Archive for the 'Steroids' Category

Aaron’s 755 looks safe for now

Henry Aaron has been largely silent as Barry Bonds zeroes in on his home run record.

While he praised Selig for doing the right thing in appointing an investigation into steroids in baseball, he guardedly said he would congratulate Bonds if Barry were reach 756. “I wouldn’t say anything, just ‘God Bless You,'” Aaron said to the Associated Press. Can you really blame him for this reservation?

During his run at Ruth’s record in the 1970s, Aaron was on the receiving end of a lot of racist backlash. Now, thirty years later, Bonds is suffering in the eyes of the public but for vastly different reasons. Aaron’s treatment reflected the strain of race relations in the United States. Bonds’ treatment shows what happens in the court of public opinion to someone who may have cheated. While Bonds tries to play the race card, fans are hesitant at best to embrace his pursuit of the record because of his close ties to the BALCO court case and baseball’s current steroid scandal.

For Aaron, Bonds’ pursuit must be something to watch because these two players, while both immensely talented, have put together vastly different career profiles. Bonds, now famous for his late-career resurgence, has always been a flashy player. He made enemies in Pittsburgh with the Pirates’ management and took to calling Andy Van Slyke the Great White Hope because Slyke was better paid and more well-liked them him.

But for his attitude and talk, Bonds has been miles better than any other player in baseball even when you don’t consider his home runs. He won Gold Gloves seven times out of eight years in the 1990s. He won three MVP awards in the early 1990s and four so far in the twenty-first century. He’s topped 500 stolen bases and has over 2700 career hits.

While Bonds has put up gaudy totals in spurts while maintaining an overall level of excellence, Aaron was consistently at the top of his game from 1955 until 1973…

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One week later, Selig rushing to Mitchell’s defense

The Steroid Investigation/Mitchell Commission is less than one week old, but already, Bud Selig is rushing to the defense of his chosen investigator George Mitchell.

Since naming Mitchell the lead on what many view as an important but symbolic attempt to clean up the sport, Selig has come under fire for appointing an insider to investigate an inside problem. Mitchell is a director of the Boston Red Sox and chairman of the Disney Corporation. Disney owns ESPN which is one of baseball’s best business partners. The sports network is also airing a reality show following Barry Bonds, the eye of the steroid storm, as he nears 714 and 755.

Yesterday, speaking in Chicago after giving the White Sox players their World Series rings, Selig tried to deflect the growing groundswell of criticism. “It’s important for somebody who understands what I call the morays of culture of this sport as well as he does. That helps in the investigation. That doesn’t hurt it,” Selig said to the Associated Press.

And right there is the problem with this investigation. One of the many characterizations of baseball throughout the steroid scandal has been of an insular culture that protects their own. The owners, long complacent in the Steroid Era, will not hang their multimillion-dollar investments out to dry. The Players Union won’t throw out any of their members as sacrificial lambs. The culture is one of secrecy, camaraderie and mutual protection.

So along comes Bud, saying that Mitchell understands “the morays of the culture of this sport.” It’s those morays that got baseball in trouble in the first place. Now, Selig is citing those morays as a rationale for appointing an insider to head up the investigation.

Selig continued the defense of Mitchell. “He has complete autonomy. He wouldn’t have taken this without complete autonomy. I mean the fact that we’re friends had nothing to do with it,” Selig said. “He doesn’t come back and talk to me. I don’t want to hear from him. And he can do whatever he wants with whomever he wants. So I don’t know how anybody could have more independence than Sen. Mitchell.”

This is just getting worse for Selig. In two paragraphs, he has managed to destroy any notion of an independent investigation in my mind. The worst way to convince your critics that the investigation you appointed is autonomous is by calling him a friend of yours. But there goes Bud: “I mean the fact that we’re friends has nothing to do with.” Whatever you say, Bud.

Furthermore, Selig also doesn’t want to hear from Mitchell. Well, if I had just appointed a blue ribbon panel to investigate damaging charges of steroid use in the sport of which I’ve been in charge for the last decade and a half, I would probably want to hear about the investigation. Not Bud though.

