I don't think that there was some grand conspiracy by the owners and MLB to have players start taking PED's. The players are responsible for their own actions, especially if they were taking a substance with the intended goal of boosting their stats.
That being said, I think the owners and MLB turned a blind eye to PED's. Especially when you look at all of that buzz that surrounded both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa during the season when McGwire broke the home run record that Roger Maris had held since 1961. A lot of sports writers looked at that home run chase as the thing that saved baseball after their last strike. The owners and league may not have forced the players to take PED's, but at the very least they were complicit.
As for the baseball writers who vote on the Hall of Fame? They excel at being curmudgeons over who should be in the hall, and who should not. But then, the Baseball Hall of Fame does have a higher level of cred than pretty much any other Hall of Fame for professional sports, and that's because of the selectivity of the HoF voters. I think you had to expect that the writers would make a statement like this with some of the most high profile players who were linked to PED's. Even guys with phenomenal career numbers. They routinely make these statements with guys who have HoF numbers, but aren't regarded as the elite of the HoF and won't vote them in on the first ballot.