Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Hall of justice???

Congratulations to Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. for being selected to the Baseball Hall-of-Fame. Having broadcast for both the Orioles and the Padres it was a privilege being able to watch these gifted athletes play every day. And more important than their stats and the honor they brought to the game, both men at times agreed to be my guest on the post game show. And this was radio, folks.

Mark McGwire with 583 home runs didn’t make the cut. The suspicion of drug use and McGwire’s refusal to do the 2005 congressional steroid hearing post game show led to that decision. And it poses the bigger question: should players who are suspected of illegally enhancing their performance be denied entrance into the hallowed hall? Does this mean we keep out Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmiero, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, and Jason Grimsley?

Just think, if the Rock n’ Roll Hall-of-Fame had a drug restriction its only members would be Debby Boone and the Singing Nun.

When baseball righteously upholds this policy because they must protect and preserve their sacred level playing field it really is a joke. Players in the 50’s and 60’s downed uppers like they were Chicklets. Did that keep them out? What about when baseball lowered the pitching mound five inches in the late 60’s to give hitters a better chance? Is every batting record after 1968 tainted? And every pitching record before 1968? What about the “live ball” MLB employed for a few years? Felix Fermin even hit a dinger, for Godsakes! And if we’re really getting serious, no home run ever hit in Colorado should count towards anything.

Since Hall-of-Famer, Ty Cobb first captured the stolen base crown by spiking infielders at second base, players and teams have always looked for an edge. They steal signs, they cork bats, juice balls, tilt foul lines, hire a midget, water down basepaths, wear reflective jewelry, play “Pop Goes the Weasel” and show fountains spouting on Diamondvision Boards when Viagra spokesman, Rafael Palmiero comes to the plate. I’m not saying I condone it (well…maybe the last example) but that’s just part of the game. Baseball is built on tradition and that’s one of them.

Gaylord Perry’s in the Hall-of-Fame. He never threw a pitch that didn’t spray the first four rows of the grandstands.

Steroid use is wrong and is dangerous. The health risks are enormous. And in the long run, the price these players pay for their inflated statistics may be far greater than the benefits. But I’m sorry, you shouldn’t have to be an Eagle Scout to qualify for Cooperstown.

For those who say it would be a gross injustice if Mark McGwire is in the Hall-of-Fame I say it’s a gross injustice that Jim Rice isn’t.


Jeyn Levison said...

I saw Jim Rice at opening game at Fenway last year -- he looked fantastic. If I could have stuffed the ballot box for him, I'd have done it in a heartbeat. The other people who looked fantastic were three guys from the 1926 team. They all had full heads of hair. Maybe Rogaine is also a performance enhancement drug?

Anonymous said...

Steroids saved my Mum's life. And my husband's back. Say what you will, it's a crapshoot. And no one should be singled out - especially in sports BEFORE all the bouhaha about drugging. Justice? My daugher is a lawyer and she says there's no such thing. It's the LAW and how you can make it work. I'm inclined to agree with her.

Webs said...

You're absolutely right about McGwire.

Rice was very, very good, but he wasn't great. He came up like gangbusters, but declined early and only had one great season after age 30. And he played in a hitter's park, don't forget.

Very, very good isn't enough for the Hall of Fame, which deserves great. Like Blyleven.

Scipio said...

After reading Ken's comments on the steroid problem facing baseball, I'm sure I would have read the following if blogs had existed in the early 1920s and Ken had been around then. "Sure," Ken would have written,"though Commissioner Landis did save the game of baseball from a premature death, those poor 8 guys who threw the 1919 World Series and were banned for life by Landis deserved better."

Baseball is faced with a scandal not seen since 1919, and stern action must be taken. The baseball writers evidenced that today by their action.

Equating the use of steroids with lowering the mound after the 1968 season not only borders on the ridiculous, but it also serves to minimize the terrible situation in which baseball finds itself today.

Shame on the players who sullied the name of baseball by using steroids, and shame on Ken for making it out to be hardly worse than spitting on the sidewalk.

By Ken Levine said...

