DE LUCA’S POINT: Let he who is without PEDs, cast the first vote
BY CHRIS DE LUCA firstname.lastname@example.org January 8, 2013 9:34PM
FILE - At left, in a June 23, 2011 file photo, former San Francisco Giants baseball player Barry Bonds leaves federal court in San Francisco. At center, in a July 14, 2011 file photo, former Major League baseball pitcher Roger Clemens leaves federal court in Washington. At right in a May 13, 2009 file photo, former baseball player Sammy Sosa attends the People En Espanol "50 Most Beautiful" gala in New York. With the cloud of steroids shrouding the candidacies of Bonds, Clemens and Sosa, baseball writers on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, might not elect anyone to the Hall of Fame for only the second time in four decades. (AP Photo/File)
Updated: February 10, 2013 5:57PM
Glenn Beckert tells a funny story of the day he learned his roommate on the Cubs, Ron Santo, was diabetic and needed daily insulin shots.
It was the late 1960s or early ’70s. The Cubs were in San Francisco, and Santo excused himself, stepped into their hotel bathroom and administered an insulin shot. With the door open.
Beckert saw his teammate injecting himself with a needle and was shocked.
“I was hitting .210, and he was hitting .360,’’ Beckert recalled. ‘‘I said, ‘Hey, Rooms, I don’t know where you got them needles, but give me a few.’ ’’
Beckert told this story last July during Santo’s induction weekend at the Hall of Fame to detail his roomie’s amazing daily battle with diabetes, but it also illustrates the mindset of most professional ballplayers: If there’s a magic potion that can make me better, bring it on.
That was certainly the prevailing mindset from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s. It was the mindset of hitters, pitchers, managers, coaches, general managers and owners. They all knew steroids were becoming a bigger part of baseball, and they all looked the other way.
And now we need to revisit that dark era in baseball history and decide who was on the right side of things. Turns out all of them were on the wrong side.
The Steroid Era was celebrated by the media, fans and owners, who kept dishing out outrageous salaries to reward the game’s biggest abusers. Attendance skyrocketed, and the paychecks from the TV networks kept adding zeros.
But now we’re supposed to pretend that era didn’t happen. That the New York Yankees didn’t win three consecutive World Series (1998-2000) with a few suspected players on their roster. Or we’re supposed to decide that Craig Biggio was somehow clean, while Sammy Sosa was dirty. It’s ridiculous.
You never hear this debate when it comes to NFL players and their Hall of Fame. Bob Costas doesn’t get teary-eyed when talking about protecting the integrity of a game that has a much deeper history with performance-enhancing drugs. Somehow, baseball deserves better?
Henry Aaron admitted to taking amphetamines during his Hall of Fame career. He wasn’t alone. Does anyone really think Mickey Mantle’s numbers would’ve been as good had he not benefitted from performance-enhancing greenies — a drug with a cute name that is every bit as illegal as steroids?
So on my ballot, Biggio, Sosa, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza got X’s next to their names. I don’t know for sure if any of them used illegal performance-enhancing drugs. I don’t know if any of them are clean. It doesn’t matter. We’ll find out the results Wednesday in the most controversial vote in baseball history.
The nine rules for election in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America package that includes the ballot avoid any discussion of performance-enhancing drugs. The closest the BBWAA comes is No. 5: “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
Many writers are using the mention of “integrity” as their justification in punishing the suspected juicers.
If integrity is the overriding issue, leave them all out.
How much integrity do you have when you know a teammate or opponent is using illegal drugs to get an edge and you don’t speak up?
Tony Gwynn is a Hall of Famer who played during the Steroid Era. Nobody suspects that Gwynn juiced. But Gwynn has one of the sharpest minds in baseball history. He could tell if a pitcher had lost 1 mph on his slider. He knew if a blade of grass wasn’t cut right in the infield. He had to know his teammates and opponents — specifically, his good friend Bonds — were juicing.
Gwynn could’ve blown the whistle on the Steroid Era badboys. He could’ve been a hero for doing the right thing. His voice would’ve been heard.
He kept quiet. To this day.
Integrity? How do you define integrity when it comes to a ballplayer?
Those BBWAA voters who were supposed to have spent at least 10 years in big-league clubhouses know you can’t do that.