COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — The next home run Alex Rodriguez hits will be the 573rd of his career, moving him into a tie with Harmon Killebrew for ninth place on the all-time list.

And Killebrew isn’t too happy about that.

Speaking honestly and diplomatically, Killebrew, 73, never specifically mentioned A-Rod or anybody else by name but still made his point clear Friday: He doesn’t like seeing known steroid users mess with the record books.

“Certainly the players who played years ago are very saddened by anything that hurts the game and integrity of baseball,” Killebrew said at Doubleday Field. “Right now they’ve hurt the integrity of the game.”

When Killebrew retired in 1975, he was fifth all-time in home runs. Now he’s ninth, behind known or suspected PED users Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

Killebrew stressed that he doesn’t mind seeing players pass him if they’re legit. “If they’re cheating and doing it in not a good way, yeah, that means something different to me,” he said.

Like most former players, Killebrew wishes the game finally could move past the steroid era. Yet every time it seems as if that has happened, another big-name player is exposed as a steroid user.

This season, just before spring training began, A-Rod was revealed to be on the list of 104 players who tested positive in the “anonymous” testing program in 2003. He then admitted using PEDs during a three-year span.

Then, a month into the regular season, Manny Ramirez received a 50-game drug suspension. He never admitted using PEDs, instead saying the female fertility drug in question was prescribed to him for “a personal health problem.”

Between A-Rod and Ramirez, that’s exactly 1,110 home runs entering Friday night’s games.

“The names keep coming,” Killebrew said. “I would say, just get all the names out and let’s move on. Get it over with. But I guess that’s not going to happen.”

Asked if he thinks steroid users should make it into the Hall of Fame, Killebrew shrugged. It’s not his call, he said. “Right now it doesn’t look good for those guys,” he said. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

The only person we have to go by right now is McGwire, who has gone three years without coming close to getting the 75 percent of the total votes necessary for induction (23.5 percent in 2007, 23.6 in 2008 and 21.9 percent in 2009).

But even as time has passed and as the true depth of the steroid era becomes clearer, it’s still impossible to predict how the BBWAA voters will treat players such as Bonds, A-Rod, Ramirez and Roger Clemens.

“You people don’t know, either,” Killebrew said.

The only stance the Hall of Fame has taken on steroids is to put a sign up by the wing featuring memorabilia from the current game. The sign reads, in part, “The story of the impact these drugs have had on baseball is still evolving and will become better understood with the perspective of time.”

Now, finally, imagine this scenario: When the first known steroid user actually does get voted in, how many of the current Hall of Famers will choose to boycott the induction ceremony?

Killebrew took that thought one step further. He wonders if fans will boycott it, too.

“It’s not just a shame,” he said. “We call it a cloud over the game. And it’s going to be there for a while. Not a while, for a long time. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”


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