First of all, I stated that I thought steroids was a serious problem that needed to be addressed. I did not minimize it. But there is a big difference between this and the Black Sox Scandal. The BSS threatened the legitimacy of the games. If the public doesn't believe the games are on the up and up then any credibility for the sport is shot forever. I agree with the severity of the Judge Landiss sentences. I also agree with banning Pete Rose. He knew the consequences, just chose to ignore them, believing he was above the rules.

One other point I should point out. Don't just blame the players. Don't you believe the owners knew what was going on and just turned their heads the other way? Home run races, more runs, more highlights, excitement. They were just as culpable as the players.

Barry Bonds is a giant asshole (and a Giant asshole) but deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Anonymous said...

The Hall of Fame should bill itself as a baseball museum, not a soap box for hypocritical sports writers. The Smithsonian doesn't bar George Washington because he owned slaves or JFK because he cheated on his wife. How can you have a baseball museum that ignores its history?

Murph said...

Crucifying McGwire for exercising a constitutional right is ridiculous and perfectly in line with the social retardation that typically befits a sports "journalist."

Baseball's entertainment. A passionate, oft-inspiring form of entertainment, but something we watch for our own pleasure nonetheless. Juicing is akin to actors getting face lifts and other body enhancement surgeries, etc. to prolong their careers. And since owners make billions off the talents of these guys, I don't begrudge them their efforts to continue to make their millions.

That said, if a player is caught cheating, then he should be punished accordingly. When McGwire tests positive, when Bonds does, when Clemens does, then let the real judgment begin.

Until then, everybody should just find a Balco outlet and pay for a Ziploc of chill pills.

... But good stuff as always, Ken.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if I showed you this article from the onion, but I felt it was appropriate now:



memphish said...

I get your point that over the entire history of the game there is no level playing field, but I have to say that I'm glad McGwire is not in the same Hall class as Gwynn and Ripkin. Gwynn and Ripkin played with a level of true class that is rarely found and not often imitated. I'm glad they've been set apart this year.

Anonymous said...

When was Mark McGwire suspended for breaking baseball's drug policy?

That's right. Never.

What rule of baseball did Mark McGwire break?

That's right. None.

76.5% of the 545 baseball writers have lost the respect their predecessors earned. They are simply hacks with a political agenda.

I have another question: what eight idiots didn't vote for Ripken?

Anonymous said...

Have a challenge for the Hall of Fame and the baseball writers who vote every year: If any of the players about which this heated debate is ensuing can come up with five malapropisms as good as (Hall of Famer) Yogi Berra used to, they're automatically in. Not an easy task -- how can anyone top "If you come to the fork in the road, take it," or "Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical," and my favorite, "No one goes to that restaurant to eat any more -- it's always too crowded..."

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your comments and for including pitchers in your listt of suspected users. Nobody ever mentions the Gagnes of the world when talking of steriods.

But I must agree with Scipio. Baseball should outlaw all performance enhancing drugs. This will help level the playing field.

Let's start with Advil and Cortisone.

Then let's outlaw all surgeries not available to Grover Cleveland Alexander.

Because it is my firm belief if Koufax had the availability of 'Tommy John' Surgery and Cortisone, he would still be striking fools out.

By the way under the voter's reasoning we should retroactively remove Mickey Mantle for his illegal drug use, how about Whitey Ford? Anyone see a movement on this front?


The Committee to Elect Bonds in 2012

Eric said...

If we had Pfizer and Sandoz working over the last 25 years to make steroids safer instead of Balco working to make them undetectable, I think we'd all be better off.

Steven said...

I would say that the analogy to lowering the mound is not applicable here because it applied equally to all players. Yes, it changed the conditions of the game, but it changed them equally for everyone, and writers and fans can take that into account in comparing players from different eras. When a player uses performance enhacing drugs, he is giving himself an unnatural advantage over other players of the same era. It just smacks of cheating. Lowering the mound or changing the nature of the ball doesn't involve any individual player cheating to give himself an edge over his fellow players.

The Minstrel Boy said...

maybe if mcgwire had done a stengal at the committee hearing, droning on and on about "and baseball is a great game, right for america" killing twenty minutes of CSPAN with beautiful gibberish he would have had a better spot. one of the simpering jerks i heard justifying his non-vote for mcgwire was saying "most of us will vote for him at a later date, we didn't think he deserved the honor of a first ballot entry." taking nothing away from cal ripken and (i was a padre season ticket holder for most of his career) the great, body by burger king voice by minnie mouse, tony gwynn, if they oppose mcgwire they should oppose him. if he's got the stats (and didn't get caught betting on baseball) he deserves the spot.

