As we await the inevitable announcement that Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn (and perhaps Jim Rice and Goose Gossage?) have been elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame, Time’s resident smart-aleck, Joel Stein, has a bone to pick with former high school chum Ken Davidoff. (link swiped from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory)

Like almost all of the Hall of Fame voters, Ken voted against Mark McGwire”who™s almost a lock not to get in when the Cooperstown class of 2007 is announced tomorrow”because of the steroid use the first baseman pretty much copped to in Congressional testimony. As Ken put it in an email to me, “he broke not only a baseball law (as did Gaylord Perry, for instance) but a federal law.” A federal law such as underage drinking at Scott Lustig’s house, Ken?

While I™m glad to see that, 17 years later, Ken is still using any excuse to say “Gaylord Perry,” I can™t abide his vote.

There’s nothing that excites a sports commentator like a basketball player fighting, a football player caught with pot or a boxer’s DUI. Sportswriters are on the far right of the culture wars, reactionaries longing for the days before they were born, when athletes were viewed as paragons of society … because the sports writers who got drunk with them at Toots Shor agreed not to write about their alcoholism, philandering, gambling and fighting.

Well, McGwire actually was a paragon of society. Unlike Hall of Famer Ty Cobb (a racist who once went into the stands to beat up a heckler”a heckler in a wheelchair), McGwire was a pretty good guy, especially for one with almost no discernable personality or intelligence. He didn’t seek out fame, but was friendly to fans. When someone close to him told him about her childhood sexual abuse, he started a foundation and cried on TV about it. And he befriended struggling stand-up comedians. I don’ t know how that makes him a good person, but it made me like him.

Yes, taking steroids is cheating, and dangerous. But it would be nice if sports writers faced these moral quandaries with a little more compassion. Would a person who made winning his greatest priority not use a drug that would make him better if most of his competition was? Would Ken take a drug that made him twice as good a writer? I know I would.

Though I’m (obviously) without a BBWAA vote, the bit about befriending stand-up comedians seems like solid grounds for banishment from the game.