If there’s one thing I use Twitter for (besides trying to be funny or being sarcastic), it’s to keep up with the latest news in sports. Recently, baseball writers have been posting about what players they are voting for (or would vote for) to get into the Hall of Fame. Yet again, it seems clear that players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, etc. won’t be any where close to the votes needed. And to that I ask, why?
I had a brief discussion over Twitter with one writer who posted up his ballot. By no surprise, the players I listed above were not getting his vote. I quickly mentioned him asking, no Bonds or Clemens? He quickly responded that he doesn’t vote for known steroid users.
I’ve had this same discussion (you can call it a debate) several times. In my final year of college, I took a sports media class where I discussed this same thing with my classmates. Our teacher asked who supported guys like Clemens and I was stunned to find I was one of the few people who raised their hands. I always felt most people were on my side, or maybe I just have been ignoring the signs.
Anyways, my classmates were suddenly like every sports writer I despised. How? Why? You are denying some of the best players to ever play the game. The people around me brought up the fact they cheated or how they were just complete jerks, neither of which I could deny. After all, steroids were illegal. And yes, those guys were basically jerks. However, to me, that argument is nearsighted.
I responded to the writers’ tweet by asking how he can blame the players for what baseball let slide. Again, he quickly responded saying that he wasn’t setting blame and that he was going by the “Hall’s” standards of integrity and sportsmanship. To this I quickly threw my hand to my face in shock, disgust and sadness. It was like my classroom all over again. I didn’t respond back to his tweet, but I sat there thinking for quite some time. Why don’t people see what I see? What I should say is, why doesn’t the majority?
Supporting steroids isn’t on my agenda. What is on my agenda is defending those players who are being cast off by the very people who ignored steroids in the first place. Owners, Bud Selig, and yes, even you journalists all deserve more credit for the steroid era than the players do.
The steroid era is different from now. There isn’t an excuse for getting caught with steroids now, but in the past, there was. While the drug was illegal, there was no punishment or testing. I was having this discussion with a friend once. He was (and probably still is) with the majority of writers and my classmates. I brought up taking a test in school. Right now, if you had to go sit in a classroom and take a test and you cheated, what would happen? You would get an automatic F, right? Well, let’s say the teacher says,”Hey you guys won’t get in trouble for cheating.” Even though it’s still morally wrong, how many of you would cheat? Maybe you’re thinking, “I want to earn my grades.” Let’s say you’re already failing the class. Or maybe you’re so close to that 4.0 that gets you a full ride to your dream school. Want to cheat now? Let’s also remember that a school can’t accept everyone. A few other kids in your class may also want to go to your dream school. You look over and they decided to cheat because, hey, they won’t get in trouble. How about now, thinking about it?
Let’s put this into baseball terms, shall we? Selig says, ” Steroids are illegal, but we won’t punish you if you take them.” A couple players in the locker room decide to start using. They know their performance will improve. Winning games would be like getting that 4.0 GPA, and you know what that dream school would be? A multi-million dollar contract.
One thing I notice when I have this discussion is that I get the same response. Whether it’s my classmates, friends or whoever, people tend to understand what I’m saying and even agree, but still they say no. Do they just feel they’re supposed to say no? That’s what it seems to me. They take the word steroids and see nothing else, which is nearsighted.
Baseball players were improving themselves to make millions of dollars. Some of you may have cheated just to get into the college you wanted. These players had the pressures of the entire public watching their every moves. The contracts some of them would ultimately sign was enough to set their grandchildren up for life.
Let me reiterate that I do not think taking steroids is acceptable anymore. However, the 1990’s were a time in baseball where steroids ran the game. We loved watching Sammy Sosa and McGwire chase down and pass Babe Ruth, then again with Bonds. Baseball did not police this. Writers did not write about it. It was ignored by all, and now 10 years later people want them punished.
Baseball also wants us to take this seriously, but they haven’t really proven so. Suspending players involved in biogenesis doesn’t prove that either. Punishing a player 50 games for cheating well after the steroid era has ended is not acceptable. Players don’t even lose their stats for cheating. Melky Cabrera almost won the batting title after getting suspended. Good going, baseball.
I remember Curt Schilling told a story on ESPN about how, at a baseball meeting in the early 90’s (probably MLBPA meeting or something), someone stood up and asked what to do about the steroid problem in the sport. Whoever stood up was told to sit down and shut up.
Baseball went through some tough times in the 90’s. There was a strike in 1994 and ratings were down, and McGwire and Sosa became saviors of the sport, as ratings saw increases. There are already known cheaters and “jerks” in the Hall of Fame already. It’s great that people want a clean game, but punishing players for something no one cared about is awful.
I want to end this story on saying that baseball writers aren’t the moral police. They were there covering every game for years and they spent time in the locker room — their eyes had to see something. Not to mention that these writers really have no way of telling who took steroids is also a big problem. Not every player needs to gain 50 pounds of muscle. Many players took human growth hormone as an alternative.
Follow me on Twitter: @Mike_Cif