Anonymous said...

I don't think your Rock Hall of Fame analogy is a fair comparison.

It would be more like inducting Milli Vannilli into the R&R Hall of Fame, because their use of other singers enhanced their performance. (Ha)

If you want to make the "Well, everyone uses steroids, so it's an even playing field," argument, then okay, but the drugs Rock Stars use are NOT performance enhancing.

In fact, they are more of a detriment to perfomance. Just ask (the ghost of) Syd Barrett.

Personally, I think guys like Bonds and McGwire cheated. Corked bats, stanazanol, stickum, whatever...until the rules say they're okay - you can't use them.

Maybe that's the trick - someone has to decide whether steroid use is covered in the rules or not.

The Curmudgeon said...

Mr. Levine, I agree with you entirely. The HOF should be about performance on the field. And, as your later comment notes, the Black Sox can be distinguished from the juicers... but only some of them, thank you. I'm still hoping for vindication on a couple!

As for which eight voters left Ripken and Gwynn off their ballots, one of them is from Chicago, Paul Ladewski. That's a link to his column in the Daily Southtown explaining his stance.

Hawise said...

Let us all remember that Cooperstown has two things in one building- the Baseball Museum that has the history of the game and which highlights many aspects and players that will never make it into the Hall (heck, Pete Rose is in the Museum) and the Hall which is restricted to a vote by people rumoured to know something. I cannot attest to their wisdom or intent but there are two aspects to Cooperstown.
Now if we are getting into who should be in, then why isn't Andre Dawson in? The Man has/had the best Butt in Baseball. Anyone who has seen him batting, fielding or warming up would know that. Steroids cannot give you the perfection of that Man's physique and he could play ball with the best.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you wrote except for Rice. A much stronger case could be made for Dewey Evans:


Anonymous said...

When are we going to stop treating sports figures as if they are super-human beings to be held to a higher standard?

I'm a HUGE baseball fan, but these people are just that - people. Granted, they are talented people. But they are just human. Some drink, some gamble. Some cheat on their taxes and their spouses. Some don't. Some are great people, some are raving assholes.

Just like regular everyday human beings.

The ancient Greeks had it right all along. They viewed their gods as just larger versions of themselves, prone to all the foibles that make us human.

Maybe we need to do the same with ours.

Anonymous said...

And what about all the players who rolled up their numbers before 1947?

Anonymous said...

Ken's totally on the money here. We've made a huge deal about "juicers" and "roiders" and the mammoth HR numbers they put up...but what about the pitchers? You can't tell me that no pitcher during those same timelines ever took steroids...on the contrary, I'm willing to bet that at least as many hurlers juiced up as sluggers...the reason being that steroids are immensely helpful with regeneration and recovery. No one disputes the fact that they work, and well. How else do you explain the sudden emergence of middle-inning flamethrowers who mysteriously added 4 or 5 mph to their fastballs over the winter? And then just as mysteriously break down 2 seasons later?

For me, I judge all these players pretty much equally. I don't think it was as unlevel a playing field as many writers do. Would McGwire have broken the HR record without drugs? Probably not. But he still would have hit a crapload of homers. And Bonds was a Hall of Famer before all of this nonsense occurred.

Bottom line: there is plenty of blame to go around in baseball. Everyone should share.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating debate here....

Somebody on Mike and Mike brought up another interesting point regarding cheaters in the HOF. Gaylord Perry even wrote a book about his cheating (spitter/scuffing). And he is in.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating debate here....

Somebody on Mike and Mike brought up another interesting point regarding cheaters in the HOF. Gaylord Perry even wrote a book about his cheating (spitter/scuffing). And he is in.

Stephen Green said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

Hiya, new here....

First, your comparison to the Rock N Roll HOF is flatout silly. "Sex + Drugs + Rock and Roll" kinda lays that to waste.

Next, the BBWAA voters are sometimes worse than recalcatrent (sp?) children. Handing in a blank ballot should get you chucked from the eligible registry, period. If you're sitting in a restuarant and they hand you a menu you either pick something or get run out the door.

