When Mark McGwire returned to baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals as their hitting coach in 2010, he was welcomed back with open arms by his team and by adoring fans in St. Louis.
McGwire was given a standing ovation prior to the home opener at Busch Stadium from a crowd that was more forgiving than Hall of Fame voters.
Before McGwire returned to the field, however, he had to openly admit that he did in fact use steroids for a significant portion of his career. Once he did that, he was welcomed back into a community that turned a blind eye to what he and many others did for years.
The Hall of Fame, however, will likely continue to shun McGwire and others—at least for the foreseeable future.
So, is it a double standard? If Major League Baseball is so willing to welcome back known PED users, can't the Hall of Fame follow suit?
On Wednesday, Hall of Fame voters will likely have a collective voice in not allowing entry for two players who would be certain first-ballot inductees under other circumstances. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will be on the outside looking in when the vote is announced, specifically because of their suspected PED use.
Bonds continues to claim that he never knowingly took steroids, but he was convicted of obstructing justice.
Clemens has always maintained he never took PEDs of any kind and was found not guilty of lying to Congress and obstructing justice last year.
While the courts may have failed in proving their cases, the court of public opinion has spoken. As a result, Bonds and Clemens, along with McGwire, Rafael Pameiro and Sammy Sosa, will be kept out of the Hall of Fame.
But yes, it's okay for them to return to Major League Baseball.
The Houston Chronicle reported on Monday that Clemens will be returning to the Houston Astros, serving as a mentor to the pitching staff.
Just last year, Bonds hinted at a return himself, speaking to San Francisco Giants president Larry Baer about having some sort of role with the team.
The Giants have smartly chosen to stay away from that situation entirely.
And by the way, unlike McGwire, don't hold your breath waiting for Clemens to admit to using PEDs before his return to baseball.
Pigs will fly before that happens.
The bigger question remains, however. The Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball are inextricably tied together, yet are two separate entities. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is privately owned and operated. However, it does take its marching orders from MLB in terms of who is allowed induction.
The Hall of Fame revised their rules following the banning of Pete Rose from MLB in 1989. Anyone currently on the MLB permanent suspension list is by extension not allowed induction into the Hall of Fame.
In addition, the same voters who decide awards for MLB—the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA)—is the same entity that decides what players are worthy of entry into the Hall of Fame.
No double standard there, right?
Even though Bonds, Clemens and others suspected of PED use have never been banned by baseball, the Hall of Fame is certainly treating them like they are, simply by using their vote.
However, they can have a job in MLB. But they'll occupy no space on a wall in Cooperstown.
As long as the Hall of Fame is linked with MLB in terms of using the same body of voters to decide who gets awards and who is worthy of induction, the question posed in this headline can never be answered.
That is not to say that the BBWAA is at fault. The BBWAA has no say in whether or not players suspected of PED use should be allowed back in baseball. The BBWAA was not responsible for the Steroid Era, either.
MLB itself is allowing these players to tutor and mentor its young stars, regardless of their past indiscretions. The Hall of Fame—specifically its voting body—has chosen to keep those same stars out of Cooperstown.
What's good for the goose is good for the gander, right?
It's just not that black and white in terms of this issue. And it likely never will be.