With the admission by Alex Rodriguez that he took performance-enhancing substances during the greatest statistical period of his career, the issue of how baseball - and ultimately, the Hall of Fame - treats the great players of the "steroid generation" is back on center stage.
There are two widely disparate takes on the issue currently on display at SI.Com - one by Tom Verducci, who believes that A-Rod's interview with Peter Gammons raised more questions than it answered, and the second by Phil Taylor, who argues that history will be kinder to Rodriguez than, say, Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire, because Alex has admitted guilt and thrown himself on the mercy of the court of public opinion, while Bonds and McGwire...well, haven't.
I'm somewhere between surprised and shocked at the kid-gloves treatment that Taylor, who is usually so tough, is giving Rodriguez. A sample:
History may be kinder to A-Rod than we think. Instead of being stamped as a star who tainted his own reputation, he may one day be seen as just another member of the performance-enhancing era -- an era that given the constant advances in the science of drugs might be far from over.
I think that's a patently ridiculous argument. "Just another member of the performance-enhancing era?" What the hell does that even mean? And frankly, why should that make any difference at all in how history views these players? Why should the fact that Rodriguez isn't as a big an a**hole as Barry Bonds and isn't as big a hypocrite as Mark McGwire really matter, if the subject at hand truly is whether or not a player cheated? What this is really about, I think, is that Taylor and others like him want to set themselves up as the guardians of morality, so that it will be their ilk who give the "thumbs up or down" when these players come up for consideration to the Hall of Fame.
As far as I'm concerned, the fact that Rodriguez admitted steroid use, while Bonds seems bound and determined to go down in flames trying to prove that it was never proven that he took them has little bearing on their worthiness in the Hall of Fame. Sooner or later, the voters entrusted with making those selections are going to reach a day of reckoning, where they decide once and for all whether all, or none, of those players are going to get in. Because if we reach a day when all they are really judging is "character" - this player was a good guy, this guy was a jerk - then the whole exercise is pointless.