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Friday, April 08, 2005

Baseball: Steroids, Asterisks and Denying Admittance to Cooperstown 

So two-thirds of Americans think steroid users in baseball should be denied entrance into the Hall of Fame. Has anyone stopped to think how ludicrous that is?

I'm so sick of hearing about steroids that I want to watch ballgames with the sound off. In a sport that has seen a fixed World Series, multiple strikes/lockouts, and institutionalized segregation -- for the better part of a half-century, no less -- you want to tell me that Barry Bonds is the worst thing to ever happen baseball?

The quest for a competitive advantage has always hung as a skeleton in baseball's closet. Steroids might take that to the next level, but juicers aren't the first group of ballplayers that have sought an edge on the diamond.

How many pitchers doctored the ball on their way to Cooperstown? Gaylord Perry is the most glaring example, but it would be naive to think he's the only one. And how many HOF sluggers ever used a corked bat? According to Bill James in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, the greatest ballplayer of all time probably did. Yeah, Babe Ruth, as good as he was, most likely cheated on occasion.

Anyone want to remove Perry or Ruth from the Hall?

Besides, Bonds and Mark McGwire were HOF-bound before they broke home run records. And even if they used steroids to help reach loftier heights, there's nothing conclusive that says they wouldn't have amassed those numbers anyway.

Then there's the equally asinine argument that steroid-aided records should include asterisks. MLB.com columnists Mike Bauman dismisses that notion.

But while we're on the subject of the asterisk in the record book, there are some records that I would like to see accompanied by asterisks. Those records would include every one set before the year 1947.

This is how the asterisk would go in the record book:

*This record was set when only a portion of the population was allowed to play Major League Baseball.

I like that. It's clean, it's crisp, it makes the point. While we're going over the records of anybody and everybody who might have juiced, we ought to take a longer look at an era when injustice was an everyday occurrence.
Damn straight.

You want to talk about cheating? The real victims of cheating are the Satchell Paiges and Josh Gibsons, not Joe Sixpack, who rails against ballplayers with his houlier-than-thou indignance.

Steroids aren't a scandal. They're an ugly by-product that stems from a will to win -- the same will that has reared its head time and time again in game's past. Sure baseball would be better without them, and hopefully their influence will wane under the new steroids policy. But the incessant moaning about steroids has gotten out of control. Juicing is no bigger a balckeye in this game's histrory than a half-dozen other problems, and it's time people realized that.


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