Monday, March 28, 2005

Guest Post: Kevin Agee

By Kevin Agee, of Kevin's Royals Blog:

I’m beginning to think the steroids "scandal" in baseball is quickly becoming the sports equivalent of people looking at a car crash. For example, just like we as humans are drawn to insensitively stare at two or more cars in a piled heap and the emotional people involved, baseball fans can’t stop exploring every last aspect of one of the biggest wrecks in the history of professional sports. I’m certainly no exception to that. It’s frustrating, really. Even though I know I shouldn’t look at or write about the issue anymore, I just can’t help but constantly respond to other people’s opinions, especially when I think they’re flat-out wrong.

Thanks to an Associated Press poll that produced some very interesting results, this week’s ‘roids debate has extended to Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds’ chances of making the Hall of Fame. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, the AP sent a survey to every member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, simply asking if he (or she) would vote for McGwire, Bonds, both, or neither in the aftermath of the steroids era. Of the roughly 500 polled, 155 responded. Among those voters, only 55.6 percent said they’d vote for McGwire’s induction, leaving him about 20 percentage points shy of the needed percentage for actual enshrinement. Oddly, Bonds – the poster boy of the issue – received support from 80 percent of the respondents.

A poll such as this one is about as unscientific as a poll can get, especially because about 70 percent of the people who’re going to vote for or against McGwire and Bonds didn’t bother to respond. However, it gives us a sample of the way things might go when McGwire’s eligible for the Hall in 2007. Frankly, it really bothers me that only 55.6 percent of the respondents said they’d support Big Mac making it to Cooperstown.

Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t the thought of McGwire not getting in that makes me angry, it’s the reason why. When he chose to not discuss his past when speaking before The Panel of Lazy Suits at the congressional witch hunt, he instantly became condemned in the court of public opinion, despite a total lack of existing evidence that he used illegal anabolic steroids. To illustrate this, take a peek at what Los Angeles Times writer Bill Plaschke said about McGwire:

"It's obvious from his own statements he used some form of performance-enhancing drugs and it's obvious from his statistics he did not become a Hall of Fame-type player until he did so."

And another quote from Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti:

"He had a chance to help himself, help his sport, a chance to help kids and the parents sitting behind him and he just whiffed," said Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times. "It might as well be a guilt admission."

I don’t completely disagree with either guy, because I can get with the school of thought that McGwire’s reluctance while under oath to deny steroid use looks really, really bad for him. However, at this point, all anybody has on the suspected steroid users – Bonds, McGwire, and Sammy Sosa, among others – is nothing more than suspicion. The only way McGwire’s statements would make it "obvious" he used "some form of performance-enhancing drugs" would be if he said, "I used steroids." And the last time I checked, using his right to invoke the Fifth Amendment in no way makes it "a guilt admission." Again, does it look bad and sound some alarm bells? Yes. However, like everything else involved in this dark cloud that’s threatening our game, we just don’t have enough information to throw accusations at individuals, and we really don’t have enough information to keep a qualified guy out of the Hall. At least not yet.

I’m absolutely protecting the players I grew up watching, just as the geezers in Washington, D.C. are doing whatever they can to ensure that the person who breaks Henry Aaron’s home run record does so cleanly. But what I’m also doing is making sure the players – even those who probably did it – are treated fairly, even in the court of public opinion where, evidently, nothing more than Jose Canseco’s word, big muscles, and a defiant attitude are enough to convict Bonds, McGwire, Jason Giambi, and others of using steroids. Making assumptions is a dangerous, dangerous thing to do. Until we KNOW that McGwire juiced up, he belongs in the Hall of Fame. (end of article)

(Daniel) I will chime in with just this: whatever anyone else thinks, the Hall of Fame is for the best baseball players who have played Major League Baseball. The "Fame" portion of it can be attributed to their stature as figures in baseball history, as well as their contribution on the field, much of which can be measure statistically. Nowhere in that is there a measure of character and morality, each of which would keep someone like Ty Cobb out of the Hall in an instant -- which is worse, the possibility Bonds and McGwire used steroids, which wasn't even illegal, or Cobb, who was a bigot, asshole, and racist for all to see?

If they keep McGwire out of the Hall because of this, then Cobb, and others in the Hall like him, need to be summarily ejected. Otherwise, it's all a sham.

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