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Baseball’s Hall of Confusion

Baseball Hall of Fame

Who belongs, who doesn’t?

In a few years the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown will be a mess. Tarnished. Unfair. Disturbingly inconsistent.

There will of course be the core collection of baseball greats, enshrined before the drug scandal exploded. Not entirely angels, as they include spitballers, corked-bat hitters, spike sharpeners, and ball scuffers, whose slap-on-the-wrist punishments weren’t considered disqualifying by baseball writers. Several players from those eras do admit that amphetamines were widely available and used in the clubhouse.

Now, here’s where it gets crazy. Undoubtedly there will be inductees who never would have made it to the Hall without PEDs, but never got caught. Steroids weren’t banned in baseball until 1991, and God knows how long they were used before that. Testing for them didn’t commence until 2003. So there could be a significant number of drug-aided players who were either inducted into Cooperstown or who siphoned off votes they didn’t deserve.

But here’s the real shame. There will almost certainly be honest, drug-free players who may never get in because they were blocked out by players who took PEDs, and did. Or, as mentioned above, were denied precious votes that could have put them over the top.

It’s important to note that players always have a lengthy window of opportunity to use new performance-enhancing drugs before tests are developed for them, and before the league orders and implements the tests. Once the tests are in place, athletes can quickly ditch those drugs and go on to new ones, always staying one step ahead of the enforcers.

Finally, there will be players who could have walked into the Hall of Fame backwards if they had not taken PEDs, like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. But overwhelming evidence indicates they juiced up, and thus, for the foreseeable future, will be denied entry.

The sad part is, we will never really know for sure who in the PED era deserves to be in the Hall and who doesn’t. There will forever be confusion, arguments, accusations, and bitterness associated with this once venerable institution. And brace yourself for even more controversy as players retire and the inevitable tell-all books and articles come out implicating other revered Hall of Fame stars or candidates.

Yes, the Hall of Fame will be a mess. About as credible as a museum that exhibits fake paintings. But has the infiltration of PEDs detracted from the excitement of the game itself and the current pennant races? For me, not a bit. I even find myself perversely rooting for that scoundrel A-Rod to do well before he serves his sentence, especially if he can help power the Yankees to a playoff spot.

How quickly we are given to look the other way in the face of superior talent and performance. Baseball itself did that for decades.

September 14, 2013 • Posted in: Uncategorized

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