Maybe he doesn’t want to hear about the investigation because he already knows what Mitchell will find. As an owner and then the commissioner of the sport, I’m sure Selig knew what was going on behind closed doors.

In the end, this investigation is nothing more than a symbolic gesture. Selig had to respond to the charges leveled against the game in Game of Shadows. He did so by appointing a hardcore insider to investigate a game with which he quite familiar. Mitchell may uncover some drug use that would surprise no one, but to level any kind of suspension based on the information found in Mitchell’s investigation, Selig would have to be willing to risk fighting the Players Union in a labor year. He won’t risk damaging the game’s reputation.

It would have been better if Selig could have appointed someone more neutral. But in reality, there was nothing he could do about it. Maybe Mitchell really will expose a huge drug subculture. But no one will be too surprised if he does. Hopefully, we can look ahead to a season and a sport without steroids and without amphetamines and recognize that as damaging as the last few years have been, the game will go on cleaner and more popular than ever. Now if only Selig would find someone other than his friend to name to the investigation.

2006 Preview: The drug scandal that just won’t go away

This is Part Four of my 2006 season preview. Today, I’ll examine the ongoing steroid scandal and recently announced investigation. So far, this week, I’ve looked at the hapless Royals, the troubled Nationals, and the defending World Champion Chicago White Sox. On Monday, I’ll have fun but pointless predictions for you.

Following the winter of discontent, Bud Selig shocked nobody today in announcing that former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell will be heading up an investigation into illegal drug use in Major League Baseball.

While this announcement had been rumored since excerpts of the damning Game of Shadows hit the pages of Sports Illustrated a few weeks ago, many aspects of this investigation bear watching. Only time will tell if Mitchell’s efforts will amount to a true attempt at cleaning up the game or a witch hunt directed at Barry Bonds as he homers his way passed Babe Ruth and toward Hank Aaron.

From the get-go, this investigation has the touch of an insider effort from the ownership and the Commissioner’s Office. While a formidable investigator, George Mitchell is hardly an impartial observer. Mitchell is a director of the Boston Red Sox. His name falls right below that of Larry Lucchino’s on the masthead.

Already, the investigation has the potential for controversy. Will Mitchell out someone on the Red Sox? During the Thursday press conference, Mitchell said he would investigate the Red Sox as he will every other team.

Meanwhile, baseball’s investigative mandate is wrought with conflict. First, Selig, in announcing the investigation, declined to mentioned Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield or Jason Giambi by name. Rather, he noted that there had been “an alleged relationship between certain players and BALCO defendant, Greg Anderson. A recent book has amplified the allegations and raises ethical issues that must be confronted head-on.”

But just how head-on will baseball be confronted this issue? Well, the adhere to the “it wasn’t against the rules before 2002” argument which I’ll address in a minute, Selig has limited the scope of the investigation. “I have asked Senator Mitchell to attempt to determine, as a factual matter, whether any Major League players associated with BALCO or otherwise used steroids or other illegal performance enhancing substances at any point after the substances were banned by the 2002 – 2006 collective bargaining agreement,” he said. “The goal is to determine facts, not engage in supposition, speculation, rumor or innuendo.”

Already, the investigation seems a little toothless. If what Game of Shadows, Howard Bryant’s Juicing the Game and Jose Canseco’s book all contain bits and pieces of the truth, then steroids were a problem in baseball long before the testing program began in 2002. In fact, this witch hunt doesn’t even touch Bonds’ 73-home run season. But there is an “unless.”

“It may be that conduct before the effective date of the 2002 Basic Agreement will prove helpful in reaching the necessary factual determinations,” Selig said. “And, if the Senator so concludes, he will investigate such earlier conduct as well. Indeed, should Senator Mitchell uncover material suggesting that the scope of the investigation needs to be broader, he has my permission to expand the investigation and to follow the evidence wherever it may lead.”

