A Simple Answer to a Complicated Question

Ultimately, to extent that baseball had a steroid problem, it was a collective failure. Players didn’t say anything, managers looked the other way, ownership and the front office definitely didn’t care, reporters were silent about it, and the fans, oh the fans, well we certainly didn’t care. The more home runs Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and Ken Griffery Jr. and Barry Bonds hit the more tickets me bought at higher and higher prices. We loved the offense, we loved the towering, majestic, bordering on unbelievable bombs we were seeing hit. People crowded into Wrigleyville and McCovey Cove in droves to catch the near murdered baseballs that were being sent there by the dozens, and revenue boomed all across baseball. If you think, in retrospect, that this was all a disgusting display of moral failure, then it’s one we are all responsible for, and seeking to punish individual players for being a part of it is akin to demanding Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig be taken out of the Hall because baseball was segregated during their careers.

But hey, I’m a practical guy, and I realize that I’m in the extreme minority here. Very few people share my level of tolerance for steroid users. And because of that, a lot of them are spending a lot of time trying to figure out what to do with Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa and so on, to say nothing of the Jeff Bagwells who are the unfortunate victims of suspicion and ignorance. Should we err on the side of keeping ‘roiders out, even if it means punishing some innocent players, or should we just vote for anyone we don’t have evidence against, even if it means some juicers inevitably get in? Personally, I see a rather obvious solution to this problem; create some sort of process for removing a player from the Hall of Fame, at least for disciplinary reasons. Jeff Bagwell goes into the Hall and 3 years later it’s proven he used steroids? Put it to some sort of vote to determine whether or the entrusted electorate thinks he should be kicked out of the Hall. This presents some logistical problems, but my guess is it will be relatively rare to see someone kicked out, and it should make the initial voting process easier, as voters won’t necessarily feel like they have to weigh their suspicion against baseball history if they really don’t want steroid users to be enshrined.

And then people like me can concentrate on going to work on the real morons in the media.

About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

41 thoughts on “A Simple Answer to a Complicated Question

  1. I wonder how many of the "steroid police" who are refusing to vote for Bagwell, never mind McGuire and Bonds, voted for Gaylord Perry or would jump at the chance to vote for Pete Rose…

  2. I guess the real question is not how much advantage you gain from steroids compared with amphetamines, which were widely used going back to the 50s if not earlier, but whether all performance enhancements are to be considered equally.

    Also – what is the current status of amphetamines and things like pseudo-ephedrine in MLB? I know in the NHL they had a sudafed problem (a common source of pseudo-ephedrine) several years back and that it's on the list of banned substances at WADA…

  3. That Terrence Moore article is just about the most ridiculous thing ever written. The PED stuff is stupid in the same way that apparently almost every other voter is stupid, but then on top of that he's not voting for Edgar because he couldn't "play baseball like a man." It's just…I'm speechless.

  4. The notion that "for all intents and purposes juicing was completely legal" until 2004 is willfully ignorant. Fay Vincent made it clear to clubs in a 1991 memo that use of illegal drugs by players was not permitted, and he specifically called out steroids in that memo. Just because there was not an effective testing policy until more recently does not mean it was acceptable to cheat.

    Here are some other things that don't get players off the hook: the fact that some (but not all) of their colleagues were also cheating; the fact that cheaters and racists have previously been elected to the Hall of Fame; and the fact that the fans and media turned a blind eye for far too long. There is no value in further lowering the bar for admission to the Hall just because so many mistakes have already been made by the voters, the players, and league officials. We should be trying to improve, not giving up. Please stop making excuses for those who cheated; it's an insult to those who didn't.

  5. I feel I am in the middle in this arguement. I feel bad for the players because I feel that they were encouraged by MLB to use PEDs, and when they got caught MLB pushed them right underneath the bus. With that in mind, I would not with hold a vote fom a player solely because I suspected them of steroid use. Taht being said, if a voter chose to wait for more public information and choose not to vote for a player on the first ballet, I also don't think that is a crazy decision.
    I feel Sandy makes a very complelling argument, but at the same time I do feel that MLB was ore complicit in the usage than Fay Vincent had in mind in his 1991 letter.
    I also, feel that rarely do I see something in print more laughable than Brien's arguement, "(a stupid misnomer, by the way. We don’t actual know with anything close to certainty that these substances actual improve a baseball player’s performance)." I mean, really?
    I will break it down simply, taking something that makes you stronger and faster will help you at sports. The players new it helped, which is why such a high % of them used.

  6. And then people like me can concentrate on going to work on the real morons in the media.

    And the cherry on top. Dude grossly misuses the term "witch-hunt" and in the same article, actually has the nerve to call other people morons.


    Sorry, Brien. You do a good job for the most part. And there is nothing wrong with not caring who used steroids. But stop being…. whats the word, a moron.

  7. I think witch hunt is a valid usage here. It's original meaning stemmed from the Salem Witch Trials, but according to most sources, it has evolved etymologically. It's defined as "an intensive effort to discover and expose disloyalty, subversion, dishonesty, or the like, usually based on slight, doubtful, or irrelevant evidence." This certainly applies in the case of Pearlman vs. Bagwell.

  8. Lou, you can assume if you like that steroid use = increased strength = faster bat speed. It's a fair hypothesis but there's no proof I've seen to support it. Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle may have been unusually strong guys, but the greatest home run hitter in history was Henry Aaron, and he wasn't a particularly big guy (6 feet tall, 180 pounds).

    If you do the research, you'll see that lower-body strength may be more important to hitting home runs than having muscular arms. Some argue that steroids don't help much to improve lower-body strength.

    Generating bat speed is something like generating speed in swinging a golf club. Some of the golf long-hitters are big guys, but not all of them. Remember Tiger Woods as a rookie? Dustin Johnson is one of the longest hitters on Tour, 6'4", 190 lbs.

    I'll still go with my earlier conclusion: on average, steroids help, but probably less than most people think.