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Jorge L. Ortiz, @jorgelortiz
As Hall of Fame voters make their repudiation of suspected steroid users increasingly clear, they have an ally with a newly elevated platform in Frank Thomas.
The slugging first baseman and DH, elected to the Hall on Wednesday along with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, spoke out against use of performance-enhancing drugs as a player. He reiterated that position on a day when the likes of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire fell further back in the voting.
Palmeiro received 4.4% of the vote and was knocked off the ballot -- the minimum for staying on is 5% -- while Sosa fell dangerously close at 7.2% in his second year.
Palmeiro is one of four players to combine at least 3,000 hits and 500 home runs in a career, but he flunked a drug test in 2005 just months after emphatically telling Congress he had never used steroids.
Asked whether players linked to PEDs should be allowed in, Thomas referenced current Hall of Famers he has spent time with and their vehement stance against steroid users.
"I've got to take the right stance, too," he said. "No, they shouldn't get in. There shouldn't be cheating allowed to get into the Hall of Fame."
Thomas hit 521 home runs and drove in 1,704 runs in his 19-year career, impressive credentials but surpassed by the gargantuan numbers put up by Bonds (762 and 1,996) and, to a lesser extent, Palmeiro (569 and 1,835), Sosa (609 homers) and McGwire (583 homers).
Yet none of those four got even 35% of the vote because of close connections with steroids, whereas Thomas was elected in his first year of eligibility with an 83.7% mark.
Bonds and Clemens, regarded as the dominant players of their era and among the all-time elite, saw support shrink in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Clemens went from 37.6% to 35.4%, Bonds from 36.2% to 34.7%.
"As to what they did, I don't think any of us will ever really know," said Thomas, who played football at Auburn and was an imposing 6-5, 250 pounds, "but I can tell you what I did was real, and that's why I have a smile on my face right now, because the writers definitely got it right."
Voters seemed to draw a distinction between players suspected of using PEDs but lacking proof -- such as Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell -- and those with a paper trail that linked them to steroids, such as Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Palmeiro and McGwire, who eventually confessed.
Bonds and Clemens faced perjury charges for saying under oath they had never knowingly used PEDs, with Bonds being found guilty of obstructing justice and Clemens beating the rap but failing to convince the public or BBWAA voters.
The case against Piazza and Bagwell is more circumstantial, mostly based on their careers outpacing projections.
Glavine spent much of his career trying to get bulked-up hitters out; now he faces questions about them.
"I understand what's going on right now," he said, "and in time it's going to be interesting to see if feelings around those guys change at all."
At this time, those feelings are not trending in their favor.