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December 31, 2010

Prospectus Perspective

Bagging on Bagwell

by Christina Kahrl

I doubt you've missed it, but the Hall of Fame announcement is coming next week. I should stress that I don't vote on the Hall of Fame because as of yet I cannot, and won't be eligible to for another eight years, if ever. As a result, I tend not to get as wrapped up in the annual frustrations with the process as some, having already long since despaired over the shabby treatment of the late Ron Santo for not getting voted in, not to mention the flabby gymnastics presented by way of explanation from that shrinking segment of voters determined to ignore Bert Blyleven. But I get asked about it often enough casually by people assuming that I must already be in the electorate; optimist that I am, I stick with the hope that, come the day, Tim Raines will never need my vote, and that justice will be done to the players who deserve election in the meantime, however fractiously, and with however many unhappy exceptions.

Yet, after the recent elections of Andre Dawson and Jim Rice, we're obviously dealing with an electorate given to its own foibles and excuses and special pleading, perhaps no different than you or I are, but they're the ones tasked with the vote, and we ain't. I can complain about Lou Whitaker's lot, you might choose Bobby Grich's equally hopeless cause, and we can complain and wring our hands, get another round, and we both go home unhappy. It's not an especially rewarding exercise, but I figure that, if and when the time comes that I can help set some things aright, I will.

The need for that sense of responsibility, to the process and to the players, to the institution and the industry, seems in particularly short supply this time around. Every year brings another ream of recriminations, because the process involves risking another exercise in hubris that leaves great, Hall-worthy careers unrecognized. What has been especially noxious this time around is the treatment of Jeff Bagwell from some quarters as he arrives on the ballot. What he has been subjected to is little better than character assassination, where even the lack of any actual evidence, any scintilla of contemporary complaint from the writers themselves, or the especially self-serving “he didn't rat on teammates to me” tack is being held against him.* This approach will be on the landscape for years to come, so you may as well gear up for the witch hunts to come, against Mike Piazza or Jim Thome and so many others, no doubt using criteria every bit as tenuous or fantastic.

The problem of sportswriters investing themselves with too much significance in the process and belated paragons of probity is just another manifestation of the Chinese water torture that trails every “new” revelation about who tested positive seven or eight years ago, before a comprehensive testing regime was part of MLB's operations and practice. After missing history instead of recording it, only to see the industry itself tardily address the problem of PED use, it's as if the sportswriting community can't spend enough time wailing about what happened then to make up for lost time. Having so thoroughly, absolutely, and completely failed to produce history's first draft, it seems as if any number of writers are investing in a narcissistic thrill-kill, avenging themselves on the game's history by assuming a moral responsibility they already shirked. Steroids stopped being a relevant or timely issue years ago, having long since been reduced to self-absorbed media navel-gazing: What didn't we know, and how long didn't we know it, and now I'm belatedly mad as hell now that I no longer need to dig a quote out of this guy.

It isn't even an obsession shared by baseball itself, no more than it is in other sports.** There will be no self-destructive acts of vengeance from Bud Selig and his picked crew of franchise operators made at the expense of Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa or Barry Bonds for sins real or imagined. As investors in the game's financial blossoming during and since the summer of '98, suffice to say that, for them, there is no financial incentive to treat the matter as anything more than a topic of negotiation with the union, having previously left it in the realm of “not my problem.” The game we got in the meantime is a matter of historical record, and PEDs were part of the competitive ecology of the game. In no small part because of the way the industry handled the matter and the media responded to it, we will never know how much of an impact it had, leaving us with this mess.

So revenge has been left to the noisy cheerleaders of '98: the Fourth Estate, and a vengeful lot they can be. In the spring of 2009 I participated in a public discussion and debate of steroids and baseball at Northwestern. A senior writer from the BBWAA and I were two members of the panel, charged with speaking out in condemnation of the use of PEDs in the game. An easy enough tack, of course, and one I'll admit to having to finesse, given my own convictions on the subject. However, at one point, my teammate made what I still consider the cringe-worthy comment, that a player needs to keep a writer happy, and if he doesn't, the writer can always avenge himself come time to vote for the Hall of Fame.

