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Conscience was guide in Tampa Tribune reporter's Hall ballot

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Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 08:43 AM

Didn't vote for Roger Clemens. Didn't vote for Barry Bonds.

My Baseball Hall of Fame ballot went 10 deep, which is the most you are allowed to vote for and the amount I normally vote for each winter. It included Lee Smith and Fred McGriff, first-timers Craig Biggio and Curt Schilling and holdovers Jack Morris and Tim Raines.

But I just can't bring myself to vote for the games' all-time home run leader and one of the best right-handed pitchers in history.

I've heard all the arguments, both pro and con. Today, we find out who, if any has made it into the Hall.

I've asked myself all the questions: Am I the moral police? Who am I to be the moral police? If everyone was using during the Steroids Era than how can I hold it against those heavily suspected yet not convicted of using? What about the Hall of Famers of yore whose play was greatly aided by the use of amphetamines?

Also, wasn't Raines cocaine use detrimental to his ability to help his team, while Bonds, well look at what Bonds accomplished?

All good points. Still, I couldn't in good conscience check the box next to the names of Bonds and Clemens. Same with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and Rafael Pamiero.

I wrote last year that I like my Hall of Fame to be clean, but I know it isn't. There are a number of sad characters enshrined within its hallowed halls in Cooperstown, N.Y.

But I wasn't a voter when those guys were eligible.

The murky area is I voted for one player who is a suspected user. And next year, if space opens on my ballot because one or two of the 10 I voted for gain election this year, I might vote for another who I didn't vote for this year because there is a waiting list.

How fair is that?

It isn't.

I can see Clemens pointing to a player or two who will eventually be elected to the hall and scream, "You won't vote for me, but you'll vote for that juicer?"

But that's the mess voters have to now deal with for years to come.

The Hall of Fame is baseball's highest honor. It's humbling that, because I have been a member of the Baseball Writers' Association of American for more than the required 10 consecutive years, I have a vote.

I've visited the Hall three times and hope to visit it three more times. It is a museum designed to celebrate the history of the game. You don't have to hit 700 home runs to be included in the museum.

But there is an actual Hall of Fame with the plaques attached to the walls. It's breathtaking to walk through that room, to rub your hand along the same plaque Hank Aaron held the day he was enshrined.

It's one thing to look at a ball used in a perfect game. It's another to read the accomplishments on Yogi Berra's plaque.

I just can't see Clemens, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and Palmeiro joining Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth along that row.

Not now, maybe not ever.

Might I waiver on this point? Maybe, but I don't think so.

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