So now it’s getting interesting. Mitchell could potentially uncover a trail of steroid use stretching back to the late 1980s. And that investigation could find evidence of this steroid use by simply opening up a very good book. Howard Bryant detailed steroid use in baseball going back to the late 1980s and Jose Canseco’s arrival in Oakland. If Mitchell and his fellow investigators happen to crack open a copy of Juicing the Game, would that count as “uncover[ing] material suggesting that the scope of the investigation needs to be broader”? I would have to say yes.

So with something of a carte blanche from Commissioner Bud Selig, something no investigator has been granted since John Dowd went after Pete Rose, how did Mitchell respond? Well, he started off his investigation by, um, asking nicely for players to cooperate with him. “I invite those who believe they have information relating to the use of steroids and other illegal performance enhancing drugs by Major League baseball players to come forward with that information so that it might be considered in the context of all of the evidence. I further request full cooperation from all those we contact who might have relevant information,” he said.

There you have it, folks. The man in charge of baseball’s grand steroid investigation didn’t even say please. My parents would be quite disappointed. It is the magic word, after all.

So Mitchell has announced the start of his inquiry by asking if anyone, any member in that infamously frigid and unyielding Players’ Union, will come forward and implicate their teammates or fellow union members. He also hopes that those he contacts will be helpful. I hope $1 million shows up on my door step in the morning, but I’m not expecting too. It’s called wishful thinking, and it’s not going to get Mitchell anywhere.

Meanwhile, those on the field had the chance to respond to the start of the investigation. During an interview today on the NBC Nightly News, Joe Torre wondered whether or not the investigation would do anything other than bring names out into the public. He said players could not be suspended because steroid use wasn’t against the rules until 2002.

Now, as a Yankee fan, I’ve always respected Torre, but I am sick of this line of reasoning. Sure, steroid use may not have been explicitly against the Major League Baseball rules. However, it was illegal. As one of the many pieces I read about this today said (and sorry I do not have a link right now), if a runner murdered the second baseman, would that be ok with those in baseball? It’s not explicitly written in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that it’s not okay to murder your opponents. Granted, that’s a little extreme, but the point remains.

So now baseball not only has to deal with the fallout from Game of Shadows and the ongoing federal investigation into Bonds’ finances and a potential perjury charge, but the sport has to face its own internal investigation that is already rife with controversy. Adding to that is the distinct possibility that Barry Bonds will have passed Babe Ruth on the home run list by the middle of May.

It’s a tough time for baseball when Bud Selig, the champion of celebrating everything, would not commit to a celebration of Barry Bonds were he to pass Ruth and Aaron this season. As the 2006 season approaches, baseball fans seem destined for another year when the off-field soap opera matches the on-field drama of a hot pennant race. This too shall pass.

Breaking News: Bud Selig announces steroid investigation headed by George Mitchell

The following is a live blog of the press conference announcing the steroid investigation. For my analysis of the anouncement and the investigation, please click here.

I’m watching Bud Selig’s press conference. He is talking about former Senator George Mitchell’s upcoming investigation into steroid use in Major League Baseball. As many of us following the sport feared, it will be a largely toothless investigation.

Playing off of the BALCO case as well as Game of Shadows, Selig is ordering Mitchell and his team to investigate illegal steroid use since the Collective Bargaining agreement went into place in 2002. This is no witch hunt for Barry Bonds and others who may have been juicing throughout the 1990s.

Rather, this is Selig trying to rectify and correct the loopholes from the original bargaining agreement. What will happen when Mitchell’s paper trail and interviews turn up THG or hGH use among baseball players? Who knows?

As Mitchell is saying right now, “Our mission is together facts not conjecture.” He wants to give everyone “a fair opportunity to be heard.” At the same time, Mitchell will have carte blanche to conduct his investigation.

Mitchell is requesting full cooperation for his investigation, but I’m sure he’ll counter a lot of opposition within clubhouses to his questioning.

On to the Q and A…

The questioners just asked Mitchell about his ties to the Red Sox. The Senator says he will investigate the Red Sox as he would any team.

Selig is now facing a question about his resignation. Should he resign, asked one of the reporters, and Selig is criticizing revisionist historians. He is, as Howard Bryant’s book made clear, promoting his testing programs. He is proclaiming the success of the program and the Minor League tests in place for the past six years.