Give me what I want, or I get even. Really? That's the process? In my naieveté, I see voting by the BBWAA like possession of the card itself as a privilege and a duty to be taken seriously, not reduced to a patronage scam or an exercise in petty revenge. What is at stake is the game's historic legacy, and what is owed by the electors charged with the responsibility to vote is to put down the names of the men who earned it on the basis of what they achieved on the field, the only standard that is observable, knowable, tangible, and debatable. You are not the point of the exercise. They are.

Where steroids are concerned, I suppose there's always the “assault on the record book” complaint, which has always struck me as quixotic at best. What hallows the record book are the people referring to it, not the data within, and to do so is to ignore the fact that the record book is a shabby compromise already, a legacy generated from any number of shameful periods, acts, or exclusions, starting with the lily-white mini-leagues from before the wars, to the increasingly frightening amount of game-rigging that might have been going on during the Deadball Era, the potemkinization of the A's franchise to help generate the Yankees dynasty of the '50s, on into the age of greenies or the competitive balance-perverting atrocity of collusion. Look long enough, and there's plenty of ugly to go around. For myself, I'm a bit fond of the actual baseball part of baseball, while necessarily knowing more than enough about how the sausage was made. It is a compromise we all have to make, to one extent or another.

Which means taking on the unavoidable. Steroids were a part of the game for roughly 20 years, despite being illegal, albeit not something being policed in the game. I'll make no apologies, not that I have any to make—their use is a sad fact, and forever will be, and getting them out of the game is an obvious good. On the other hand, amphetamines were part of the game for 50 years or more, and were even more obviously tolerated as part of the game, and were just as obviously studiously ignored by writers who had a story staring them in the face every single day for five or six decades, and reported not a bit of it. Instead, you'll find many of those same men pretending that the game was “clean” in the '50s or '60s, which is nothing more than generational conceit. Like any dose of salmonella, the Boomers will inevitably pass, but not before they have allowed their run of make-believe to run its full course, up to and including their choices for enshrinement.

In the meantime, the 'character clause' in voting instructions is always there for some voters to stumble over, and invest with personal significance: "Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contribution to the team(s) on which the player played."

Now, perhaps obviously, the player's record and playing ability are straightforward matters of fact, and to take a reductionist, data-driven point of view, so are the contributions. Which leaves us with the other three things. People will inevitably invest meaning into their own opinions about a man's integrity, sportsmanship, or character, but in the end, they are just opinions. The presence of these six qualities, strung together with an 'and,' does not mean all six are required to be taken equally seriously, or ever have been. If they were, any number of heroes ensconced in the Hall for decades would not have been voted in. The Hall, like the electorate and like the game, is a human institution, so it is inevitably stuck with a certain number of failures and failings, as well as virtues.

Unfortunately, the character and integrity argument has been used and abused to suit some voters' individual agendas, and perhaps even their individual moralities. Some players lose “character” votes for perceived transgressions, but only for some things (like pretending to know Bagwell used steroids), but not others that are a matter of noisome fact, like paternity suits, squalid personal lives, or run-ins with John Law. Some of Dave Parker's boosters have argued he's not in the Hall of Fame where Rice and Dawson are because of the accusations attached to his presence in the cocaine scandals in the early '80s; with a voting process this capricious, they may have a point. Pete Rose might have invited his own set of major concerns for the squeamish, had he not already brought down the penalty for gambling upon his head. Many of the writers who helped invent Steve Garvey's “Mr. Clean” image are still working, having understandably decided not to die of embarrassment.

None of this has a lot to do with baseball, and it doesn't make Parker or Garvey or Bagwell or Dawson or Rice or even Rose better or worse ballplayers, any more than whether or not a player is nice to a particular reporter should have anything to do with a vote for the Hall of Fame. The game is played by human beings, which leaves plenty of room for sin and virtue, admirable qualities and those less so. I'm not inclined to throw any first stones, but I am inclined to chuck the speculation and the character judgments into one big dumpster, because that's about all they're good for.

Playing make-believe over whether or not one player did or did not do something is a travesty, especially when we know very certainly that steroids happened. We are unavoidably stuck with their legacy as a matter of record, as well as the record book. However, we do not know how much of an impact they had on any individual player, or on all players. We don't know if more pitchers used them, or hitters, or who got the most benefit, and what was the nature of that benefit; speaking from experience, body-altering drugs affect different people differently.

