the PED predicament "a tricky situation," noting that some players identified in the Mitchell Report have denied using any drugs.
"Not everything is black and white -- there are shades of gray here," Morgan wrote. "It's why your job as a voter is and has always been a difficult and important job. I have faith in your judgment and know that ultimately, this is your call.
"But it still occurs to me that anyone who took body-altering chemicals in a deliberate effort to cheat the game we love, not to mention they cheated current and former players, and fans too, doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame. By cheating, they put up huge numbers, and they made great players who didn't cheat look smaller by comparison, taking away from their achievements and consideration for the Hall of Fame. That's not right.
"And that's why I, and other Hall of Famers, feel so strongly about this."
According to Morgan, current Hall of Famers have said if steroid users get in, they may no longer go to Cooperstown for induction ceremonies or other events.
"Some feel they can't share a stage with players who did steroids," Morgan wrote. "The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame, too. The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn't bear."
Morgan also cited Section 5 of the Rules for Election that addresses the character of a player, calling a PED user's integrity "suspect" while adding that "he lacks sportsmanship; his character is flawed; and, whatever contribution he made to his team is now dwarfed by his selfishness."
"The Hall of Fame has always had its share of colorful characters, some of whom broke or bent society's rules in their era," Morgan wrote. "By today's standards, some might not have gotten in. Times change and society improves. What once was accepted no longer is.
"But steroid users don't belong here. What they did shouldn't be accepted. Times shouldn't change for the worse."