It's hard to tell people how they should cast their Hall of Fame ballots, especially if you're among those from a tiny club (hello) that took such perverse pride in our incuriosity about the game throughout the steroid era.

The one thing we do recall vividly from those days, however, is how much fun everyone else seemed to be having. That part is undeniable: The players of that era gave us what we paid for, and even after we learned that the price was the embarrassing exposure of our national gullibility, it turns out that everyone was complicit.

The owners loved how the turnstiles clicked, the union didn't care what it did to the rank and file as long as the stars moved the payroll needle, and neither side dared suggest testing. The media, both broadcast and print, was convinced that it was witnessing a miracle of athletic evolution. The sabermetric guys didn't yelp over the statistical anomalies. And the fans and sponsors drank it all up because the game was suddenly so star-spangled awesome.

Now, the 600 writers who cast their Hall of Fame ballots have essentially decided to vanquish two decades of baseball history by asserting that these players didn't earn their place in Cooperstown.

A profound reaction, this. Did it send a message? Certainly, it told Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens that they'll have to watch from the sideline for a while. Was it done with malice aforethought? You can only find the answer after searching the collective conscience of 600 people.

Did the process, once and for all, cease to be about achievement? That's an interesting thought, because once you question the legitimacy of any feat or statistic in the steroid era, you should probably first question the legitimacy of every achievement made before 1947 — and then what kind of museum would you have with all those asterisks slapped on the plaques?