Bud is now answering questions about the timing of the investigation. A reporter noted that the material was the same as that published in the Chronicle articles about BALCO. Selig says this information is much more specific.

Mitchell is being asked as a fan about steroids in baseball. “It is a serious issue that needs to be confronted,” he said. That’s not very groundbreaking.

Another reporter just asked if it would be better to focus on the future rather than trying to clean up something that’s already happened. Selig is avoiding the question while taking about a UCLA program baseball is funding for steroid testing development and hGH awareness. “We will continue to stay ahead of the curve,” he says.

Selig says the information collected by Senator Mitchell will be public. Unlike the original rounds of testing in 2002, this information will be public. Is it a witch hunt to out people or an attempt to clean up the sport?

Last question: Will there be a celebration of Barry Bonds as he approaches Ruth and Aaron? Interestingly, Selig is non-committal here. He says that he will come to that when the time arrives. I guess they will wait to see what Mitchell’s findings are.

That’s it for the press conference. I’ll analyze this later.

Update 4:20 p.m.: Let me clarify one point that I didn’t pick up on during the press conference: Mitchell is authorized to investigate steroid use from 2002 to the present. If he finds evidence supporting illegal drug use, he can extend his investigation backwards in time. Here’s what Selig said:

“I have asked Senator Mitchell to attempt to determine, as a factual matter, whether any Major League players associated with BALCO or otherwise used steroids or other illegal performance enhancing substances at any point after the substances were banned by the 2002 – 2006 collective bargaining agreement. The goal is to determine facts, not engage in supposition, speculation, rumor or innuendo.

“It may be that conduct before the effective date of the 2002 Basic Agreement will prove helpful in reaching the necessary factual determinations and, if the Senator so concludes, he will investigate such earlier conduct as well. Indeed, should Senator Mitchell uncover material suggesting that the scope of the investigation needs to be broader, he has my permission to expand the investigation and to follow the evidence wherever it may lead.”

More later.

Book Review: Juicing the Game scorches the baseball universe

Steroids are baseball’s problem that just won’t go away. But like any major ongoing news story, it’s hard to jump into the steroid fray in the middle and understand the current state of affairs.

Enter Howard Bryant and his masterful book Juicing the Game: Drugs, Power, and the Fight for the Soul of Major League Baseball. Originally published last July, Bryant’s thorough and scathing overview of the steroid scandal hit the paperback shelves recently complete with a new epilogue that updates the tale.

Bryant’s book is covered in quotations praising his writing and his research. As the writers at The Hardball Times noted, “This is the definitive history of Major League Baseball over the past fifteen years.” In producing this authoritative tome, Bryant left no stone unturned.

He provides a more-or-less chronological account of baseball since the late 1980s. He begins with Bud Selig awaiting his Congressional appointment last March, and the story unfolds as a flashback. We hear of collusion deals and cocaine suspensions. We hear of Jose Canseco’s steroid boasts in 1988 and Tony La Russa’s ongoing hypocrisy and cover-ups.

In detailing the rise of steroid use in Major League Baseball, Bryant points to a few sources, all of which combined to create a culture of secrecy and near tolerance for performance enhancing drugs in baseball. Taking into account the hit baseball took from the strike in 1994-1995, the renaissance of baseball coinciding with the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa Home Run Derby in 1998, the drive for more offensively oriented baseball, and the culture of protection and secrecy surrounding the clubhouse, Bryant weaves a narrative of, as the book suggests, the soul of baseball.

While there is no need to rehash the entire novel, I want to take a look at a few people who come out the worst in Bryant’s tale. First among them are Bud Selig and Donald Fehr, the two Generals in the never-ending battle of baseball labor rules. Selig comes off at times as grandstanding, ignorant, too aware, ineffectual and weak on the drug issue. While Selig originally knew about steroids in the early 1990s and wanted to put a drug testing policy on the table in 1994, he knew it would get him nowhere.

