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Clemens, the game’s lone seven-time Cy Young Award winner, is third in career strikeouts (4,672) and ninth in wins (354). He was acquitted of perjury charges stemming from congressional testimony during which he denied using PEDs.

“If you don’t think Roger Clemens cheated, you’re burying your head in the sand,” Gossage said.

Sosa, who finished with 609 home runs, was among those who tested positive in MLB’s 2003 anonymous survey, The New York Times reported in 2009. He told a congressional committee in 2005 that he never took illegal performance-enhancing drugs. He also was caught using a corked bat during his career.

“What really gets me is seeing how some of these players associated with drugs have jumped over many of the greats in our game,” Kaline said. “Numbers mean a lot in baseball, maybe more so than in any other sport. And going back to Babe Ruth, and players like Harmon Killebrew and Frank Robinson and Willie Mays, seeing people jump over them with 600, 700 home runs, I don’t like to see that.

“I don’t know how great some of these players up for election would’ve been without drugs. But to me, it’s cheating,” he added. “Numbers are important, but so is integrity and character. Some of these guys might get in someday. But for a year or two, I’m glad they didn’t.”

Gossage, noting that cyclist Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles following allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs, believes baseball should go just as far. He thinks the record book should be overhauled, taking away the accomplishments of players like Bonds, Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire _ who has admitted using steroids and human growth hormone during his playing days.

McGwire, 10th on the career home run chart, received 16.9 percent of the vote on his seventh Hall try, down from 19.5 last year.

“I don’t know if baseball knows how to deal with this at all,” Gossage said. “Why don’t they strip these guys of all these numbers? You’ve got to suffer the consequences. You get caught cheating on a test, you get expelled from school.”

Juan Marichal is one Hall of Famer who doesn’t see it that way. The former pitcher believes Bonds, Clemens and Sosa belong in Cooperstown.

“I think that they have been unfair to guys who were never found guilty of anything,” Marichal said. “Their stats define them as immortals. That’s the reality and that cannot be denied.”

The BBWAA election rules say “voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

While much of the focus this year was on Bonds, Clemens and Sosa, every other player with Cooperstown credentials was denied, too.

Craig Biggio, 20th on the career list with 3,060 hits, came the closest. He was chosen on 68.2 percent of the 569 ballots, 39 shy of election. Among other first-year eligibles, Mike Piazza received 57.8 percent and Curt Schilling 38.8. Jack Morris topped holdovers with 67.7 percent.

None of those players have been publicly linked to PED use, so it’s difficult to determine whether they fell short due to suspicion, their stats _ or the overall stench of the era they played in.

“What we’re witnessing here is innocent people paying for the sinners,” Marichal said.

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