**Asterisks** abound in the baseball steroid era

By the Herald editorial staff

We're about to run out of asterisks for baseball's record books and the Hall of Fame.

It is nearly impossible to know at this point how many players have used banned substances in the major leagues since the mid-1990s.

But the admission by Mark McGwire -- after five years of silence -- that he used steroids gave fresh impetus to the storm of scandal surrounding the national pastime.

Jos Canseco estimated in his book, Juiced, that 85 percent of the big league players used steroids, including himself.

Now he is angrily accusing McGwire of not going far enough in his late admissions.

And Canseco accuses Cardinals' manager Tony La Russa of "a blatant lie" when La Russa said he didn't know about McGwire's steroid use until the day of McGwire's announcement. La Russa only recently hired McGwire to be the batting coach for the Cardinals.

Thus the shortage of asterisks. Other players who have been accused (and in some cases, admitted) steroid or other human growth drug use include Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, the late Ken Caminiti, Rafael Palmeiro, Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa.

In a class almost by himself is Barry Bonds, whose denials that performance-enhancing drugs helped him win astounding hitting records is the stuff of ridicule on late-night television.

Whether McGwire (and some of the others) will ever make it into the Hall of Fame is an open question.

It is odd that baseball owners, executives and baseball commissioner Bud Selig all profess no knowledge about the substance use while seeming to be willing to let the players who have admitted or been found guilty of offending continue to play the game.

Yet when Charlie Hustle -- Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds -- admitted he had bet on baseball (which is also against the rules) and on his own team (but always to win), he was banned from baseball for life and banned from the Hall of Fame.

Rose is the all-time major league leader in hits (4,256), won three World Series rings, three hitting titles, an MVP, Rookie of the Year and played in 17 All-star games.

So baseball's owners and the then-commissioner kicked him out of baseball despite all the accomplishments he made on his own.

And the drug store cowboys seem to get to keep everything they won by chemical means.

Well, that's where the asterisks come in.

Only -- and here is the really, really strange part -- it's just a figure of speech. No one is actually putting asterisks behind any names yet.

Maybe they never will.