Throughout the tale we are left to wonder what Selig knew and when. Bryant’s point seems to be that, until Selig met the father of a teen who committed suicide in the midst of steroid-induced depression, his postures on drug use in baseball were just that. He wasn’t really going to search too hard for the truth about steroids in baseball, and when he learned the truth, he was quick to do nothing. His drug testing plans came about only in the face of severe public pressure, and while he claims he was interested in the issue for a decade, his inactions speak louder than his actions.

On the other side of the table is Donald Fehr, the lawyer in charge of the Players’ Association. Fehr, living in the shadows of the legendary Marvin Miller, has handled this issue with the skill and aplomb of, well, Bud Selig. He is the great obstructionist, not listening to the union members clamoring for a drug testing deal while professing an innocence that doesn’t exist. As Selig as commissioner seems to be looking out for the owners’ best interest, Fehr guards the players and their vaunted privacy ever so closely. No one is watching out for the game’s best interest.

On the field and in the dugout, it’s hard to find a more damning character than Tony La Russa. As I noted earlier this week, La Russa was one of the Steroid Era’s great enablers. It’s clear from La Russa’s more recent comments that he knew about Jose Canseco’s steroid use as early as 1988. Yet, he did nothing about it. He could have alerted General Manager Sandy Alderson about potential illegal drug use. But as a manager he wouldn’t break the code and throw his best slugger to the dogs.

Considering what he knew about Canseco, he must know volumes about Mark McGwire. But he remains steadfast in his defense of McGwire to the point of indirectly incriminating himself. As the book details the Canseco revelations, La Russa original says he knew nothing about drug use. Then, when Canseco points a finger at McGwire, the darling of Tony La Russa’s managerial career, La Russa changes his story. He knew Canseco was juicing, he says, because the slugger told him so himself. Once again, we meet a figure who knew about the drug problem and did nothing to stop it.

Finally, we see the same old people with the same old problems. There is Jose Canseco becoming a baseball pariah and an unlikely source of fact – or half-facts at least – for the steroid era. There is Mark McGwire not wanting to talk about the past. There is the embattled Barry Bonds denying anything under the sun. There is Sammy Sosa fading away, and Rafael Palmeiro flaming out.

These tales, fleshed out and with background, are nothing new. Bryant presents them within the context of the period, and he connects the dot. For someone looking to understand what went wrong with baseball in the late 1990s, this book is the place to start and end. While I eagerly await my copy of Game of Shadows, for now, Bryant’s tale provides all you need to know about steroids in baseball.

Despite this glowing praise, I do however find some fault in the new epilogue. Bryant, writing the epilogue last winter, tries too hard to wrap up a story that he knows is not over. Throughout the pages that appeared in hardcover, Bryant’s many sources said over and over again that the steroid scandal was far from over. Yet, the epilogue tries too hard to find baseball’s hidden redemption. Who saved baseball from the Steroid Era?

As the recent revelations about Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, and others reveal, baseball’s redemption is not yet at hand. The sport is still coming to grips with the social, cultural, political, and legal ramifications of the tumultuous Steroid Era. When the dust finally settles – and that won’t happen any time soon – Bryant may yet need to pen another epilogue for his damning indictment of professional baseball.

Howard Bryant’s tale of steroids in baseball Juicing the Game is available at a bookstore near you or from your favorite online bookseller.

La Russa one the era’s great enablers

Opinion on the Steroid Era is decidedly mixed among baseball fans of all stripes. Some fans feel that the whole scandal is an overblown story and won’t matter until it can be determined just what effect steroids had on the statistics of the era.

Others see the steroid scandal as a breach of trust between players and fans. They see not a conspiracy, per se, but an organizational failure that runs from the players to coaches to front offices to the Commissioner’s Office to the beat writers and national media. I fall in this camp.

While I haven’t become any less of a fan because of the steroid scandal, I am not at all willing to dismiss out of hand because players cheated in the past (spitballs, home-field mounds, etc.) or because the numbers have yet to prove a conclusive link between steroids and performance. I say, look harder and look at what steroids do. They aid recovery time; they energize. The drugs contribute to more than just brute strength.

