MORRISSEY: To put Sosa, Bonds, Clemens in Hall is to be OK with PEDs
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org December 1, 2012 1:02AM
Sammy Sosa’s numbers were racked up at a time when steroid use was prevalent in baseball. It doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to honor him. | AP
Updated: January 3, 2013 6:23AM
I don’t care about the rogues’ gallery of cheaters in the Hall of Fame. I don’t care about spitballers or what a jerk Ty Cobb was or the odds that prominent players purposely lost ballgames in the old days.
I care about Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, in the sense that I don’t care for them at all. I care that there are too many people with Hall of Fame votes who either don’t believe or don’t care about what I believe: that all three used performance-enhancing drugs to amass bloated numbers.
I don’t care that their WAR + wind speed + testosterone level is, like, the best ever.
I care that, years after they dominated their sport, they continue to hold the game at syringe-point. We wouldn’t be having this debate if it were otherwise.
I don’t care if ‘‘everybody was using steroids at the time.’’
I care that these frauds want to be in the Hall of Fame and that because of revisionist history, time healing all wounds or convenient amnesia, some Hall of Fame voters are looking away from the truth. I care that someday those voters might be in the majority.
I don’t care that in 50 years, drugs might be an approved part of sports and that people will look back on us over-the-counter Puritans as silly and naive. All I care about is that, at a time when steroids were against the law in the United States, lots of players used them to hit lots of home runs or to strike out lots of batters. It was cheating.
I will not vote for the Tainted Three. Not this year. Not any year.
Forgiveness is one thing. Homage is another.
That’s the thing about the Hall of Fame: It’s an honor. It honors ballplayers for bringing greatness to the game of baseball. It very much matters what the delivery method was for that greatness.
You can’t let these three former players in the Hall of Fame and then say with a straight face that drug testing in baseball today is important business. If it is so important to the integrity of the game, we wouldn’t be having this discussion about Sosa, et al. We’d be done with them forever.
There is no in-between here. There is no logical argument for the inclusion of the three without embracing the idea that performance-enhancing drugs aren’t so bad.
What some voters are saying is that, because so many players were complicit in making a mockery of the record book, we should wink at that era. That everybody will know who the juicers are in the Hall anyway, so let’s just let them in and give them a knowing glance.
These two things are true: Performance-enhancing drugs were prevalent at the time Sosa, Bonds and Clemens dominated the sport. Some of those drugs were not always banned by baseball during that era, even if they were illegal in society without a prescription.
But it doesn’t follow that suspected juicers are thus worthy of Hall of Fame induction. It mistakes widespread usage and lax rules with approval and excellence.
If you lean toward juicers being in the Hall out of allegiance, stop. Sosa and Mark McGwire, another juicer, did not save the game with their home-run race in 1998. Said over and over again, it has become gospel, but there is not a shred of evidence that backs up the contention. Fans were upset about the 1994 players’ strike, and it showed in the average attendance the following season. But attendance went up in 1996, 1997 and 1998. It actually dropped in 1999, the year after McGwire broke the single-season record with 70 homers. Sosa finished with 66.
Time sands down even the hardest edges. It doesn’t mean the era has to be glorified.
And so I will fall back on what I always do when I’m asked who made me judge and jury: Who? The person who handed me a ballot, that’s who — in the same way you’re judge and jury when voting for a president. You go with what you believe in your heart, even if you might not know all the facts.
At the heart of all of this is the message we want to send to impressionable young athletes. If you’re a parent and under the impression that steroids and other PEDs aren’t dangerous, are you willing to give your son some of Clemens’ ‘‘vitamin B-12’’ injections?
I didn’t think so.