Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘PEDs

Jeff Passan Owes Baseball Fans an Apology

with 3 comments

What is wrong with Yahoo Sports writer Jeff Passan?

Passan wrote yet another column condemning Ryan Braun this past Sunday, despite this new column being at least the fourth such column in the past month.  This seems excessive under the circumstances, as a number of other baseball players, including Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers, Everth Cabrera of the San Diego Padres, and Jhonny Peralta of the Cleveland Indians are also suspended, while Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees continues to play pending his upcoming appeal of a lengthy, 211-game suspension.

Anyway, Passan’s newest column on Braun cited an ESPN report that said Braun had supposedly lobbied fellow MLB players prior to his successful appeal regarding the reportedly high level of testosterone in his urine sample.  ESPN’s slant was that Braun was perhaps looking for support from his fellow players as Braun was prepared to lose his hearing.  According to ESPN’s original report, Braun supposedly told several unnamed players that the urine specimen collector, Dino Laurenzi, Jr., was both a “Cubs fan” and an “anti-Semite.”  But when Braun unexpectedly won, that lobbying wasn’t needed.

However, Passan’s column as initially reported said that Braun had told specific big-name players such as Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies and Joey Votto these very same allegations.  (The inference in both columns, of course, was that Braun had said that Laurenzi, Jr., had it in for Braun.)  And because Passan’s column named these names, it made this particular report sound that much more compelling.

Then came the reports here and here that stated that neither Tulowitzki nor Votto had spoken with Braun about this particular matter.  And that Braun had most emphatically not slandered the urine collector in any way as far as either one of them knew.

So, what should you do as a writer when something this big blows up in your face?  Most people would print a retraction and an additional article saying, in effect, “Sorry.  I/we screwed up, and it won’t happen again if we can help it.”

But that’s not exactly what Passan did here, though he did back off a few of the worst of the allegations against Braun:

ESPN.com first reported that Braun had reached out to fellow players. While Yahoo! Sports previously reported Braun had contacted Joey Votto and Troy Tulowitzki, on Monday they denied having any conversations with Braun about test collector Dino Laurenzi Jr.  (emphasis mine — BC)

Note that this slight backing off seems to be blaming ESPN’s initial report, which is silly at best because it wasn’t ESPN who named Tulowitzki and Votto as being among the players Braun had supposedly reached out to for support — it was Jeff Passan himself.

Worse yet, other reports are still being written that are going off the original source material, including this one from UT-San Diego, which was written one short day ago.

Look.  I understand why Passan felt the need to write his column, at least in part.  ESPN had put out a report.  Yahoo wanted to have its own story.  Passan wrote it because, quite frankly, he cannot abide Ryan Braun (he’s previously called Braun a “cockroach”) and Passan, being a baseball writer who fully understands what’s going on with regards to the 2013 suspensions for performance-enhancing drug use, was probably the best person to write this particular column.

Where Passan erred was when he decided to name Tulowitzki and Votto without getting quotes from them on the record.  Both players are among the biggest names in baseball; Tulowitzki came in second to Braun in the 2007 Rookie of the Year Award, while Votto won the Most Valuable Player award in 2010.

So when Passan named them without quotes, he had to know that fallout was possible.  Yet for some strange reason, that didn’t seem to bother him at all.

Why?

What Passan did wasn’t a small error.  Instead, this was a big, fat, huge error considering Passan’s name, his reputation, and the fact that he has thousands upon thousands of people reading his columns every single day.  That’s why whatever Passan ends up reporting on any given day needs to be above reproach.

Passan screwed up by naming two players who apparently had absolutely no contact with Braun whatsoever regarding this issue without checking his sources and making sure they were unimpeachable.  And thus far, Passan has failed to offer one shred of reasoning as to why he, Jeff Passan, did this at all, when Passan had to know they would both be asked about these allegations . . . especially considering that Passan obviously had no idea what these men were going to say.

If Jeff Passan didn’t realize that these two men were going to deny these allegations, much less in the heartfelt way both men picked to do so — Tulowitzki and Votto are known as straight shooters — why on Earth did he print such inflammatory allegations?