Currently, I’m reading Howard Bryant’s excellent book on the Steroid Era called Juicing the Game. First published last spring, the book, with a new epilogue, came out in paperback a few weeks ago. I’ll be reviewing it as soon as I’m done.

In the book, Bryant doesn’t hold back. While some commentators have tried to blame Bud Selig or the owners of the players’ union, Bryant blames everyone. In tracing the origins of the steroid scandal, he arrives back at the Oakland Athletics from the late 1980s. With the Bash Brothers leading the way, these A’s were a force in the American League.

Of course, Bryant spends a lot of time discussing Jose Canseco’s role and open talk of the steroid scandal. He also mentions Tony La Russa in less than flattering terms. The truth is that, while a well respected manager, Tony La Russa has been one of the greatest enablers of the Steroid Era.

In the late 1980s, baseball had a probable cause clause in terms of drug testing. If a front office believed a player was taking a substance in violation of the law, they could mandate a drug test. While Sandy Alderson in the A’s front office never took that step, Tony La Russa, the A’s manager, protected his players at all costs.

According to Bryant, La Russa knew in 1988 that Canseco was doing steroids. In a pattern that would repeat itself for nearly two decades, La Russa did less than nothing: he actively came to the defense of Canseco. La Russa berated beat writers who dared to write about Canseco’s steroid use.

Ten years later, La Russa would do the same thing with Mark McGwire. When McGwire was in the midst of his 70-home run season, a writer for the Associated Press, Steve Wilstein, found and wrote about a bottle of Androstenodione in McGwire’s locker. While Andro, under DSHEA, is not classified as a steroid, medical authorities conceded that it is a steroid. It stimulates testosterone production in much the same way that an anabolic steroid does.

At the time, Andro was not illegal in baseball. However, it did not look good that one of the faces of the game was using the drug in the middle of a record-setting season. La Russa once again came to the defense of his All Star. La Russa accused Wilstein of violating McGwire’s privacy and barred the writer from the locker room. While many in baseball rushed to McGwire’s defense, La Russa was there standing next to him.

This pattern has continued over the last 12 months as McGwire’s accomplishments have come under scrutiny from Congress. Last March, nearly one year ago, La Russa was quick to defend McGwire after the Congressional hearings. La Russa claimed that McGwire had bad legal advice, that he left himself open to criticism, that he wasn’t coached properly.

Now, La Russa is still standing by McGwire. While he has shunned Canseco since Jose’s book came out, he still maintains McGwire’s innocence. In an article last week in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, La Russa still defends McGwire:

La Russa, who maintains McGwire strengthened himself legally under supervision of current Cardinals first base coach Dave McKay, Thursday wished for a player of stature to assume the role McGwire pledged himself for last March.

“I have long felt, and still do, there are certain players who need to publicize the legal way to get strong,” La Russa insisted. “That’s my biggest complaint. When those players have been asked, they’ve been very defensive or they’ve come out and said ‘Whatever.’ Somebody should explain that you can get big and strong in a legal way. If you’re willing to work hard and be smart about what you ingest, it can be done in a legal way.”

Added La Russa: “That’s the basis of why I felt so strongly about Mark. I saw him do that for years and years and years. That’s why I believe it. I don’t have anything else to add. Nothing has happened since he made that statement to change my mind.”

Still, 18 years after Canseco’s steroid use became the most obvious secret in Major League Baseball, La Russa is still standing beside his favorites. As a manager and former player, Tony La Russa knows what’s happens in the clubhouse. He knows how players get big and what they use. But he still protects his favorites. He is, in other words, an enabler.

As long as people in baseball are overly protective of their players, we’ll never see a clean culture. While I do not expect people like La Russa to throw players like McGwire to the dogs, at some time, enough is enough. I don’t think La Russa should be so vehement in his defense of McGwire. It’s time for baseball to clean up its act, and it starts with those inside the game who are acting as enablers.

Fans divided on Bonds and the Hall of Fame

The fans have spoken, and, well, for now, let’s leave the Hall of Fame voting to the Hall of Fame voters.

According to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll, 49 percent of fans surveyed think Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame while 52 percent think Bonds’ records should be taken away.

