Monday, February 11, 2019

Cheaters in the Hall: WAY Too Late to Object, Particularly by Media

I keep on seeing people complain about cheaters in the Hall of Fame, especially well-respected local journalists, you can easily find out who by researching who voted against them in the Bay Area in the last vote.  I posted the below in The Athletic, plus my usual extensive additions.

ogc big picture thoughts

Cheaters have been making the Hall since the mid-1960's. The use of amphetamines has been rampant throughout baseball since at least the 1960's when Ball Four noted it's wide use usage, and probably since WW II when the US Government liberally distributed the drug to its troops to keep them alert and functional even when tired and not well nourished. And legally documented in the drug trials in the 80's involving the Pirates players testifying to seeing elder statesmen like Willie Mays and Willie Stargell not only using but handing out the stuff to other players.

And the problem is that while it's clear what the benefits of amphetamine are, the baseball benefits of steroids is not all that clear, as there's been no study (illegal to do, anyway), it has all mostly been speculation and supposition as to the benefits of the drugs, but one well known baseball analyst/consultant (created A's bible) has collected evidence that steroids had minimal positive effects for hitters and pitchers (www.steroids-and-baseball.com/ ). And while amphetamine provides their benefit without doing anything else, steroids still required you to work like a dog to benefit from it. So I view amphetamine as the greater cheat drug, as the benefits are clear and it provided the benefit without the player doing anything to get that benefit.

And it's been going on for 60 to 75 years, which means many if not most of the Hall of Famers who played in this time span, boosted their stats relative to the Hall of Famers who came before them.  Perhaps that explains all the great players suddenly rising to the top of MLB history rankings after WW II, we'll never know.  So the horses have not only gotten out of the barn, in terms of cheaters in the Hall of Fame, they've had many many many generations of offsprings until they were finally banned for good in the mid-2000's.

Media Hypocrisy

So I find the media's objections to be particularly hypocritical.  If cheating was as bad as many of them think, then you would think someone in the past 50 plus years since Ball Four was published that someone in the media would have written a tell all book about this epidemic, which was exposed by this book, and amplified in the Pirates drug trials, when it was revealed that baseball great Willie Mays was handling this out like candy.  Nothing of substance, none that I've ever heard about or seen referenced.

On top of that, McGwire and Canseco were both rumored users even when they were the Bash Brothers, so it was not entirely news when McGwire was caught with Andro in his locker in 1999.   And yet there was no great outrage or investigation into his rumored and known usage, the media just accepted his word that he stopped using, instead of digging deeper. 

The media only felt enough outrage when Bonds was the apparent user, and not McGwire or Sosa.  It wasn't like Bonds broke Ruth's or Maris' record first, it was McGwire.  It wasn't like Bonds was the first user, both McGwire and Canseco were rumored users for around a decade by the time it is suspected that Bonds started using.  And he didn't pass Aaron's record until he was deeper into his 40's, the outrage was high long before he reached that milestone. 

Bonds is made the scapegoat for the whole steroids era, and the irony is that the evidence shown in the link above disputes the layperson's view that steroids was this gift of God to humans that made them offensive machines.  So the media, by harping on Bonds and Clemens alleged usage (no absolute proof that they used, only hearsay), not only missed the whole amphetamine era, but put players through the gauntlet of a modern day witch hunt over a drug whose efficacy is not proven, and likely minimal, at best, a modern day snake oil that is no better than a placebo. 

Yet, there are a lot of old-timers clinging to their position that Bonds cheated and therefore don't belong in the Hall of Fame.  If they cared that much in the first place, they would have investigated baseball's usage of amphetamine anytime in the 1970-2000 timeframe, which covers almost every Hall of Fame voter.  If they really cared about steroid usage, they would have investigated in the years after McGwire and Canseco were the poster boys for steroids, and especially made a big stink about it after the Andro incidence.  Maybe a big media backlash back then would have discourage Bonds and others from using into the 2000's.  Maybe a big media investigation into the findings in the link above would have exposed steroids as a big fraud of a cheat, that it was a modern snake oil, but nobody did.  So I'm really tired of the media who still uses steroids as a crutch to deny Bonds and Clemens their rightful places in the Hall of Fame. 

Cheaters Already Fills the Hall

In any case, no matter your position on steroids and its benefits, if cheaters were your real motivation for not voting for Bonds, then each Hall of Fame voters may as well submit a blank ballot for the next 5-10 years, as it is very likely that the players voted into the Hall from the 1960's to the 2010's were all users of amphetamine. 

Various sources support this idea.  Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt wrote about it in his biography in the mid-2000's: "amphetamine use in baseball is both far more common and has been going on a lot longer than steroid abuse," and "that the elimination of amphetamines could have “possibly far greater implications for the game than the crackdown against steroids.” "  A baseball analyst with Baseball Prospectus wrote:  "During a recent discussion with a team staffer, I claimed that 75% of major-league players used banned amphetamines during the course of a season. “More,” was his immediate response."  He also covers the history of amphetamine usage in the same article.  This article by Jerry Crasnick also covers the history nicely. 

The facts are that amphetamine usage in baseball has been around since WW II vets brought the drug into the game.  And the usage grew from there, such that it was accepted that players will use, from the greatest of players all time to the nameless faceless replacement players hoping to stay up with the others.  If you really believe that cheaters don't belong, you should have stopped voting the moment you got your first Hall of Fame ballot, because there's been nothing but cheaters on every ballot, with no way to prove who did and didn't take, but who likely was a user. 

And you can sit alone on your high horse.

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