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Three players who deserve Baseball Hall of Fame nods over cheaters

The Contemporary Era Hall of Fame ballot isn’t a strict clash of good versus evil. But it certainly can be viewed that way. 

The 16-person committee should vote in Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy and Fred McGriff, three great players who also brought only honor to the game. Mattingly and Murphy were two of the best players in their time — great peak players — whose overall games aren’t appreciated by faulty retroactive defensive metrics. McGriff was a consistent and dominant force at his best in October. 

Mattingly won an MVP, received MVP votes seven times, and won nine Gold Gloves. Murphy is a two-time MVP who finished in the top 12 six times and won five Gold Gloves. Mattingly’s career numbers are similar to Kirby Puckett’s; Murphy has 398 career homers; and McGriff, who hit 30 homers 10 times, only missed the 500-homer mark due to the 1994 strike (he had 493). 

Their offensive numbers do look lesser since the steroid cheats dwarfed them via ignominious means. But let’s not reward the defrauders who already made more money and won more awards via shameful means. 

Strangely, this new ballot seems to be broken up into this angelic trio plus the less-than-angelic duo of Albert Belle and Curt Schilling and a trio of players strongly linked to steroids — Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro. 

Forget the personality problem; Belle has the obvious issue of being a two-dimensional player who was found to have corked his bat and didn’t post huge lifetime totals. There’s good reason he never received more than 7.7 percent of writers’ votes. 

Schilling, while objectionable in his own way, is more deserving. As a pitcher, he was comparable to Mike Mussina, and he won big game after big game on the biggest stage. I’m not opposed to his candidacy — I supported him, just not over three worthy men of unquestionable honor. 

Bonds and Clemens are obviously deserving on their stats, but not at the expense of three deserving players whose numbers, while excellent, are unfairly diminished by the players who cheated the game. 

It is mathematically possible for the veterans committee to elect four players — though realistically, three is probably the max. Mattingly, Murphy and McGriff are a trio to celebrate.