While the slight clarification currently in the Yahoo Sports article by Passan (referenced above) is better than nothing, it is extremely puzzling that Passan would not print an apology under these circumstances.

Because really and truly, Passan owes all baseball fans an apology.  His report regarding Braun’s apparent slander was inflammatory.  He couldn’t back it up — in fact, it was roundly denied by two of the people Passan sourced in his original column as supposedly being upset and offended by Braun’s reported remarks — and then, he only had the wit to partly backtrack and blame ESPN instead for ESPN’s initial report?

I’m sorry.  That does not cut it.

Writers must have integrity.  Honesty.  Believability.  And be able to tell a fair and accurate story, especially when it comes to nonfiction sports writing and current events . . . otherwise, the writer in question has nothing at all.

We all know this, as writers.  Which is why most writers would’ve apologized for making a mistake of this magnitude immediately.

Otherwise, why would you want to trust us, or believe that we’re giving you the best information possible on any given day?

Whenever we fail, as writers, we must own up to it.

I don’t care if there are one thousand people in baseball who think exactly what Jeff Passan reported . . . if Passan hadn’t named names, he’d be in the clear.  But he did, he was wrong, and he should apologize.  Profusely.

And if he refuses to apologize, I have only one more question for you: Why on Earth should we believe anything else Jeff Passan ever says?

———–

**Note: Both the ESPN report and the column written by Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports have been updated to reflect the record that both Tulowitzki and Votto have denied these specific allegations.  ESPN’s report quite properly credits Passan’s Yahoo sports column for making those direct allegations.

Milwaukee Brewers 2013 Woes Continue — Ryan Braun Accepts 65-Game Suspension, Out for the Year

with 6 comments

Folks, when it rains, it pours.

While I was working on my previous update, I had written this about my favorite team, which are of course the Milwaukee Brewers.  They are currently on a four-game winning streak, and I thought it worthy of celebration.  So here’s what I said, moments before the news about Ryan Braun broke in Milwaukee:

The Milwaukee Brewers are on a post All-Star break roll, sweeping the Florida Marlins out of Milwaukee yesterday and winning all three low-scoring games due to excellent pitching (Friday’s starting pitcher was Kyle Lohse, Saturday’s was Yovani Gallardo, and Sunday’s was the rapidly improving Wily Peralta) by both starters and bullpen.

Let’s see how well they do against San Diego tonight, though I do think they should have an excellent chance as the Padres have won only two more games than the Brewers and are exactly the same in the loss column.

(Granted, it seems odd to quote myself.)

I wrote this prior to the knowledge that Braun had accepted a 65-game suspension and will consequently be out the rest of the 2013 season, forfeiting over $3 million of his 2013 salary.  (Please see this link from Yahoo Sports for further details.)  Which is why I pulled it out of the previous post, quoted it here, and now will have to discard all of that as the much bigger story is Braun’s upcoming absence for the remainder of the 2013 season.

Oh, brother.

Look.  I’m someone who fully believed that Braun was innocent of using any performance-enhancing drug (or PED, for short).  Mistakes can happen when it comes to drug testing; they’re rare, sure, but they still can happen, and it seemed plausible to me that a man whose physique had never changed, whose lifetime numbers (batting average, on-base-percentage, slugging percentage, etc.) had never changed, either, and who vehemently declared his innocence was worthy of defending.

It has also seemed to me, for quite some time, that Major League Baseball has a grudge against Ryan Braun.  They are annoyed that he managed to win his arbitration case in 2012, and that he was never suspended at that time for PEDs.  And they have continued to go after him since then, doing their best to vilify his reputation in the process.

So, what am I to think of this statement from Braun, then?

As quoted from the Yahoo Sports article by Jeff Passan:

“As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect,” Braun said. “I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family, and it has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers organization. I am very grateful for the support I have received from players, ownership and the fans in Milwaukee and around the country. Finally, I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed – all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates. I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love.”

