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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Steroid cloud over Baseball Hall of Fame selection just won't go away

Amid the good vibes about Rivera, Martinez, Mussina and Halladay, the controversy over Bonds, Clemens and eventually A-Rod hovers in the background.

San Francisco Giants Barry Bonds waves to the

San Francisco Giants Barry Bonds waves to the fans during the first inning of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California on June 29, 2004. (Photo by Jon Soohoo/Getty Images) Photo Credit: Getty Images/Jon Soohoo

If you love baseball and you love the Hall of Fame, you wanted Wednesday’s news conference in the ballroom at the stately St. Regis Hotel to be about the men on the dais and the one who wasn’t there.

You wanted it to be about old ballplayers who really aren’t that old swapping stories and ribbing each other. You wanted it to be about celebrating the lives and careers of Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez, and the too-short life and career of the late Roy Halladay.

In that midtown ballroom, for that hour or so, that’s all it was about. It was a celebration as pure and as wondrous as the dreams of a kid from Panama who played youth baseball in bare feet and went on to become the best closer the game has ever seen. It was about a third baseman who had to become a designated hitter in a remote baseball outpost in the Northwest corner of the country so he could let his prodigious bat blaze an unexpected trail to Cooperstown. It was about a pair of righthanders, one still with us and one tragically not, who set the standards for their generation in an era when the ball may have been juiced and the players certainly were.

It wasn’t about steroids at the St. Regis. But, when it comes to the Hall of Fame, you can’t escape them. No matter how hard you try.

Earlier in the day — a day that was supposed to be reserved for honoring baseball at its best — retired baseball player/current baseball analyst/reality show figure/J-Lo boyfriend/Yankees consultant Alex Rodriguez opined on ESPN about Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, all-time greats who for the seventh consecutive year were denied entry into Cooperstown because of their alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.

“Of course I want them to get in,” Rodriguez said, “because that would mean that I have an opportunity to get in one day.”

And there you have it. If you thought the endless, tedious debates about Bonds and Clemens will be over in three years as they finish their 10-year stint on the BBWAA ballot, remember that A-Rod will just be getting started.

If Bonds and Clemens don’t make it in the next two years — and since each was under 60 percent in Tuesday’s election, it seems unlikely they will — then their final bite at the 75 percent needed for induction on the BBWAA ballot will come in 2022. That also happens to be A-Rod’s first year of eligibility. First of 10, unless he scores less than 5 percent in any year and is kicked off the ballot. Or gets in.

“Look, I pray every day I get a chance to get in,” Rodriguez said. “The Hall of Fame is the ultimate place.”

You know who else is a first-timer on the 2022 ballot? David Ortiz. So get ready for a New York-Boston all-out "your suspected PED user is just as bad as my proven PED user" tussle that will take us deep into the next decade.

And guess who will profit most from it? A-Rod, who will be everywhere on your TV screen and your mobile devices and the chip they implant in your brain or whatever the next technological advance will be.

“I’ve taken the approach that I think talking about it is best,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve made my mistakes. I’ve paid huge penalties. I would love to get in, but I understand that I made my own bed.”

Rodriguez made the bed and MLB jumped right into it with him when it signed off on his being an analyst on FOX and ESPN and also working as a consultant for the Yankees. It’s a remarkable turnaround for the onetime pariah of baseball from his year-long suspension in 2014.

So while you wanted to revel in the glory of the new Hall of Famers — and, for example, loved the moment when Mussina said he thought Rivera owed him a dinner for giving him so many save opportunities and Rivera said he would take him to the Olive Garden — you knew the innocent fun couldn’t last forever. Not even if you love baseball and you love the Hall of Fame.

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