STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Baseball writers send a message when they vote for candidates for the Hall of Fame, both in who they select and in who they pass up. And for the first time since 1996, only the eighth time in baseball history that baseball writers decided not to nominate anyone for induction. The winners are no one. The pool of candidates was one of the most star-studded ever. It included Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa - players all linked to performance-enhancing drugs.
NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins me. Good morning.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hello.
INSKEEP: OK. Before we get into the doping here, let's be clear. There will be an induction ceremony at the Hall of Fame. It just won't include any living players. Is that right?
GOLDMAN: Yeah. Let's give Deacon White his due, Steve. He was considered one of the best barehanded catchers in the game. He played in the late 1870s - and yes, there was a time when players didn't use gloves. Catchers used to stand a lot farther back from the pitcher than they do now. But, still, ouch. So congrats to the late Mr. White, who was elected to the Hall by a special committee.
INSKEEP: OK. So he gets in posthumously, but nobody living gets in. What's been the reaction to that?
GOLDMAN: The consensus is that writers have rendered a verdict - at least for now - on this period of time in baseball called the steroids era - the hardliners. I'll pick out Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, who says he will never vote for steroid users and those suspected of steroid use. Steroids, he says, are in a category of their own when it comes to cheating.
You've got the other side of the argument. There were votes for Bonds. He got 36.2 percent. Clemens got 37.6, Sosa 12.5. You need at least 75 percent to get in.
Veteran writer, Jason Stark of ESPN says: A Hall of Fame without Bonds and Clemens? You cannot be serious. The problem, he says, is with the Hall. If you're going to honor the best players, you need to have best players in there. If you're not, then turn the Hall into a museum, which it is partly now, but a museum where you tell the story of the game, good and bad, but no plaques honoring the best.
INSKEEP: Although, does that mean that the likes of Bonds and Clemens will always be out of the Hall?
GOLDMAN: No. There's a 15-year window to be elected. There's a school of thought that in the next 15 years, attitudes toward doping will change.
I talked to Dr. John Hoberman. He's a doping historian. He says attitudes about performance-enhancing drugs often follow generational lines. And as older, more tradition-bound and steroid intolerant writers start to be replaced by younger guys, Dr. Hoberman believes that might bode well for the guys like Bonds and Clemens and others implicated in doping.
That said, you listen to Mark McGwire, the former slugger who admitted using banned drugs, he talks about how he'll never be elected to the Hall. And, in fact, his yes votes in this, his seventh year of eligibility, went down for a third straight year. So, for now, doping is still toxic.
INSKEEP: Now, amidst all of this news, of course, we have news that Lance Armstrong is going to talk to Oprah Winfrey about the allegations against him of doping in cycling.
GOLDMAN: Yeah. Word is that there will be some sort of honesty on the subject when this airs next week. It has been promoted as no-holds-barred. There are some legal cases pending. He could open himself up to a ton of liability. So we're not sure what exactly, if anything, he's going to say. If he just comes out with a general and vague sorry everyone, but doesn't say what he sorry for, that will be unsatisfying for many. Of course, if he's trying to get something out of a confession, a quid pro quo, involving, say, a reduction in his lifetime ban from officially sanctioned marathons and triathlons - his athletic focus now - he's going to have to get pretty specific. Anti-doping agencies will reduce the punishment, but only if the athlete late brings the goods. So we will see.
INSKEEP: Tom, thanks.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
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INSKEEP: That's NPR Tom Goldman, talking to us about the lack of living inductees into the baseball Hall of Fame this year.
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