This statement doesn’t really say anything, does it?  Other than that Braun accepted punishment for unnamed “mistakes,” apologized for the “distraction” afterward, and wants to play baseball again, there’s nothing here for a fan of the Brewers to really hang her hat on.

This article by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel baseball beat writer Tom Haudricourt clearly states this about the Ryan Braun suspension:

Major League Baseball has suspended Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun without pay for the remainder of the 2013 season and he has accepted the penalty, meaning he was caught red-handed either buying and/or using performance-enhancing drugs.

The suspension takes place immediately, so Braun will be suspended for the final 65 games of the season, beginning with the Brewers’ game Monday night at Miller Park against San Diego. The sanction came as a result of MLB’s investigation into the infamous Biogenesis clinic, which was exposed as having sold PEDs to players after documents were released to various news agencies earlier this year.

The suspension also exposed Braun as a liar because he has stated many times that he never used PEDs and never wavered from that stance.

So it appears that Tom Haudricourt isn’t too thrilled with what happened here, either.

Again — as a writer, I am trained to spot inconsistencies.  Braun’s story, as Tom H. clearly said, never wavered.  Braun loudly proclaimed his innocence at every turn.  Braun blamed the guy who collected the urine test for the reason it came up positive, and was able to make that stick, and doing so made it appear to me that Braun really was telling the truth.  Especially as Braun hadn’t failed any other drug tests before, or since.

But there are other ways to cheat the system.  Baseball itself knows that better than anyone, and fans — even good ones, like myself, who are aware of steroids and other PEDs and know something of their effects on the body — aren’t really able to fully grasp why someone like Ryan Braun, who seemingly has the world at his feet and has no reason to skirt the rules whatsoever, has now admitted to doing so.

Even if his admission has all the oomph of a non-admission, mostly because he hasn’t said exactly what he’s been accused of doing.

Baseball fans will forgive almost any player if he tells the truth about what he’s done.  Andy Pettitte said he used HGH — human growth hormone — in an effort to heal from injury faster, and wasn’t suspended.  Alex Rodriguez admitted to using unspecified PEDs a few years ago, and wasn’t suspended (though he may be now due to apparently using them again via Biogenesis).  Fernando Vina admitted to using steroids when he was with the Brewers long after the fact — he was a broadcaster, by then — and no one has ever vilified him.

But when someone doesn’t admit it and apparently did use them — whether it’s Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, or Rafael Palmeiro — fans get upset.  And then the player in question faces consequences, including shunning, booing, boorish behavior by the fans, or worst of all, exclusion from the Baseball Hall of Fame.

My attitude regarding PED use remains much the same as it’s always been.  I think if you’re trying to stay healthy to play baseball, that’s a lot different than trying to cheat the system, which is why McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Bonds (if he really did use them) should be given a pass, as all of them had well-known health problems that steroids/PEDs may have alleviated.  And if you’re willing to accept all sorts of adverse effects on your body, as seen by Lyle Alzado’s tragic death after his brilliant NFL career not so long ago, have at.

My particular problem with Braun isn’t that he used (or maybe didn’t use) PEDs.  It’s that he still hasn’t come clean regarding that use.

I believe very strongly in redemption and second chances.  But one of the things most people need to do before they can fully proceed with either is to be honest.  With themselves.  With the other important people in their lives.

So far, Ryan Braun hasn’t done this.

Like it or not, Braun is a public figure by the dint of his baseball stardom.  That’s why whatever happened must be explained to those who’ve supported him from the beginning — some specific explanations, not today’s weasel-worded non-denial denial — the fans of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Until he does, he’ll probably face all sorts of unintended consequences of today’s admission.  And he’ll keep on facing them until he’s finally, fully and freely explained just what happened here that’s bad enough for him to accept an unpaid suspension for the rest of the 2013 season.

Like a Broken Record, MLB Goes After Ryan Braun — Again

leave a comment »

Folks, some things get more ridiculous the longer I study them.

Take the Ryan Braun situation, for example.  Braun is currently under suspicion, again, for illegal PED use due to his name being mentioned on a list from the Biogenesis Clinic.  This has been known for quite some time (please see my earlier blog on the subject from March of this year for further details, and a quick update at the end of this blog).

