By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven, who will walk into the Baseball Hall of Fame together this summer, differed on their view of the steroids backlash that has tainted attitudes on certain candidates hoping to achieve the sport's highest honor.
When asked about the dismal vote total of Rafael Palmeiro and the shrinking support for Mark McGwire, Blyleven said they brought it on themselves, while Alomar sounded sympathetic.
"They cheated themselves and their team mates," Blyleven told reporters in a conference call after the results of the Hall of Fame voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America were announced Wednesday.
"The game of baseball is to be played clean. I think we went through a steroid era and it's up to the writers to decide when and who should go in from that era."
While second baseman Alomar received a resounding 90 percent of the 581 ballots and pitcher Blyleven garnered 80 percent to surpass the 75 percent required for election, Palmeiro and McGwire fell miles short.
Palmeiro, who surpassed 500 home runs and 3,000 hits in his career -- both usually Hall of Fame-quality milestones -- got only 64 votes or 11 percent of ballots cast by the writers in his first year of eligibility.
McGwire, who belted 583 homers and who temporarily held the single-season home run record with 70 in 1998 when he smashed the previous record of 61 by Roger Maris, saw his percentage of the vote tumble from 23.7 percent to 19.8.
Palmeiro, who hit 569 homers and collected 3,020 hits, tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs after emphatically denying he would ever consider doping in testimony at a U.S. congressional hearing.
McGwire, long suspected of doping, admitted to having used steroids before he took a job last season as batting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Alomar, whose career stretched into the so-called steroids era, was reluctant to talk on the subject but was drawn out.
"As ball players and the players I saw play, Raffy (Palmeiro) and Mark McGwire were two excellent ball players," Alomar said.
"They have the numbers to be in the Hall of Fame. Hopefully one day they can put that behind them, but it is what it is. It's something I don't really like to mention and talk about."
(Editing by Steve Ginsburg)