MORRISSEY: Blame dirty MLB players for creating distrust
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org | @MorrisseyCST January 8, 2014 10:18PM
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Updated: January 9, 2014 5:59PM
Sorry, but I’m not sorry.
I’m unapologetic about withholding my Hall of Fame vote from former baseball players who might — might — have been dirty.
I voted for Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Tom Glavine. That’s it. They were the only players elected to the Hall on Wednesday. Why? Because they were great players and because, I suspect, most voters thought they didn’t use performance-enhancing drugs.
Everyone brings different criteria to the voting process. Mine happen to include whether I have even a sliver of suspicion a player might have used PEDs. The ones I’m not sure about don’t get a checkmark next to their names. It’s a subjective, severe and sometimes unfair method.
So I had a big, fat, chemically augmented “no’’ for Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. And I had an agnostic “no,’’ if there is such a thing, for Steroid Era guys such as Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Luis Gonzalez and Jeff Kent.
I can’t emphasize this enough: I’m not sorry about any of it.
Don’t blame me for the people who didn’t get into the Hall. Blame an era. Blame the dirty players (and there were a lot of them) for creating an atmosphere heavy with distrust. Blame Major League Baseball if you think it was either complicit in the Steroid Era or looked the other way. I don’t care.
I get to vote how I want, for whom I want and by whatever yardstick I want. That’s how it works when you walk into a voting booth, isn’t it? You bring in all your experiences, opinions and prejudices. Same thing here.
Ken Gurnick of MLB.com refused to vote for anyone from the Steroid Era. I find that approach excessive, but if I’m crossing off players who might have been cheaters, I can’t turn around and criticize Gurnick for being even more of a true disbeliever. His argument is mine ratcheted up by about 100. It’s my steroids argument on steroids.
I’m certainly not sorry about Sosa, the former Cubs slugger with 609 career home runs and a thick cloud cover of doubts and suspicions over him. Thanks to what he called his “Flintstones vitamins,’’ Sosa stole the show in Chicago from the White Sox’ Thomas in the 1990s, when Big Frank was on that ridiculous hitting tear of his. Consider it payback, Sammy.
I’ve been asked how I can be so sure Thomas didn’t take steroids. The answer, of course, is that I can’t be sure about anyone. But Thomas was always big. He had thick arms and legs when he was a kid and when the Sox called him up in 1990. Take a look at photos of Sosa and Bonds when they debuted and tell me if they look anything like the heavily muscled beasts they became.
I don’t care if Bonds was a Hall of Famer before he started downing pills as if they were Skittles. He brought the game down with him when he began using.
I also don’t care that there has always been cheating in sports.
Maddux could have passed for an average-sized stockbroker as a player, and his fastball was lucky to get above 92 mph during his prime. That tells me — yes, through the thoroughly unscientific eyeball test — that he was clean. It’s all I have to go on.
For Cubs fans, Maddux’s election is another painful reminder of December 1992, when their team allowed him to go to Atlanta as a free agent. He would add three more Cy Young Awards to the one he earned in Chicago. In terms of heartbreaks, it’s probably in the top five for Cubs followers, right up there with the 105 straight years without a World Series title and the Lou Brock trade. If it’s any consolation, at least the heartbreak wasn’t steroid-fueled.
Voting for former players who took drugs legitimizes PED usage. It sends a terrible message to young athletes. I guess that makes me hopelessly unsophisticated. Not sorry about that, either.
And while I’m going about the business of not feeling sorry … I feel not a whit of guilt about having a Hall vote as a journalist and judging someone’s legacy. It’s a little like what I do in my day job as a columnist. There are conflicts of interest everywhere you turn in the media these days. This one, if it is one, would be near the bottom of the conflict scale.
It’s a conflict if I benefit from my vote. I don’t.
Not sorry. About anything.