However, the powers that be at Major League Baseball have now managed to come up with a potential “star witness” — the guy who owned the Biogenesis Clinic, Tony Bosch, to be exact.  But as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports pointed out earlier today (spelling mistake left in situ):

Baseball has been “seeking” suspensions of Rodriguez, Braun and others for months. Bosch certainly is a critical piece to the sport’s puzzle. But he is not a licensed physican, his anti-aging clinic is out of business and he previously told ESPN, “I don’t know anything about performance-enhancing drugs.”

His credibility is about on par with that of Roger Clemens’ former trainer, Brian McNamee, who became the government’s chief witness against the pitcher.

Which is to say, his credibility is in doubt.

And because Bosch’s credibility is so poor, Rosenthal believes major league baseball has a weak case.  So the reports of MLB asking for potential 100-game suspensions — supposedly 50 games for using, and 50 games for lying — don’t hold a whole lot of water with Rosenthal as any evidence Bosch may have looks quite weak.

As Rosenthal says toward the end of his column:

Slips of paper listing . . . names, a sworn affidavit from Bosch admitting that they were customers — heck, I’m not a lawyer, but I’d take my chances tearing baseball’s case apart.

Oh, I can hear those on the players’ side now.

“Bosch agreed to cooperate with baseball only to save his own rear. He’s broke. He’s talking in order to get baseball to drop its lawsuit against him. He needs the various forms of protection that baseball offered him, according to ESPN.

“What does baseball have? Nothing.”

Jeff Passan, columnist at Yahoo Sports, takes a different tack, saying tonight that baseball has come up with a “Pyrrhic victory” in their pursuit against supposed performance-enhancing drug (PED) users.  Passan states that while PED use can be “mitigated and controlled,” it’s also sure to enrage the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA):

Think about the union’s perspective: For all this time, MLB has painted Tony Bosch as a low-life, a pissant faux doctor who was nothing more than a sleazeball. And now it wants to trust him, of all people, and mete out perhaps 1,000 games of punishment?

Worst of all from a fan’s perspective, MLB being willing to go heavily against the players’ association — which believes as many people that any player accused of using PEDs has and should have a presumption of innocence until proven guilty — means, as Passan puts it, that MLB seems to want to “wage all-out war against the union.”

At any rate, my overall beliefs remain unchanged.  Braun has been convicted of nothing, and I’m tired of MLB going after him.  Braun has passed at least six drug tests since the disputed one in 2011 (that never should’ve been made public).  He’s as clean as anyone in baseball, and it’s time that MLB admitted that and moved on already.

That being said, Passan has a point that MLB going after PED users will never work, because sports is all about getting and maintaining an edge.  Players make such big money that the temptation to use performance-enhancers must be quite high.

But as I’ve said before (from my initial blog about Braun in December of 2011):

. . . as baseball Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt (a third baseman, and a power hitter, for the Philadelphia Phillies) said in his book CLEARING THE BASES, baseball players have been trying to “gain an edge” since the beginning of time.  Trying to legislate that away will never work (not that I think Braun did anything wrong here, but if he was trying to gain an edge, so what?).  And if the players are harming themselves down the line to gain big bucks now, that should be their prerogative — all I ask is that if someone is taking something like that, they watch what happened to Oakland Raiders’ star Lyle Alzado (who died young, and horribly, from cancer that may have been prevented if Alzado hadn’t admittedly taken many, many steroids over time).

In this, particular case, my view is that Braun’s statistical performance was well within his own normals.  So it’s very hard for me to believe that Braun actually did take anything illegal of the PED variety; because of that, and because of my admittedly laissez-faire attitude toward baseball players and legal drugs, I believe Braun should be considered innocent until and unless he is proven guilty.

Pay attention to the words I’ve bolded, folks.  Because they’re the most important ones to remember.

And whether MLB likes it or not, the fact remains that Braun was exonerated under MLB’s own rules back in 2012.  As I said in this March 2013 blog post:

Since Braun has been proven to not have taken PEDs under binding arbitration, MLB should really let it go.  Because the longer they pursue this mindless vendetta, the more they look like Inspector Javert — and with far less reason than that fictional French bureaucrat of old.

