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“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 such as Bonds, Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire — who has admitted using steroids and human growth hormone during his playing career.

McGwire, who ranks 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. “The single-season home run record was broken by McGwire and Sosa. 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.

“I really don’t understand it. To me it’s cut and dried. They’re cheaters,” he added. “I think they ought to reinstate these records — [Roger] Maris’ record and [Hank] Aaron as our home run champion.”

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.” But 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, or their stats — or the overall stench of the era they played in.

“Curt Schilling made a good point, everyone was guilty. Either you used PEDs, or you did nothing to stop their use,” Hall of Fame slugger Mike Schmidt said in an email to the AP. “This generation got rich. Seems there was a price to pay.”

“It’s not news that Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Palmeiro, and McGwire didn’t get in, but that they received hardly any consideration at all. The real news is that Biggio and Piazza were well under the 75 percent needed,” Hall of Fame slugger Mike Schmidt wrote in an email to the AP.

“Curt Schilling made a good point, everyone was guilty. Either you used PEDs, or you did nothing to stop their use. This generation got rich. Seems there was a price to pay.”