Thursday, January 10, 2013

BBWAA: get off your high horse

I don't know about you guys, but I find it pretty rich that so many BBWAA members with votes for the Hall of Fame refused to vote for anyone with the "stain" of steroid use - especially when it was their silence for so many years that allowed a few users to turn into a full-blown "Steroid Era."

Do I agree with the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs? Of course not, but to say they made a mockery of the games and its records is laughable. You know what else made a mockery of longstanding records? The expansions of the regular seasons and postseason: more games results in more chances to break records, while more teams in the playoff field somewhat dilutes the dominance required to set a postseason homerun record.

Baseball is a game of nostalgia. I get it. If you pulled a player out of a 1903 baseball game and put him in a present-day baseball game, it would be nearly the only thing about the present day he would understand, and that's really special. But that's just on the surface of things; there are plenty of things about the game he would NOT understand. Designated hitters, pitch counts, airplane travel, Tommy John surgery, and beerless clubhouses are just a few of the things that would be endlessly confusing for our proverbial baseball original.

Modern players have all kinds of advantages over their predecessors, including but not limited to: full time training staff, laser eye surgery, innovative doctors on the team payroll (I'm looking at you, Curt Schilling - that bloody sock game doesn't happen in 1912), cortisone shots, and more. Even the huge salaries now commonplace in baseball play a role: not being required to work as a ditch digger in the offseason could certainly stave off retirement a few years and strengthen your HoF numbers.

Somehow we came to the conclusion that there are some scientific advantages that baseball players are allowed to utilize, like the aforementioned conditioning programs, cortisone shots, and even surgeries -but PEDs are off limits. And that's an acceptable distinction, since unlike most of the other methods here, steroids destroy your body in the long run.

But it definitely rubs me the wrong way when HoF voters, the very men (and a few women) who were in clubhouses in the nineties, watching as players ballooned up to comic book proportions, who looked the other way, get up on their pedestal and claim they're voting to preserve the sanctity of the Hall. Where were they when players were taking pills and injections and ruining the sanctity of the game? Most were pretending not to see, in order to preserve their clubhouse access and their jobs, which is understandable. But you don't get to do that, and then act like you're somehow baseball's magical savior when you vote to keep the very players you protected with your silence out of the Hall.

It's impossible to prove that anyone who played in that era was clean; Clemens and Bonds had the misfortune of being caught, but there's no saying who was clean and who wasn't. It's unfair to award Hall of Fame votes only to those who somehow escaped public suspicion. After all, perhaps they were just sneakier than those who were caught. I want to see players in the Hall of Fame who were the best of the era, and some of those who were caught were among the best. Anyone interested in baseball enough to visit Cooperstown will understand the Steroid Era numbers must be taken with a grain of salt, just as they understand that it's difficult to compare the Deadball Era to those that came after it.

No matter what the voters decide, there will be players who are unfairly penalized for playing when they did. Some of them will be the rare players that stayed completely clean, and thus unable to compete with the superhuman strength surrounding them. But mostly it's the fans who were cheated: we'll never know who of our favorites was clean and who was using, but the BBWAA has the gall to be all sanctimonious in keeping them out? When it was them looking the other way that sustained the drug abuse in the first place? The whole thing makes me ill.

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