My final take?  Well, Braun’s lawyers are incredibly competent, and should be able to tear MLB’s supposed “case” as built by the incomparable Tony Bosch to shreds.

Of course, it remains MLB’s prerogative to be as stupid, silly and spiteful as it wishes (just as I said in March of this year).  But it’s also my prerogative as a sports fan to think that MLB is wasting its time.  And I wonder, exactly, just when MLB decided that it wanted to model itself on the fictional Inspector Javert — because really, that look is incredibly unbecoming.

—————

As promised, here’s a quick update via MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy:

After the Brewers’ 10-inning, 4-3 victory, Braun was greeted by a crowd of cameras and microphones at his locker.

“A lot of people here,” he said. “I assume I know why everybody is here. I’ve already addressed everything related to the Miami situation. I addressed it in Spring Training. I will not make any further statements about it. The truth has not changed. I don’t know the specifics of the story that came out today, but I’ve already addressed it, I’ve already commented on it, and I’ll say nothing further about it.”


My take on this?  Well, it’s obvious Braun’s tired of this nonsense.  He’s a smart man, has a very good lawyer, and seems prepared to deal with whatever MLB throws at him.

I just wish MLB would knock this crap off, that’s all.  Because really and truly, it’s not necessary — especially as MLB hardly has a slam-dunk case.

MLB: In Pursuit of Ryan Braun, Again?

with one comment

Folks, some stories seem like broken records.

Take the story broken by Yahoo Sports through its blog “Big League Stew.”  The headline reads, “MLB’s PED Vendetta Against Ryan Braun: Seeks Informants, Offers Immunity for Players Testimony.”

This article points out that Major League Baseball, in its infinite whatever, is using the Biogenesis Clinic information that has been leaked to the press as a way to go after Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun.  Braun is the only major leaguer known to have successfully appealed a positive drug test, and MLB apparently just cannot handle it at all.

Instead, they wish to punish Braun after the fact despite losing their case in arbitration against Braun in 2012 — legally binding arbitration, at that.

MLB is even willing, according to an article at USA Today by Bob Nightengale (which the Yahoo Sports blog references), to grant some players immunity even if they test positive for PEDs themselves.  Which seems extremely counterproductive if MLB’s interest here is in the cleanest sport possible . . . but more on that in a bit.

The reason MLB is upset is because their officials insist that Braun used performance-enhancing drugs due to a highly elevated level of testosterone in Braun’s urine sample back in 2011.  Braun won his appeal in 2012 (here’s my earlier blog post on the subject); at the time, MLB “vehemently disagreed” with the decision.  Later, MLB fired arbitrator Shyam Das, which looked terrible from a public relations standpoint — as apparently, the only arbitrators they want are the ones who rule in MLB’s favor.

As Ray Ratto pointed out in this column from February 23, 2012 (note that the lack of punctuation is also in the original column; the look of this has not been altered in any way save to cut out one link):

Rather than announce that Braun had won his appeal and had been found not guilty according to the procedures and protocols set up and approved BY Major League Baseball, it chose instead to swine-slap Das ruling, deciding that when they say guilty, they mean guilty.Now we dont know whether Braun hornswoggled the arbitrator, the system or nobody at all. We wont call him innocent or guilty. We will say, though, that he played by baseballs rules, he followed baseballs procedures, he went through baseballs process, and he was found not guilty.Thus, it is inconceivably bad form for baseball to scream about the result just because they wanted it to be something else.

Obviously, I agree with this assessment.

Ratto’s words, however, have proven prophetic in how MLB has behaved with regards to Braun.  Take a look at this (also from Ratto’s above-referenced column):

The process is supposed to be about finding the truth, not getting the desired result. The desired result IS the truth, and baseballs system says Braun didnt do what he was accused of doing.MLBs reaction, though, shows that for it, testing isnt about determining a players guilt or innocence, its about nailing guys.”As a part of our drug testing program, the commissioner’s office and the players’ association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute, a statement from Rob Manfred, managements representative on the three-man appeals panel, read. While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das.”Vehemently disagrees? Its your system, Robbo, the one your negotiators demanded. Is it only a good system when you win? (emphasis added by BC)

And if that’s the case, MLB is going to keep going after Braun in the same way Inspector Javert went after Jean Valjean in Les Miserables — even though it will do no good, much harm, and cause much strife for all concerned.

