Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hall of Fame and Steroids

I didn't get my post up on the hall of fame before the announcement, but I'm sure you've heard that Ricky Henderson and Jim Rice were elected. I didn't get a ballot (if Scutch can't get a media credential at the Liberty Bowl, I certainly have no hope of getting into the BBWAA, let alone being in it for ten years). But if I did, I would have included Henderson, Tim Raines, Bert Blyleven, Alan Trammell, and Mark McGwire. I hated Henderson almost all of his career and for most of his career he was my least favorite player, but a hall-of-famer none the less.

If any of you want to share your thoughts on the others, I would love to hear from you.

I have been beating the drum for McGwire on this blog and will do so one more time. I don't think there is any question that McGwire is being left off ballots because he took steroids. (Nor, to me is there any question that he took them.) But if your going to leave him out because he took steroids, then you should just close the hall of fame. To blame him, when baseball itself was clearly complicit in the steroid problem, and just let everyone else go about their business is just plain wrong. There was no rule against steroids in baseball. (And don't give me, "but it was against the law." A lot of guys have broken the law and are in the hall of fame.) But more than that, arguably baseball encouraged steroid use. The game was in so much trouble after the '94 strike (and attempt at replacement players before the '95 season belatedly got under way) that it had to have fans come back and the home run was the way to go.

I thought of this last night while watching a replay of game 4 of the '89 ALCS on the MLB Network. (It specifically says "geek" in my profile -- so no need to comment on this.) LaRussa came out for like his 10th pitching change (man I hate that guy) and I thought, "there's no way LaRussa didn't know these guys were juiced."

But finally, and to me this is the most salient point, the baseball writers had to know these guys were juisced, and none of them had the courage to write about it, exchanging journalistic integrity for access to the club house and the chance to live out their dreams vicariously. These are the guys that are judging McGwire and leaving him off of their ballots? The height of hypocrisy.

I have no issue with picking on McGwire's stats because they were obtained in the steroid era, but there are perfectly acceptable statistical ways to determine how a player performed relative to his era. I also have no problem judging a guy like Rafael Palmiero harshly, as he had a positive drug test after the ban was in effect. But baseball should live with its complicity and give the steroid users a fair shake.


Sean Schmergel said...

I could not agree more on McGwire, and by extension Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, et. al. These players have to be judged by the era in which they played, and that was an era in which use of performance enhancing drugs was prevalent. We do not (and cannot) know exactly which players used, but you can bet it was more than what was cited in the Mitchell report, which was based largley on the allegations of Kirk Radomsky, hence the heavy New York bias. The point being that hitters who may or may not have been using were facing pitcher that may or may not have been using, so all statistics form the period are "tainted". All the players therefore that played in the "steroid era" must be measured with the same yard stick. By that measure, McGwire should be in the Hall. There were certainly plenty of others using PEDs that did not average over 50 homeruns a year for a sustained period.

Dave Zahniser said...

I appreciate the comment. I hope you're as agreeable with my Yankees post which is almost finished (in my mind) and will be on the blog before the end of the week.

Mike Chumbley said...

I also agree, baseball owes McGwire and Sosa more than the league will ever admit. If it were not for their chase of Maris' (sp)record, baseball would have taken years more to recover from the lockout, if ever.

Like you said, it was the age of steroids, yes they make you stronger, but roids do not help you put good wood on a 90+ mph fastball. I followed the A's quite abit when McGwire first came up and seem to remember the scrawny Mark hitting them out at a pace that was better than the Babe during the first 2 seasons of his career.

I also remember that Mark and Jose were known for high intensity "secret" workout techniques that no one was allowed to witness so that they could maintain their competitive advantage.

Dave Zahniser said...

Mike, Thanks for reading (and commenting). I think McGwire hit 50 his rookie year.

Billy said...

Most ballplayers today are taking homeopathic hgh oral spray because it's safe, undetectable, and legal for over the counter sales. As time goes on it seems it might be considered as benign a performance enhancer as coffee, aspirin, red bull, chewing tobacco, and bubble gum.