Mike Barer said...

It's kind of difficult to have a hall of fame when baseball's alltime leading hitter (Pete Rose)is not a member. I am not a Rose fan at all, but other than his addiction his character is no worst than any of the other members.

Mike Barer said...

As an early Cub fan, as well as a Seattle area resident, it's hard to understand why Ron Santo is not in the Hall. In fact, I assumed that he was.

Hawise said...

Hall-Museum, Museum-Hall- Pete Rose is in the Museum, his story is told. The Hall has non-baseball criteria to consider- like how he knew what he was doing was the only thing that could keep him out of the Hall and he did it anyway. I think that he must have thought that he would be the sole exception but I guess he was WRONG. He was an exceptional baseball player and the Museum acknowledges that; he was/is an exceptional egomaniac and the Hall has acknowledged that.

Glenn said...

While numbers don't change perception does and for some, there is a difference between a first ballot Hall of Famer and someone who gets in later. It took Harmon Killebrew, his 573 hrs (back when hrs meant something) and his MVP award a few tries to get in, and had McGwire made it in, he would have had the fewest base hits of any batter in the hall.

That being said, he deserves to be in, just like some of the other players who are slowly moving up the list like Goose Goosage.

This entire steroid nonsense is not about cheating, its about the home run record. No one seems to care that the majority of players that have been tested are pitchers. They don't care if a guy runs faster or does other things as long as he doesn't hit hrs. And McGwire was a big boy when he broke in and hit 49 hr, he didn't just suddenly start hitting home runs like Sosa. Yes he put on a lot of weight in his 30s, but he was 6'5" and spent hours working out. Was he helped, maybe, but what really helped McGwire was the Andro, which helped his body heal and allowed him to play more than 100 games a season.

So should we ban anyone who took medication to be healthier? There isn't just one steroid or drug, there are a multitude of them and they do different things. If just being big is all you need, then why isn't Hulk Hogan the home run record holder?

How about having Lasik to make your vision 20/10 instead of just normal? Ken is right, we are always talking about how players need to get an edge. Then we get mad when we don't like their edge. Whitey Ford, brags about cutting baseballs in the World Series. Its baseball. Its a game. Its not something that Congress needs to be involved in.

Anonymous said...

From reading some of these posts, I think that some of you don't understand the term steroid as it's used here. The steroids in question are anabolic steroids such as testosterone and its derivatives. It does not include anti-inflammatory steroids such as cortisone, prednisone, and many others. I have treated many athletes in my medical career, and an occasional injection of cortisone to help manage a chronic injury is appropriate and allowed. It will not even give a positive result on the test for anabolic steroids, so the players can’t even use that as an excuse, though they’ve tried. Anabolic steroids are legitimate medications and are safe when used in appropriate doses for appropriate medical problems. Long term use (months to years) of the high doses of anabolic steroids use by players will cause shrinkage of the testicles (in males, in female athletes it probably doesn’t have that effect), sterility, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, immune suppression, and insanity. Tomorrow you will all be tested on this, so good luck.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...


There is something wrong with the HOF voters. First off, how can some people choose not vote in Ripken or Gwynn?

McGuire, despite the drug charges, was a model citizen in his playing days. What made the 1998 season so special and the home run race so interesting was how McGuire handled the pressure and the media. He was out there with his son as the bat boy and he embraced the Maris family at his ballpark. The stories of his charity operations are well known. And the HRs weren't just little flares that somehow made the seats. They were shots that could've hit a plane flying over Shea Stadium before plunking down into the back rows.

Palmiero...yes, he probably used. But he was a model of consistancy. Each year 35 HRs, and 120 RBIs. And remember he has 500 HRs AND 3000 hits. C'mon. That Hall of Fame numbers no matter how you try to a 'roid them. lol.

Bonds was a HOFer before he hit the juice. No question.

Clemens is not only a first ballot HOFer but the best pitcher since WWII.

Several players that haven't made it in should:

Mike Barer said...

It would make my day if Edgar Martinez got in. I had the chance to work with him and he was a great guy. Very talented playber also.

Warren Fleece said...

Screwball them all, top to bottom. Baseball's about heart. I'll take the little leaguers down at the city park any day of the week.