Look.  I’ve thought and thought about this, and I’ve come to the same conclusions as in my original blog post on the Braun/PED issue:

Braun has been an outstanding player from the time the Brewers brought him up.  He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2007.  His lifetime numbers are comparable to his MVP numbers; over his last five seasons, he’s averaged 36 HRs and 118 RBIs a season, and has hit over .300 every year except 2008 (when he “only” hit .285); his lifetime batting average, over five complete seasons, is .312.

So I don’t really see where Braun could’ve been taking anything that was of an enhancing nature, especially if he’s never tested positive before (and indeed, he hasn’t).

Jumping a few paragraphs, I said back in 2011:

. . . my view is that Braun’s statistical performance was well within his own normals.  So it’s very hard for me to believe that Braun actually did take anything illegal of the PED variety; because of that, and because of my admittedly laissez-faire attitude toward baseball players and legal drugs, I believe Braun should be considered innocent until and unless he is proven guilty.

And as we now all know, Braun was found not guilty.

Which makes me think that Braun had a point.  He wasn’t juicing then, isn’t juicing now, and that as much as anyone’s performance can be in these days of high-tech nutrition and personal trainers, he’s as clean as they come.

Since Braun has been proven to not have taken PEDs under binding arbitration, MLB should really let it go.  Because the longer they pursue this mindless vendetta, the more they look like Inspector Javert — and with far less reason than that fictional French bureaucrat of old.

My final take?  I suppose it’s MLB’s prerogative to look silly, spiteful and stupid when it comes to this apparent vendetta against Ryan Braun.

But speaking as a long-time baseball fan, I wish they’d knock it off.

2013 Baseball HoF Travesty: No One Voted into the Hall by Writers

with 4 comments

Today, the results for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame voting were announced.

No one got in.

That’s right.  Out of ten or twelve really good candidates, including 3,000 hit club members Craig Biggio and Rafael Palmeiro, seven-time MVP and all-time home run king Barry Bonds, seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, excellent shortstop Alan Trammell and even more excellent closer Lee Smith, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA for short) refused to elect a single person.

This is an utter travesty.

Biggio was the closest to the 75 percent threshold, as he got 68.2 percent of the vote.  And while it’s wrong to deny men like Biggio, Trammell and Smith the Hall of Fame when they were never accused of taking steroids, it’s much more wrong to deny Bonds and Clemens, who never failed a drug test and have more or less been exonerated in court.

Look.  Barry Bonds was a divisive personality, but he is the best hitter the game has ever seen, bar none.  In his prime he was a five-tool player who could run, hit, hit with power, steal bases and play excellent defense.  He won seven Most Valuable Player awards from writers who despised him, but felt compelled to vote for him anyway due to his amazing stats.

Bonds only received 36.2 percent of the vote on the BBWAA ballot.

San Francisco Giants President Larry Baer thinks this is wrong.  In a blog post from the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Henry Schulman, Baer is quoted as saying:

This was the decision. It’s difficult. There have been complications in determining Hall of Famers throughout history, and it was more intense this year for sure. I think over time we would hope he’d be considered to be another Giant in the Hall of Fame. We also understand the voters need to sort some things out. That’s what I feel.

Long-time manager Jim Fregosi, who now works for the Atlanta Braves as a special assistant, also feels this result was problematic (also via the Chronicle):

“I was a little surprised. I didn’t think he would get in the original ballot, and he and (Roger) Clemens really did not get the votes I thought they would. But it’s the first time out for both of them. For me, the numbers will go way up next year. I”m not saying they’re going to get in next year, but I believe their totals will rise.”

