Sunday, December 2, 2012

Baseball Writers Ignoring Steroid Users (Again)

The 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot is out and it is the first one with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa listed. Of course, those are three of the biggest steroid users with both Bonds and Clemens having gone through lengthy legal proceedings in failed efforts to clear their names. Since they retired, there has been mounting speculation that members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) will choose not to vote for anybody associated with the scandal in a misguided attempt at making themselves newsworthy.

Sure enough, the past few days have seen many writers openly declaring that they will not vote for Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, or any other cheater. So self-righteous! My question to them is "Where were you when this was going on?"

It didn't take a genius to notice that Barry Bonds' head had swollen to the size of a pumpkin. When Sosa and Mark McGwire were racing to beat Roger Maris' single season home run record in 1998, there were questions about just how they were doing it but no serious investigation was performed by anyone in the media. There were some lame attempts at saying the baseballs were juiced but I cannot recall any of the BBWAA members bothering to do the hard work that a full investigation would require. Instead they were complicit as MLB allowed their players to bulk up in order to make baseball more interesting as it tried to recover from the 1994 strike. This is not some crackpot conspiracy theory; there is no doubt that GMs, managers, and people in the commissioners office knew what was going on. They chose to ignore it as fans were excited by the offensive explosion and were returning to ballparks in droves.

Fifteen years later, the narrative has changed. Steroid users are cheaters and must now be punished. Leave it to the BBWAA to volunteer to mete out the punishment the best way they know how: lazily. Why bother to think about your own involvement in the scandal when you can loudly state that you will not vote for anyone associated with it and get your name in the papers without even writing a story.

To be fair, not all members of the BBWAA should be painted with the same brush. Some have written deliberate articles about how difficult the voting has become and how they are conflicted. Personally, I cannot understand how this issue can cause so much soul-searching. Either you consider the steroid era to be valid (as MLB does), or you don't and you vote accordingly. Given that baseball spent about sixty years being segregated, during which many famous records were set, I'd say the furor over PEDs is extremely overstated. Furthermore, cheating has always been in baseball. Gaylord Perry has a plaque in Cooperstown despite being a known spitballer. You may believe that the evils of steroids are much worse than some saliva on a baseball, but cheating is cheating. As Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle states in an ESPN article  "The Hall of Fame's 'character' clause should be stricken immediately, because it's far too late to turn Cooperstown into a church".

Baseball writers will try their best to do so though, starting with this year's vote. It is just too bad they didn't try their best when the steroid users were staring them right in the face.



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