(McGwire, looking a tad smaller since his playing days, though Bob Rock would like to get him back in the weight room)

In Saturday’s New York Times, Harry Stein observes “I happen to have a number of sportswriter friends, and used to do a fair amount of baseball writing, but you would be hard pressed to find an unlikelier collection of moral authorities this side of Rosie and The Donald,” along with collecting a gem of a Jim Souhan quote I’d missed earlier.

œI voted for McGwire because I don™t trust baseball writers (myself included) to be moralists or scorecard-toting C.S.I. units, said Jim Souhan of The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, adding a cautionary note that should give even his most self-certain colleagues pause. œI don™t think we (I) know enough about this generation of players to separate presumptive cheaters from the hundreds who cheated more subtly or intelligently, or who have otherwise avoided scrutiny. Like, oh, aging power pitchers who display tremendous resilience and longevity, not that I™m thinking of anyone in particular, Roger.

Others struggled, like rabbis arguing the fine points of Talmudic law, to find an ethical middle ground. Were McGwire™s transgressions of such gravity that he should be denied entrance to the Hall forever? Might an asterisk be the answer? Or why not have an entire wing of the Hall reserved for veterans of the Steroid Age? For that matter, has McGwire really been judged not so much for his use of steroids as for his pathetic performance before a Congressional committee? Linda P. Campbell of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote an article suggesting the reputation-saving testimony that McGwire, if he were a different sort of man, or had a better lawyer, should have given that gruesome day.

We are a generous-spirited people, and lots of us would love to see things work out for McGwire. But as even most of the writers who cheered him on (along with the rest of us) seem to realize, the circumstances may demand a more serious moral reckoning. For in the months and years to come, the quality of their own ethical sincerity will surely be further tested by new revelations, and this time they should expect to be under closer scrutiny themselves.

As Paul Mirengoff wryly noted the other day on the conservative blog Power Line, the steroid story œwas staring them in the face during the 1990s. So the case can be made that no baseball reporter who was active during that time should be inducted into the writer™s wing (yes, there is one) of the Hall of Fame.