So, what to do? When the time comes I know that, if I wind up with the privilege, I'll be voting for a few flawed heroes from a flawed period. To me, that absence of perfection just makes the recent past that much more like the rest of the game's greater history, or any like any period from human history. This need to punish is not unlike the repeated calls to forgive Joe Jackson or Pete Rose, for they have less to do with the objects of their hate or affection than with how doing so makes the authors feel—avenged or merciful—when such is not really the responsibility of the voter. We can no more overlook an entire generation of ballplayers than, 60 years earlier, we could have chucked the responsibility to vote for players from before integration, because the game was not the way we would have wished it, then, or recently. Whatever its flaws, the game remains great; however flawed its heroes may or may not be, the responsibility is to reward its greatest.

*: It's worth noting that the players who did usually stayed off the record, getting the benefit of being a “good guy” to those on the beat at no cost or risk to themselves, and with even less responsibility.

 **: You mean they're not going to kick all those Steelers from the '70s out of the Hall of Fame? How about Jerry Rice, for not ratting on his juiced (and caught juicing) teammates on the Super Bowl-losing Raiders of 2002? Wait, nobody cares about all that? 

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

77 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

JHaugJr
(332)

None of the Steelers who went down into the dungeon at the Red Bull Inn in Washington are Hall of Famers. In fact, virtually every Steeler HOFer fromt he 70s is notably on the smallish/thin side.

The Steeler offensive linemen of that era and a few of the later arriving d-linemen were clearly roided up, but the reecord should be cleared up.

Dec 31, 2010 06:46 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Ah, but were I to use the Pearlman standard, where suspicion equals conviction... at which point we've buttered an already slippery slope. ;)

Dec 31, 2010 10:34 AM
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

BTW, c'mon folks, no need to minus JHaugJr, he made a solid point, and I joshed in response. Give the guy a break already.

Jan 02, 2011 19:34 PM
 
grandslam28

Don't you realize that if someone has a different opinion then they have to minus a post.

Jan 02, 2011 20:06 PM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

True, but more's the pity. Accepting the right to disagree is as American as it gets.

Jan 02, 2011 21:09 PM
 
bozarowski

In fairness to those that ring the steroid bells against Mike Piazza in the future, Jeff Pearlmann did report that Piazza took PEDs in his Clemens' book 'The Rocket That Fell to Earth.' Not saying that's the same level of proof as a suspension or as a failed test but Piazza had the opportunity to take legal recourse to clear his name from those accusations and chose not to.

Personally, I couldn't care less about steroids because we will never know exactly who did what and I'd rather let 50 PED guys in the Hall than keep out one clean guy because of McCarthy-esque suspicion. But, the PED case is stronger in some situations than in others and Piazza's PED case is a lot clearer than Bagwell's.

Dec 31, 2010 07:05 AM
rating: 3
 
jedjethro
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The Astros were ground zero for steroids. The players themselves had a chance to clear all this up many years ago and chose over the top indignation and faux anger.

No way, no how on Bagwell. Didn't play at a high enough level long enough and the only thing clearly enshrinement worthy is the level of ineptitude he and Biggio displayed in the postseason.

Dec 31, 2010 07:27 AM
rating: -29
 
CRP13

You have so clearly lost your mind that you might as well abdicate your right to continue breathing.

Dec 31, 2010 15:41 PM
rating: 5
 
lesmash

Beautifully written story, Christina. It is articles like this that will keep me coming back to BP.

Dec 31, 2010 07:39 AM
rating: 12
 
JoeSky60

Well said. My sentiments exactly. Thank you, Christina, for another year of excellence. Happy New Year!

Dec 31, 2010 08:02 AM
rating: 3
 
etothepiiplus43

Can we make this mandatory reading for all BBWAA writers with Hall of Fame votes?

Dec 31, 2010 11:36 AM
rating: 2
 
Luke in MN

Whether you agree with doing so or not on Bagwell, I fail to see how waiting for a little while on players from the steriod era is either "noxious" or "character assissination," let alone McCarthyite. Additional evidence and perspective may very well be forthcoming. People seem to have a mistaken belief that not voting for someone for the hall of fame on the first ballot is the same as convicting someone of a crime.

Dec 31, 2010 08:46 AM
rating: 1
 
jedjethro
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All of you sanctimonious roid-ragers can click the minus-rating button all you want, but it doesn't change the fact that basically a generation of players hijacked the record books by cheating. And those that might have not been doing PEDs are still complicit by their sins of omission. Now click away.