Fregosi thinks Bonds should get in: “For everything he’s done in his career, he is definitely a Hall of Famer.

And former Milwaukee Brewers OF Darryl Hamilton, who also played with Bonds during the 1990s as a member of the Giants, had this to say (also via the Chronicle — words in parenthesis added by yours truly):

Retired outfielder Darryl Hamilton, who played with Bonds in the Giants in the late 1990s: “I was a little disappointed. I don’t think it’s fair that the Baseball Writers Association of America decided that not only Bonds, but everybody in that era, should be punished for what they think somebody has done.

“I’m sure when you and I (are) gone (from this) planet it’ll come out that there are guys already in the Hall who’ve done something. I think it’s very hypocritical to take a vote like this and not let anybody in the Hall this year. I think it’s ridiculous.”

In some senses, Roger Clemens was an even more divisive personality.  He was short-tempered, quick-witted, and another guy who, like Bonds, was not a favorite of the writers.

You might be wondering, then, how either Bonds or Clemens won so many awards.  It’s simple: they were the most dominant players of their era.

They both deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

Yahoo Sports writer Jeff Passan wrote:

Anybody who suggests the Baseball Hall of Fame is irrelevant doesn’t understand one prevailing truth about the sport: its history is more important than its present. Baseball treats its history as a sacred bauble, which, until recently, it hasn’t tried to rinse, wash or scrub. Its darkest moments are some of its most famous. The sport is evermore human because the Black Sox succumbed to greed and threw the World Series, because the segregationists won until they could no longer bottle up social change, because the Hit King was a flawed man who couldn’t overcome a gambling addiction. Baseball is all of us.

Passan’s message throughout his article is that the baseball writers got this one wrong.  It’s impossible to deny how much Bonds, Clemens, Biggio, et. al., meant to the game.

And Passan is far from the only respected writer to think so.  Here’s what Baseball Prospectus writer Colin Wyers had to say:

The writers struck out looking. They were lobbed a fat pitch over the heart of the plate and they failed to even take a swing at it. Defenders will note, correctly, that it isn’t the ninth inning. But it was the last at-bat of the eighth, and they face an exceedingly difficult challenge in coming back to win this thing.

The biggest takeaway is that there is a sizable contingent of voters who will refuse to vote for any player, no matter how qualified, if there’s the barest taint of steroids on him, up to and including “playing the majority of his career after 1993.” Many will cast this as a referendum on Bonds and Clemens, two of the sports’ greatest stars who ended up in legal hot water over the use of performance-enhancing drugs. But a litany of deserving players, including Biggio, Bagwell, Piazza, and others, have been punished too, with little more than hearsay to incriminate them.

And in case you’re wondering what the players thought, here’s a link to an article about that.  (Hint, hint: most are not pleased.)

More importantly, the current head of the Major League Baseball Players Association, Michael Weiner, said this (courtesy of CNN):

“To ignore the historic accomplishments of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, for example, is hard to justify,” he said. “Moreover, to penalize players exonerated in legal proceedings, and others never even implicated, is simply unfair. The Hall of Fame is supposed to be for the best players to have ever played the game.”

Look.  The fact of the matter regarding steroids is this: they don’t help you hit a baseball.  They may help put weight on you and that may change your physical makeup (as this article from Sports Illustrated clearly shows, where one player — Dan Naulty — took steroids and ended up gaining enough weight to add ten miles per hour to his fastball, which got him to the major leagues).

But they cannot help you hit a baseball at the level of a Barry Bonds, or every player who ever used steroids would hit like Bonds.

They don’t.

They cannot help you pitch a baseball at the level of a Roger Clemens, either.  Or every pitcher who ever used steroids, like the above-mentioned Naulty, would pitch like Clemens.

They don’t.

Why?  Because these are special players, as Darryl Hamilton’s comments show.

The fact of the matter is, the Hall of Fame has admitted racists, bigots, gamblers, alcoholics and even a few wife-beaters — and has survived.

Whether Bonds and Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs or not, they deserve to be in the Hall.

Anything else is a tragic miscarriage of justice.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 9, 2013 at 9:39 pm