It is often said that cheaters never prosper.
Well, that’s not quite true.
Whether it’s the corporate world or our daily lives, we can think of many people who have profited — at least financially — from ill-gotten gains.
But that doesn’t mean it’s right, and it certainly doesn’t mean we should ignore an opportunity to see to it that cheating isn’t always rewarded.
That opportunity presents itself in our village of Cooperstown, which will be where the next batch of inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame will be presented July 28.
Five prominent — if unconvicted in a court of law — cheaters are on the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot to be voted upon by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. There may well be more, but the standouts are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro.
Bonds, Clemens and Sosa are on the ballot for the first time. McGwire has been turned away by the writers for six years, and Palmeiro since 2010.
All five gentlemen have the achievements on the field that would make them near-unanimous choices for induction, had it not been for their use of banned, performance-enhancing substances.
Or, put another way, they cheated.
They cheated their competitors in the minor leagues who never made it to the majors because they stayed clean. They cheated the players in the big leagues by getting that extra edge that won ballgames and got them the big money. They cheated every young fan who imagined them to be heroes.
They cheated themselves, by forcing themselves to lie, to deny, and when caught by evidence, to scurry about like cockroaches when the light is turned on.
In front of Congress, McGwire refused to give any other testimony than “I’m not here to talk about the past.” Sosa suddenly forgot that he knew how to speak English. Clemens won in a courtroom but lost in the court of public opinion … of common sense.
“Reasonable doubt” can be an unreasonable threshold in court. Common sense can thankfully prevail when the writers vote.
Many writers suspect that former Met and Dodger Mike Piazza — on the ballot for the first time this year — used steroids. It will be interesting to see how he fares in the voting, in which a player needs 75 percent of the ballots for induction.
As for Bonds, Sosa and Clemens, their chances look deservedly bleak. McGwire has never done better than 23.7 percent, and Palmeiro got just 12.6 percent last year.
All of them made many millions of dollars playing the game. In one sense, the cheaters prospered.
In another, we hope they never will.