Baseball’s Always Had An Asterisk

27barra_ca0-600I’m sick of the holier than thou b.s. around the Hall of Fame, especially after the recent selections of Pudge Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell.

There were many complicit in the Steroid Era, I won’t put this on the players or managers. The fact is that MLB was losing money and I’m basing my comments around their own Capitol Hill testimony.

I remember how back in high school, we’d sit in class yapping all period about who we thought was juicing — guys like The Bash Brothers (Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire), also Ken Caminiti. But, even though we were talking about the sport, baseball nevertheless lagged behind the NFL and NBA, especially in its appeal to kids. Summer leagues and camps for basketball and football were also complicating the choice for youngsters. Black athletes overwhelmingly opted for one of those sports over playing baseball due to craving immediate stardom and endorsement deals.

When my childhood baseball hero The Iron Oriole broke The Iron Horse’s all-time MLB record of 2,130 consecutive games, it brought back many fans who’d abandoned the game. Even more, it captivated audiences that had never before been interested in watching baseball. Unfortunately, baseball lost the momentum afterwards, but made an immediate comeback with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa going on their amazing home run slugfest.

The fans became frenzied about long balls and there were many players delivering them. Also, the quality of pitching during the Steroid Era cannot be shortchanged because there were plenty dominant workhorses throughout the league.

It is my personal belief that The Steroid Era should not be retroactively punished for substances that were legal. Instead, we must embrace this as a period in baseball where guys were playing the game in a  manner that the league knowingly allowed for some odd (flawed) reason.

Regardless of who we happen to be for or against personally, the harsh reality is that you can’t logically justify the levying of any punishment or banishment for infractions that were legal and accepted at the time. Doing so is actually more unethical and immoral.

Yeah, yeah, I understand all of the philosophical b.s. around doing things the right way and serving as an example for kids. But, the fact remains that PEDs were legal.

Like him or not, the statistics show that the pre-PED Barry Bonds had already established Hall Of Fame credentials before he felt pressured to match Big Mac and Sosa. If Bonds had retired at the 1998 season’s conclusion, then his resume would’ve read .288/.409/.559 with 445 home runs, 460 steals, 2010 hits, 1299 RBIs, 3x MVP, 8x all-star, 8 gold gloves. Love him or hate him, those numbers are Hall of Fame worthy indeed, my friend.

That’s why as a fan of Barry Bonds, I was disappointed in him. It’s not like he needed to use anything else to be a great player. I didn’t understand his need to take anything extra. I, like many fans, appreciated him for bringing something that we hadn’t seen — a consistent 30/30 guy who could go 40/40 and had 50/50 potential.

That’s the Barry Bonds that I’d be voting for if I had a Cooperstown ballot. Personally, I think that he deserves the home run crown because of the amount of times he’d been pitched around during his whole career. The fact that he did so much damage despite always being avoided is unreal. Again, quite frankly, that in itself is Hall of Fame worthy. Bonds was drawing an inordinate amount of intentional walks even back in Pittsburgh.

As far as I’m concerned, Bonds should’ve and would’ve finished his career with 900+ home runs if he hadn’t been pitched around so damn much. So, whenever I see an asterisk linked to Bonds, I associate it with all the home runs that Barry lost because so many hurlers and managers were scared of him — even when he was skinny.

Regardless of whether the players from his time were fair or cheats, I must affirm as a fan that I’ll always remember the Steroid Era as being a glorious renaissance for baseball and certainly one worth celebrating.

I’ll never forget the days when my friends and I would rush home from work just to watch a McGwire or Sosa at-bat. Those mashers somehow even made the Home Run Derby cool.

I can’t get rid of all the memories from me hugging friends in a bar when Big Mac hit #62. Clyde’s of Georgetown will always hold a special place in my heart thanks to the chase.

I’ll always remember how we’d wait to see Manny Ramirez bat for Cleveland and how he would show why the broadcasters referred to him as an “Oriole Killer”.

This is a tribute to those days at work when we checked out the box scores and noticed Cami and Bag Pipes hammering pitchers .

This is for all the old school heads who played fantasy baseball with me back when stats were hand-compiled and handwritten using USA Today and Baseball Weekly as references. These Steroid Era critics must be crazy to think that they could asterisk away all of the fun we had playing roto with each slugger’s numbers converted into a NASDAQ-like stock.

Players from the Steroid Era deserve induction if only for the sheer joy they brought us while setting records on enhancements that were routinely ignored by those in power. Attendance and ticket sales were the driving force, plus they help fuel media contracts.

Those enhancements created a home run culture. I question whether any of the numbers throughout baseball history are truly as sacred as anti-PED whiners are making them out to be. Furthermore, it’s ludicrous to bitch about the honesty and integrity of a sport whose roots are in racial discrimination.

Before Jackie Robinson, the records that comprise baseball’s fabled history were all amassed while black ballplayers weren’t allowed in the league. Regardless of your politics, that isn’t a proud leg to stand on. It’s a time period that’s just as dirty as the Steroid Era.

There’s an assumption that people tend to make about Jackie Robinson where they assume that he was the best black ballplayer available at the time. But, he wasn’t.

Jackie Robinson wasn’t even considered among the best Negro League baseball players prior to being signed to an MLB contract. But, despite there being other Negro Leaguers with a much higher star profile than Robinson, he nevertheless went onto win Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player as a Major Leaguer.

My question is: “If Robinson achieved this despite being just average in the Negro Leagues, then how many Negro Leaguers would be in Cooperstown if Jim Crow hadn’t denied them the right to play MLB alongside whites?”

So, spare me with the garbage about needing to protect Cooperstown’s integrity when it’s been tarnished for a while.

Jim Crow’s influence on the game has led me to question the validity, integrity, and ethics of all pre-Robinson Era stats (because how different would the game have been if the best Negro Leaguers been allowed to play in MLB since Day One). Not having black players degraded the difficulty and competitive spirit of the league itself.

But, that’s never stopped me from viewing Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, and Lou Gehrig as amazing. I’d want them in the Hall of Fame nevertheless because players didn’t make the Jim Crow laws back then anymore than players made PED policy in the Steroid Era.

So, really, WTF is everybody else’s problem? Get over yourselves.

I want this insanity around the Steroid Era to stop. Vote those guys in. They deserve it. Otherwise, either remove every pre-Robinson Era baseball player from the Hall of Fame or give them all an asterisk. Don’t be hypocrites.

The last time I checked, PEDs weren’t giving anybody superior hand-eye coordination regardless of the extra distance and physical health they seem to be affording. You can use enhancers, but they aren’t gonna put your bat on the damn ball.

With or without PEDs, a hitter is gonnabe a hitter and a pitcher is gonnabe a pitcher.

It’s time for Clemens and Bonds to be allowed in the Hall. But, that’s just my 2 cents.

One comment

  • I have been a rant about the “chemical McCarthysim” about the silliness in the hysteria about steroids. I’ve got a host of reasons for that I’ve written about time and time again, but the big one is I’m not enough of a self-appointed moralist to deem one form of cheating better or worse than another. And let’s be honest, whether you’re corking bats, doctoring balls, or stealing signs, baseball is a game built on cheating.

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