COMMENTARY | Cooperstown, NY is the cutest little town you'll ever see.
As if it were archeologically preserved in the early 20th century, Cooperstown is neatly tucked away in central New York about an hour and a half west of Albany. It's a convenient location for baseball's most celebrated land; an enduring town that embodies the glory of baseball's past. A hallowed ground where a father and son can enjoy having a catch unlike any other place in the world.
It is a convenient location in that its distance from the hustle and bustle of a big city allows the game to maintain its reverence. It's a town dedicated to the glory days of our national pastime with memorabilia shops, Doubleday Field, the best hot dogs you'll ever eat and, of course, the Hall of Fame.
My father took me to Cooperstown when I was a kid; still young enough to see baseball as the game that defined my summers and not a billion dollar business. Baseball has always been a special bond for my father and me. It is responsible for many of our fondest memories, the most special of which being our trip to the Hall of Fame.
We spent almost an entire day in the hall taking in the endless collection of the game's history. My dad told me about some of the game's most treasured players and we talked about the possibility of my favorite player, Chipper Jones, joining them one day.
I often draw on those feelings whenever I stumble into a conversation about the Hall of Fame. The funny thing is, as I reflect on those feelings, I realize that none of them were preceded by any sense of purity. I was looking at baseball's history, plain and simple.
The biggest misconception about the glory of baseball's past is that it is unequivocally pure and allowing steroid users, proven or unproven, into the hallowed hall would somehow damage this image. But how can you tarnish an already tarnished past?
Baseball's glory has never been in its purity, it has been in the lack of it. The game's legends are born out of triumph over adversity. Perhaps baseball's greatest story, Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, would not have been possible had the game not been segregated.
The idea that a player or an era needs to be pure in order to deserve remembrance is misguided. It's self righteousness masquerading as integrity.
The blockade of these players from immorality draws attention away from the more important issue of player safety. These are potentially dangerous drugs that have consequences far more catastrophic than where they fit in the history of the sport. So if you're main concern is punishing a player for using during an era of wide acceptance by the league and media, you're missing the point.
What we should be talking about right now is whether or not Curt Schilling's modest 216 wins over 20 seasons hurts his chances despite being one of the most dominant post-season pitchers in the history of the game, or if he will wear a Phillies hat, Diamondbacks hat or a Red Sox Hat.
We should be talking about whether or not Fred McGriff's seven consecutive seasons in the top five in OPS is enough to outweigh his lack of public visibility and endorsements - unless you're a big fan of the Tom Emanski fundamentals of the game training videos.
Eventually, the protest needs to end and the steroid era must be acknowledged in the Hall of Fame. It is too important not to. We can't apply a new set of moral standards to the current ballot without applying it to those who are already enshrined. And I don't think anyone wants to start removing plaques.
The argument is a big charade that has cast a shadow over how we should remember baseball in the 90's and early 2000's. We were either unable or unwilling to identify and punish guilty parties at the time, so our solution is to retroactively erase their contributions? What is this, the NCAA?
Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa helped revitalize baseball in the summer of 1998 and deserve to be remembered for it. Baseball can't enjoy the benefits of that season on one hand and lock the doors to the Hall of Fame with the other. We can't remember the magic of that season and forget the players. It doesn't work like that and it's not fair to future baseball fans.
While we're busy debating Hall of Fame criteria based on some warped sense of moral ambiguity, we're forgetting that we owe it to the future of baseball to acknowledge the greatest players of every era, including this one.
In my mind the logic is simple. Once those players' cleats hit grass on a major league baseball field they became part of the history of the game and deserve to be acknowledged for their contributions.
New rules - including the newly negotiated HGH testing program - will prevent players who use performance enhancers from setting foot on the field. If they can't set foot on the field, they can't earn immortality anyway. So the game's integrity is safe, for now. But if you failed to prevent them from playing, you can't erase their performance.
If I am fortunate enough to have a son one day, and I take him to Cooperstown like my father did with me, I want to be able to show him the players I cheered for as a kid. I want to have a catch outside our hotel and eat the best hot dogs in the world.
I don't want to have to explain the giant gap between 1990 and 2010 as if baseball wasn't played for twenty years.
It's not fair to either of us.
Scott Lentz is an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker from Philadelphia. He is a freelance contributor to Yahoo! Sports and TheGamingAdvisory.com. For more baseball commentary, questions or comments, follow Scott on Twitter: @scottlentz27.
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