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'Dew' tell: Ripken, Gwynn votes won't be unanimous

January 8, 2007

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Daily Southtown's Paul Ladewski, a longtime member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, did not vote for any candidates listed on the 2007 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, meaning neither Cal Ripken Jr. nor Tony Gwynn has a chance to be elected unanimously. Here is Ladewski's defense of his position:

So I've turned Cal Ripken Jr. and Baltimore baseball fans into a bunch of crabs, huh?

Same with Tony Gwynn and San Diego diehards, it seems.

Well, I can assure you that wasn't my intent when I turned in a blank Hall of Fame ballot and thus bypassed the two most eligible candidates the other day.

Rather, after much serious thought in the last year, my decision was based on this belief: At this point, I don't have nearly enough information to make a value judgment of this magnitude. In particular, that concerns any player in the Steroids Era, which I consider to be the 1993-2004 period, give or a take a season.

This isn't to suggest that Gwynn or Ripken or the majority of the other eligible candidates padded his statistics with performance-enhancers and cheated the game, their predecessors and the fans in the process.

In fact, from the contact I've had with Gwynn and Ripken over the years, I like them as players and people. And, no, this has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Gwynn and Ripken helped deprive Chicago of two World Series appearances. In consecutive years, no less.

But tell me, except for the players themselves, who can say what they put into their bodies over the years with any degree of certainty?

I mean, Hall of Fame hopeful Rafael Palmeiro swore under oath that he was innocent, right? The same Rafael Palmeiro who played with Ripken for five seasons, by the way. Palmeiro tested positive for steroid use during the 2005 season.

Now let's suppose a player is voted into the Hall of Fame, then a short time later, a former teammate steps forward to Canseco him. And another. What to do then? Keep him there? Take him out? Drape black crepe over his plaque?

See what I mean?

Besides, what makes Gwynn and Ripken so special that they deserve to be unanimous selections?

Walter Johnson, Cy Young and Honus Wagner didn't receive such Hall passes. Neither did Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. In fact, nobody has in the history of the game.

Based on the standards set by the Hall of Fame voters decades ago, is there a neutral observer out there who can honestly say Gwynn and Ripken should be afforded an unprecedented honor?

Rest assured that I haven't written off anyone who played in the 'Roids Rage Age permanently. At this time next year, the Barry Bonds case may have revealed more substantive evidence on the subject. Maybe some of the names of the nearly 100 big-leaguers whom federal investigators said tested positive for steroids will become public information. And maybe a few of them will come forward to tell us what they know, good or bad.

Until then, I stand firm. Better one year too late than one year too soon, I say.

Paul Ladewski can be reached at pladd@aol.com