While these numbers are within the poll’s five-percent margin of error, I have to wonder: If Bonds’ records are taken away, what are his Hall of Fame qualifications? All around nice guy? Mr. Baseball? Not exactly. I guess the 49 percent who think he should be in the Hall aren’t among the 52 percent who want his records erased.

Meanwhile, these numbers are down from last summer when 57 percent believed Bonds should be in the Hall. Again, I’m left wondering: What changed? In my opinion, nothing.

As The Onion aptly pointed out last week, everyone who has ever watched a baseball game knows that Barry Bonds’ body has changed drastically over the last eight years. At an age when he should have been on the decline of his career, Bonds somehow topped every single season home run record known to baseball fans and is well on his way toward 756.

A year ago, everyone knew Bonds’ production wasn’t natural; they focused on the lack of concrete evidence. Now that two authors have synergized the evidence that was largely available last year and put in an easy-to-digest Sports Illustrated form, the majority of fans will no longer accept Bonds. While I am no defender of Bonds, public opinion sure can be fickle.

This Bonds controversy ties in nicely with another issue floating around the Internet. It’s the age-old debate on who should vote for the Hall of Fame. A few weeks ago, the unfortunately named Peter Schmuck, president of the Baseball Writers Association of America, penned a column in defense of the BBWAA’s Hall of Fame voting. While many newspapers do not allow their writers to vote for awards, Schmuck concluded that the writers should keep on voting:

The Baltimore Sun and several other major newspapers have decided that they would prefer to have their employees simply cover the news and let someone else make the newsworthy decisions on who should win certain awards or gain induction in the Hall of Fame.

I accede to that authority, but I believe that the baseball writers charged with voting on the postseason awards are uniquely qualified to render those decisions while still meeting the ethical standards of the journalistic profession.

I feel even more strongly that the BBWAA is the proper body to choose the inductees for the most revered of the various professional sports halls of fame.

In short, it’s a difficult job, but there is no one better qualified to do it.

Needless to say, those of us who didn’t like seeing Bartolo “Wins” Colon walk away with a Cy Young last season were nonplused, to say the least. Over at Armchair GM, a new Wiki-baseball site, Dan Lewis issued a rebuttal in the form of an open letter to Schmuck. Lewis advocated a system similar to that found in the presidential nominating convention system:

The BBWAA should, in its effort to democratize the election process, choose regular fans as delegates. Allow people like myself to apply for the job of Hall of Fame voter. Give us the opportunity to demonstrate to you our resume of fandom, our knowledge of the game, etc. We watch game after game, crunch stat after stat, and root for (and against) players and teams year-round. We know the game backward and forward. We are perfectly capable of making informed decisions. And you are perfectly capable of identifying us.

Just don’t ask us who we’d vote for. Let us approach that in our own way. Your job, again, is to frame the debate, and to convince us to vote one way or the other.

You already have the power of the media. You don’t need the power of the vote. The fans need a voice. Don’t keep all the power to yourselves.

While Lewis’ proposed system is intriguing, I am doubtful that fans can vote in players with any more rhyme or reason than the BBWAA. Would fans vote in Bonds? Since a player needs 75 percent of the vote, Bonds wouldn’t make it today. Would fans who are chosen as Hall of Fame voters opt for Bonds? It depends. In five years, we may know that Bonds cheated his way through a successful career, but we may also know that everyone else playing in the late 1990s did too.

So in the end, we’re left with our imperfect system. The Baseball Writers can take their holier-than-thou attitude one day while I still believe that any number of baseball beat writers could have blown the lid of off the steroid story any day from 1996 through 2002. The Baseball Writers who are supposedly looking out for the best interests of the game and are paid to know about baseball could vote.

Or the fans, the true arbiters of the game, could vote. The fans see the game through the lens of the media whether that media be Bill Plaschke’s inanities, Baseball Prospectus’ insight or the lyrical prose of some of the more prolific baseball writers.

Everyone, it seems, is fickle. Fans sway with the media. Bonds is persecuted one year, evil forever after. Awarding Hall of Fame voting to the fans, as these poll numbers show, won’t solve anything.

