COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The irony was as thick as many of the stomachs in the gym.
As the six newest Hall of Famers sat in one room Saturday afternoon, meeting the media for the first time together this weekend, it was hard to avoid the contradiction that was the men who got here despite steroids in baseball -- and those who profited so much from it.
There were the likes of Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, and only a few feet away Tony La Russa, who profited perhaps more from the PEDS era than any non-player this side of Bud Selig.
His financial bonanza doesn't compare to Selig's, though La Russa did well, bringing in about $40 million the last two decades.
His first 10 years managing he had one finish better than third place. He was considered brilliant but not particularly successful. Starting with the performance-enhanced Athletics of the late '80s, he had a streak of 15 first- and second-place finishes the next 23 years, with six pennants and three World Series titles.
Meanwhile, Thomas went from sure Hall of Famer to afterthought, until steroids became a scourge and Thomas was again considered one of the best right-handed hitters of all time.
"My 40 home runs and 120 RBI were big time, but when guys went to 50 and 60 homers and 160 RBI, 40 (homers) was nothing," Thomas said Saturday, still clearly upset. "People started looking at me like my numbers were average.
"They were like, 'Why did you stop working out? All these other guys work out.' That's what (ticked) me off.
"Coming into the league, if you were 30 and 100 you were a great major-league baseball player. Not good. Great. So my goal was 40 and 120. But around 1999 and 2000, those were very average numbers. Guys were doing things that were abnormal."
Thomas pointed to Fred McGriff -- who hit 493 homers but got only 11 percent of the vote in his fifth year on the ballot -- as another player swallowed up by the steroids era.
"I definitely consider him a Hall of Fame first baseman," Thomas said. "I told him for years to go back and get those 7 home runs. Fred was a 30/100 guy forever, but he got hurt by the steroids era.
"I got hurt by that -- a lot. So this means a lot to me, man. This is vindication. This is the pinnacle, and it was done by hard work and dedication.
"I can tell anyone, look anyone in the eye, and tell them I worked my (butt) off and did it right. First guy there, last guy to leave every day. That's how I handled my business my entire career."
Joe Torre won two World Series and four pennants with Roger Clemens in New York, and though he doesn't pretend steroids never happened, La Russa still claims to be unaware of the entire issue, adding, "I think Mark (McGwire) should be in the Hall of Fame, and I think he will be someday."
While chicks were digging the longball, Maddux and Tom Glavine continued to quietly pile up staggering pitching stats for Bobby Cox in Atlanta at a time when offensive numbers were never more absurd.
"You know, I don't think about it a lot," Maddux said. "You have a job to do and you go do it, regardless of what's happening.
"I just know that balls that used to travel 350 feet were going 450 feet, and we knew something was messed up, but you just have to figure out better ways to get guys out -- or hope they hit it at someone.
"But there's consequences for what you do, too, and I think you see that in the voting. Most of those (steroids) guys aren't doing very well."
If it were up to Thomas, you would never see the PEDS players get their chance to give a speech on a Sunday afternoon in Cooperstown.
"No way," Thomas said. "Hey, they made choices and they got all their homers and all that money. They don't deserve this. They didn't earn it."
Sometimes, however, there is justice in baseball. Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are proof of that.
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