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Friday, June 19, 2009

My Ode to Disgraced Former Sports Heroes

When I heard that it was reported that Sammy Sosa had failed a drug test in 2003, I thought it was anti climactic. After all, it was by now common knowledge that Sosa had in fact been cheating for years. Sammy Sosa was my favorite baseball player starting in the mid 1990's. I often defended him against charges that he wasn't clutch as well as a cheater. Finally, when he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles and suddenly saw his production get cut by about 60% even I couldn't be blind to the obvious. So, it had been years since I made my peace with the idea that my favorite baseball player had created most of his success through cheating.

The only thing that this revelation does is continue the ongoing debates that years of mass cheating are bound to create. There is now an idea being floated that sports writers that they create categories of baseball players. These categories would be used as a guide as to exactly how much evidence there needs to be against a certain player in order for them to no longer be eligible for the hall of fame. This is what the game has come down to. We are now trying to figure out just how evidence there needs to be of cheating in order to exclude someone from the hall.

This debate has been mostly in the context of Ivan Rodriguez. Rodriguez has never been linked to any steroid use except in the book of Jose Canseco. Besides this, the only other evidence is purely speculative. For instance, Rodriguez just happened to lose about 20-30 pounds of muscle in 2004. That just happened to be the first year that baseball would implement testing. Now, as a friend of mine often says..."hey, he wanted to lose all that weight to help with his defense". That he looks like a smaller version of himself in the late 1990's must all be just mere coincidence. Yet, at this point, his purported steroid use is only mere conjecture. Presumably, any standard would NOT include merely being mentioned by Jose Canseco. As such, if such a standard were to be created, Ivan Rodriguez would be eligible.

The problem with the entire debate is that it focuses on things that are ultimately fairly trivial. The Hall of Fame is important. The records are important. Here's what no one wants to face up to though. I was at the game at which Sammy Sosa hit his 60th homerun in 1998. The Cubs came back from down seven twice to win 16-12. It was the most exciting baseball game I'd ever witnessed and ultimately all that excitement was totally manufactured. In fact, about fifteen years of baseball were totally manufactured. It wasn't that one or two people cheated but that so many people cheated that ultimately the integrity of everything related to that time period is totally void.

Nothing done during that time period can be trusted. No record, no result, no victory, can be trusted. So many people cheated that none of the results ultimately mean anything. Someone in front of me said that we had just witnessed history after Sosa's 60th. In fact, we hadn't witnessed anything at all but a cheater put up the sort of numbers that cheating create. That wasn't history but excitement manufactured by cheating.

The term "integrity of the game" is often overused. During all those years the integrity wasn't just threatened but obliterated. What no one can face up to is that this fifteen years or so nothing that happened in baseball meant anything. None of the results meant anything. All our heroes turned out to be cheaters.


Anonymous said...

Personally, I think these guys should all be in the hall of fame. Ratfiel Palmeroid, Barroid Bonds, Roidger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa's corked bat. For better or worse, what these guys did wasn't against the rules of the game at the time. Plus, I don't think the Baseball Writers Association of America should be allowed to dissociate themselves from this.

Besides, everybody up to A-roid has been implicated by now. The only guy I can possibly believe didn't do roids now is Griffey because while others were breaking records and flying high he could barely stay healthy. I have to believe that if he actually did steroids he wouldn't have missed so much time in Cincinnati.

mike volpe said...

It was never all right to cheat. It just wasn't tested for. Two wrongs don't make a right, and rewarding these guys with the hall of fame, because the writers had some sort of responsibility is ludicrous. Cheaters cannot be in the hall. I think it's shameful that Gaylord Perry is in the hall. At some point, enough has to be enough.