Baseball has a long way to go to restore its integrity

I get a laugh out of people boastfully talking about protecting the integrity of the game of baseball.

I get a laugh out of people boastfully talking about protecting the integrity of the game of baseball.

This is the rallying cry of a number of Baseball Hall of Fame voters, that anyone suspected of using performance enhancing drugs will never secure their approval for entry into the sport’s hallowed grounds in Cooperstown, N.Y., just days after former Major League slugger and home run champion Mark McGwire came clean about using steroids.

Well, at least partially clean — he still says they had nothing to do with his performance on the field, which begs the question — why take them?

But as far as the voters are concerned, it’s a cop out. It allows them not to have to deal with the biggest issue that has faced the game since Pete Rose was found guilty of betting on baseball.

The fact is steroids were not an isolated incident like Pete Rose, but rather, they are an industry-wide issue that the game did it’s best to cover up for two decades.

As much as the old timers and ‘protectors of the game’ may want to argue the point, steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs became as much a fabric of the game as sunflower seeds and Double Bubble gum in the dugouts.

For voters to be on their high horse and say no one is getting in that was even remotely linked to steroids, well then the day has come for those have been looked over in the past, because so few players from the past 15 years will be garnering the votes needed. Greg Maddux for sure, and probably Ichiro Suzuki, but it’s slim pickings after that. Frank Thomas? Chipper Jones? Mark Grace? Is the standard for inclusion suddenly lowered to try to adapt to the steroid inflation of numbers?

But even then, those voters are hypocrites in the highest order.

Cheating in baseball is as old as the game itself. The Hall includes scuff ball and spitball pitchers, those who likely used corked bats and got away with it, and players who benefitted by the use of ‘greenies’ through the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.

Those familiar with baseball’s infamous tell-all book Ball Four by ex-pitcher Jim Bouton, will know that ‘greenies’ are amphetamines that players would pop prior to game time if they felt they needed a boost. They were apparently readily available, although not all used them.

Amphetamines are now on the outlawed list, right along with steroids and human growth hormones, but that generation is getting a pass by voters, even though for the vast majority of the steroid era baseball turned the very same blind eye.

Despite a later comeback attempt, Bouton was black-listed by baseball after the release of his book, in much the same way Jose Canseco was when he started yapping about exposing players who used steroids — which he of course did in his poorly-written but best-selling book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big.

Many of Canseco’s claims have since been proven true through failed tests, the Mitchell report, the BALCO investigation, and leaked names of those who did not pass MLB’s survey testing to decide if it needed to beef up it’s PED policy earlier this decade.

For people in baseball to continue to say they didn’t know this was going on — I’m talking managers, coaches, general managers, owners, league executives — is a crock.

Sport breeds corruption, especially when there are billions of dollars at stake and the game needs life breathed back into it after a lockout.

In short: chicks dig the long ball, which means the more you hit the more you got paid, or with pitchers the more you prevented the long ball the more you got paid.

Owners knew what was going on.

One of the big reasons for the attention the sport has garnered for its use of PED’s is in George W. Bush’s first presidential address in which he talked about the issue of steroids in sports. Where would he have gotten a first hand view of the issue? When he was owner of the Texas Rangers through the first half of the 90s.

If baseball wants to be serious about its integrity, the game itself needs to come clean, not just Mark McGwire.

One way it can do that is to still elect the likes of McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa to the Hall of Fame.

Their numbers are more than Hall of Fame worthy and no institution puts much importance on numbers than baseball.

But in the story of their careers on the plaque, their suspected or proven use of PEDs needs to be front and centre.

Just as if — or when — commissioner Bud Selig is enshrined, it should say “he oversaw the baseball during the steroids-era.”

It will be an admission of what went on and those involved will forever be linked to it.

The game should not be allowed to continue to sweep this under the rug and make scapegoats out of those who brought the game back from the dead.

jaldrich@bprda.wpengine.com

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