Voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame sent a very strong message on Wednesday when it was announced that no one had been voted into the institution this year: Baseball still hasn't figured out how to deal with the so-called Steroid Era.
It was the first year on the ballot for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa and, as expected, none of the three came anywhere close to being elected. Former Astros second baseman Craig Biggio was the closest to getting the necessary 75 percent, finishing with 68 percent of the vote.
The debate about whether or not players who tested positive for steroids or otherwise wound up with reams of evidence about using them belong in the Hall has been hashed over for years and there's not much point in revisiting them at this point in time. The voters have continually made it clear that those players are not getting in any time soon.
It's a much bigger problem that players without a direct connection to steroids can no longer get in. How does a player like Biggio, who carries no whiff of steroid use, not meet the criteria for the body so soon after players like Jim Rice, Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven have sailed into Cooperstown?
And what about Mike Piazza? The former Mets catcher appeared on the ballot for the first time this season and received just 57.8 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America.
There have been just a handful of catchers with the offensive might that Piazza brought to the table over the course of his career and all of them are already enshrined in Cooperstown. By any standard you might choose -- peak value, overall career value, raw or adjusted numbers -- Piazza is a Hall of Famer.
A new standard seems to be emerging: Players with even a whisper of steroid use are not welcome inside the doors of the Hall of FAme. Jeff Bagwell was right around Piazza in the voting and, like Piazza, there's no concrete evidence of anything beyond the fact that they were great players at a time when a lot of great players were bending and breaking the rules.
That's an unfair standard to hold any player to. And if it continues to be applied haphazardly, it will permanently stain something that's supposed to be a celebration of baseball.
Without even getting into the thornier cases of Bonds and Clemens, there's something broken about an institution devoted to presenting and curating the history of baseball refusing to recognize an entire era of the game.
It's time to deal with the issue head on: Put the full story on plaques and exhibits from that time period, and put them front and center. Because we don't get the luxury of only dealing with the parts of the past that make us smile.