Don’t Look for Justice in Cooperstown

This past weekend was the annual Hall of Fame induction weekend at Cooperstown.  As usual, it sparked a discussion as to who might or might not make it in from next year’s ballot.  The sentiment appears to be that Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. are in for sure, and the big question mark hangs over Mark McGwire.  

Apparently, some people think that McGwire was using steroids to enhance his homerun hitting performance . . .  By “some people,” I mean everyone, and by “think,” I mean there’s not much of a doubt in any of our minds.

The game we’re playing here is pretty delicate.  It’s the decision we’ll have to make for any player who put up the bulk of his numbers (and muscles) in the 1990’s.  Luckily, guys like Canseco and Palmeiro have made it easy on us; by admitting to juicing, or just getting caught with juiced urine.  But as for the rest of them, we don’t have any (and won’t get any) definitive proof that someone did or did not use steroids.

But if what we’ve recently come to believe is true, over half of the players from that decade were cheating.  So we’ve got to expect that at least half of those guys on next year’s ballot were cheating.  Some are obvious, (McGwire and Canseco), but there’s got to be a few juicers that aren’t so obvious.  

I hate calling him out like this, but the guy who never missed a game for over fifteen years has got to be on my list of potential juicers.  It’s clear now that big sluggers were not the only perpetrators.  Many players of all positions and sizes used illegal drugs to increase their recovery time from the wear and tear of a long season.  Doesn’t Ripken seem a likely candidate to have taken advantage of these benefits?  It’s all hypothetical, but that’s what we’re left wondering while deciding to include these men with the all time greats of America’s game.

I’m not saying that Ripken shouldn’t get voted in, and I’m also not saying McGwire should be voted in.  What I am saying is that we can’t be satisfied that “justice has been served” if we induct Cal and Tony, but exclude Mark.  Those whose job it is to sell this game to us will do whatever they can to appease us, and if that means throwing a few obvious cheaters under the bus while celebrating discreet cheaters, they’ll have no qualms about it.

It’s quite strange, really.  There’s a short list of baseball legends whose names are synonymous with monumental statistical achievements and are also not in the Hall: Roger Maris and 61, Pete Rose and 4,256 to name a couple.  Will McGwire’s 70 and Bonds’ 73 follow suit?  Maybe they will; but should they be made martyrs for the sins of the sport?


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