“Everyone cheats” is a hell of a lesson for the nation’s kids. When it comes to professional sports it might be true. When everyone is at the top of their game, and there are millions of dollars on the line, everyone will look for an advantage. Some people will cross the line, and many of those people will get away with it. Is it time to accept this?
I’m not suggesting pro sports go the route of the great Saturday Night Live skit about the “All-Drug Olympics” from back when the show was funny, but maybe acknowledge that players, even some of the greatest players ever, cheated.
Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle didn’t take steroids, they weren’t really around then, but the players of that era took other things. Amphetamines called “greenies” were passed around in clubhouses regularly to give players the energy they needed when a night a drinking and cheating on their wives left them wanting for energy the next day. Was that cheating? Probably. But no one from that time is punished for it or kept out of the Hall of Fame.
This year’s class of players in their first round of eligibility for the baseball Hall of Fame is one person: David Ortiz. He was a designated hitter who couldn’t play the field to save his life. When he had to play in the field (interleague play) they stuck him at first base, where movement, speed, and ability are needed the least. But he could hit home runs, knocking 541 of them over his career.
He also may well have cheated.
I use that qualifier because we don’t know, it was just a story that made the rounds after an anonymous 2003 test of random players to see the extent of use of performance enhancing drugs. The story is Ortiz tested positive, but the results were all anonymous, so there’s no way to know. He has vehemently denied it.
But somehow, and these things do happen in nature, after 6 years of being a below average player who couldn’t hold a job in the big leagues, he became a force of nature who could do no wrong at the plate. Like I said, sometimes that happens in nature, and there’s no reason to doubt that’s what happened here…aside from those rumors.
Those rumors have dogged a lot of players who otherwise would be in the Hall of Fame. Mark McGuire, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmero, Roger Clemens, etc., are just a few. Did they cheat? Some we know did, others we only have allegations against. But all have been denied the Hall because of them.
Clemens is one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game, and was from a young age, but he’s out. The sportswriters, who are the gatekeepers of who gets in and who doesn’t, have deemed him unworthy, so he’s out.
All these players will likely get in at some point, when the various veteran’s committees, which consist of former players, have their say. But they shouldn’t have to wait that long if the Hall is about what you did on the field.
Did Barry Bonds juice? It sure seems like it. He had Hall of Fame skills as a rookie, but not the kind of power he showed when his size, including that of his head, swelled massively over one off season. Did the others juice? Maybe. But what they are alleged to have done wasn’t against the rules of baseball at the time. Should they be punished forever?
They actually hit those home runs, made those plays. The writers, who sit in judgment of them, never did. And can you really trust those writers? The really only kept out Curt Schilling because he’s a vocal conservative, so we’re not dealing with people who care about the game…of baseball, at least.
Finally, and I have softened on all of this, they should be in. But more than that, so should Pete Rose. He has more hits than anyone else who played the game, 955 more than anyone active in the game today, and that guy is 42 years old and not a threat to catch him. It’s absurd he’s not in the Hall of Fame because of a lifetime ban for betting on baseball at a time Major League Baseball (and all pro sports) are partnering with, and hammering huge checks from, gambling companies. You can’t watch a football game without 20 ads for how you can get rich by betting like various Oscar winning actors.
If Major League Baseball has “an official gaming partner,” what is the justification for a continued ban on Rose? Spite, and that’s it.
Pete Rose will be 81 in April. The rumor is MLB will allow him in after he dies. How many billions will they have sucked out of the pockets of addicted gamblers and manipulated novices through their partnerships with gambling organizations before then?
Is cheating really cheating if everyone is doing it?
Ideally, no one would cheat, sports would literally be a contest between great athletes at peak performance through hard work and preparation. But there’s a lot of money on the line, too much for some to not seek an advantage. That advantage causes others to try to find their own, and it spirals from there. Is baseball just going to pretend the 1990s didn’t happen?
The McGuire/Sosa home run chase brought millions of new fans to the game and millions more back to it. Barry Bonds filled stadiums as he knocked balls out of it. The owners made bigger fortunes and the sportswriters lapped it all up, keeping their jobs because people wanted to read about all of it. Now they sit in judgment over the players that made them? Worse, they deem them unworthy? Who the hell are they?
If you want to keep undeserving people out of the Hall of Fame start with the Baseball Writers Association of America. End it there too.