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Baseball Hall of Fame Must Have Steroid Era Wing
CNBC.com | June 19, 2012 | 03:02 PM EDT

Cooperstown is in serious trouble.

The voters, the Baseball Writers Association of America, have spoken and they’ve shown us that they will not vote through any player who has been found to have used performance-enhancing drugs.

They also have issues with players who are suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs.

What does this add up to? Not a whole lot of marketable stars to induct.

And what does that add up to? Attendance problems.

From 1998 through 2008, the National Baseball Hall of Fame drew more than 300,000 fans each year. But when the steroid era meant that big names weren’t getting in, interest waned. For three straight years, the 300,000 number hasn’t been in sight.

You see, you can have new exhibits in a Hall of Fame, but what truly drives fans to come is to see their favorite players go in, to clap for them for a final time. That’s a problem when the game’s greatest players were either performance enhancers or suspected performance enhancers.

Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire, known performance-enhancers, didn’t even get 20 percent of the writer’s vote (75 percent is needed to be inducted). Jeff Bagwell only got 41.7 percent of the vote, with some of the “no’s” clearly attributed to suspicion of using PED’s, though no evidence has ever come forward.

Based on this precedent, it’s not expected that Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds or Sammy Sosa will get in on their first ballot next year or on any ballot soon.

And that’s where the Baseball Hall of Fame, a non-profit entity that has lost money for seven out of the last nine years (through 2010), has an issue. The writers have decided that the steroid era should not come close to the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. So how do the people at the Hall of Fame save themselves from the worsening business model?

There are two ways to do this. The conservative way is to tell the writers that they will make a steroid era wing. That the people that are judged in the steroid era are judged on their statistics alone.

That steroid users played against steroid users. A guy like Jeff Bagwell could be inducted into the steroid era wing, with the notation on the plaque that points out that he was never caught using performance-enhancing drugs.

The more drastic thing to do is to, for the first time ever, take away the vote from the writers. This is a longshot, but the Baseball Hall of Fame is a business. And it’s good business to induct performance-enhancers or suspected performance-enhancers.

Why?

Because fans of the game’s best players support their stars whether they were found to have used performance-enhancing drugs or not. Giants fans would flock to see Barry Bonds inducted, so too would Cardinals fans if McGwire could ever come close.

As anyone could plainly see, Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar don’t move the needle. Barry Larkin won’t be a standing room only affair and don’t count on Tim Raines or Jack Morris to bring the masses, if they are voted in by default sometime soon.

Players played in the steroid era, we watched it. It was, in the end, good for baseball. And to accept it is good for Cooperstown too.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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