Meanwhile, as Barry Bonds took all of four Spring Training at bats to launch his first home run, baseball has a bigger problem on its hands than fan opinion and a dialogue over Hall of Fame voting. As Bonds nears Ruth and Aaron, baseball is left with a commissioner discussing an investigation or whatever Bud Selig feels like conducting.

While those of us who watch baseball may have our opinions on Hall of Fame voting and the highly questionable legacy of the Steroid Era as it relates to Cooperstown, it is time for Selig and players union head Donald Fehr to step up and solve this steroid problem. Targeting anyone as a scapegoat isn’t fair, but those in positions of power in Major League Baseball need to make a strong statement whatever that may be.


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    Mike Axisa
  • Chase Headley has been a difference-maker for the Yankees in the second half September 19, 2017
    These last 18 months have been a pretty hectic ride for third baseman turned first baseman Chase Headley. Headley, as I’m sure you remember, got off to that dreadful start last season before kicking it into gear in May. This year he started great in April, slumped horribly in May, and has been very good […] The post Chase Headley has been a difference-maker […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Todd Frazier wants to re-sign with the Yankees and he’s open to changing positions to make it happen September 19, 2017
    The Yankees won for the 12th time in their last 16 games last night — they blew a four-run lead and a five-run lead in two of the losses, which is annoying — and did so thanks in part to Todd Frazier, who drove in the game-inning run with a sixth inning sac fly. Not […] The post Todd Frazier wants to re-sign with the Yankees and he’s open to changing positio […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Yankees have little choice but to demote Dellin Betances and hope he figures things out in lower leverage spots September 19, 2017
    In what has been an ongoing theme all season, the Yankees have a problem in their bullpen. They’ve never had everyone clicking at once. Not even for a game or two, it seems. There’s always been that one guy who is out of sorts. It was Tyler Clippard for a while, then Adam Warren, then […] The post Yankees have little choice but to demote Dellin Betances and […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Yankees 2, Twins 1: The Jaime & Aroldis Show September 19, 2017
    Who said the Yankees can’t win close games? The Yankees picked up a not at all stressful (nope, not at all) 2-1 win in the series opener against the Twins on Monday night. This is a pretty important series given the postseason races, I hear. The Yankees are 12-4 in their last 16 games and […] The post Yankees 2, Twins 1: The Jaime & Aroldis Show appeared […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Game 149 150: Wild Card Game Preview? September 18, 2017
    Can’t say I expected a mid-September series to be important for both the Yankees and Twins, but here we are. The Yankees currently sit in the top wildcard spot, four games up on the Twins. The Twins have a two-game lead over the idle Angels for the second wildcard spot. The Yankees have some breathing […] The post Game 149 150: Wild Card Game Preview? appear […]
    Mike Axisa
  • 9/18 to 9/20 Series Preview: Minnesota Twins September 18, 2017
    The Last Time They Met The Yankees visited Minnesota for a three-game series in mid-July, and dropped two of three. That was the last of the interminably lengthy stretch of series losses, thankfully, and the Yankees have gone 34-22 since. Some series notes: The trade for David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and Todd Frazier was made […] The post 9/18 to 9/20 Serie […]
    Domenic Lanza
  • Rotation shuffle confirms what we already knew: Luis Severino will start the Wild Card Game September 18, 2017
    Over the weekend the Yankees shuffled their rotation under the guise of keeping CC Sabathia and his balky right knee off the turf in Toronto this coming weekend, and I’m sure there’s some truth to that. Sabathia aggravated the knee and had to go on the disabled list the last time he pitched at Rogers […] The post Rotation shuffle confirms what we already kne […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Yankeemetrics: Bird hunting in the Bronx (Sept. 14-17) September 18, 2017
    Dingers and runs are awesome What happens when you combine one of the five best homer-hitting teams (Yankees) with one of the five most homer-friendly ballparks (Yankee Stadium) and one of the five most homer-prone pitching staffs (Orioles)? You get the dinger-fueled blowout that happened on Thursday night in the Bronx. The Yankees crushed four […] The post […]
    Katie Sharp

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