Dec 31, 2010 09:09 AM
rating: -24
 
Ogremace

What part of this is so hard to understand? There is no purity to the record books: should we remove everyone from pre-integration? Everyone who played with someone using amphetamines? Ty Cobb was a douchebag, he's out too? There is no standard for purity here, only the fact that fewer things were reported and you weren't alive back then.

So you, the sanctimonious penitent of the record book, will just have to click the minus button for all of those possible defilers whose cases you have ignored, leaving temple to baseball history eerily empty.

Dec 31, 2010 14:40 PM
rating: 11
 
CRP13

You can post links here. Post a few linking Bagwell to steroids. Go ahead, we'll wait. While you're at it, post a few questioning his character. Happy hunting.

Dec 31, 2010 15:43 PM
rating: 3
 
jedjethro
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Who are you, his mom?

Dec 31, 2010 18:48 PM
rating: -29
 
ZeusIsLoose

The problem with saying not voting someone in on the first ballot isn't a crime is that if every voter did that, all these guys would fall off the ballot while you are waiting for awhile.

This whole steroid argument leaves me no appettite for HOF arguments anymore.

The governor of Pennsylvania was right, we are becoming a nation of wusses. WAAAAAAH HE CHEATED....

Vote the great players from the steroid era, from every era, into the HOF. That's why it is there.

It is a museum of baseball history and whether or not your delicate fragile ego can handle it, the games were played the homeruns were hit, and greatness needs to be honored.

Jeff Bagwell had a HOF worthy career.

Why have a museum of baseball history that selectively re-writes history?




Dec 31, 2010 09:30 AM
rating: 7
 
drawbb

As to your point of voting omissions possibly resulting in some players falling off the ballot while Hamlet-esque writers wait for evidentiary Godot, all I can say is you are right about that danger. Don't be surprised by anything that might happen.

A few years ago in our clubhouse, I personally heard one prominent HOF voter holding court with some other junior members proffer the idea that "wouldn't it be great if we all agreed to leave Barry off the ballot his first year so he falls below the 5% threshold and gets dropped from the ballot?"

I don't care what anybody thinks of Bonds, but I do know it isn't the job of a writer to instigate some half-assed premeditated boycott just because Barry didn't provide enough canned quotes to fellate the media's egos...and make no mistake, that issue--more than any drug allegations--is what lies at the heart of the matter in the Bonds case.

If enough writers individually decide to omit, fine, but it shouldn't be some concerted plan of action in what would amount to the Fourth Estate's version of Revenge of the Nerds.

Dec 31, 2010 18:44 PM
rating: 7
 
Richie
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Your literary style of writing does not lend itself to all things and purposes, Christina. I think this article is supposed to tell me 'What Christina Believes Re Steroids and the Hall of Fame'. But I still don't have much of an idea on what you specifically do.

Dec 31, 2010 09:35 AM
rating: -11
 
Richie
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To take my own advice and be more specific, I read 15 paragraphs telling me why you stand where you stand. But I have only a vague idea of exactly where it is that you stand.

Dec 31, 2010 09:40 AM
rating: -12
 
Schere

Really?

"When the time comes I know that, if I wind up with the privilege, I'll be voting for a few flawed heroes from a flawed period."

I thought that was pretty clear.

Dec 31, 2010 13:04 PM
rating: 9
 
SeanDoyle

I'll be glad when Christina is voting for the HOF!

Dec 31, 2010 10:02 AM
rating: 9
 
Ric Size

I'm with CK on caring less and less each year about the HoF voting. The whole process reeks of hypocrisy. To repeat her point for those who have a hard time reading: If a sportwriter suspected steroid usage then it was (and still is) their job to investigate and find the proof. Most were/are too lazy or too cozy with the players to do this, and therefore bear much responsibility for the "steroid era." In doing this, they gave up their right to be indignant a long time ago. For the most part, I believe the character of the voters is more suspect than the players in question.

Also as an aside, Pat Gillick was a GM throughout the steroid era and must have had knowledge of it's widespread use. I don't ever recall him calling anyone's attention to it. He's just been elected to the HoF, with near-universal media praise, and deservedly so. The hypocrisy comes when you ask the question, "How come he isn't judged through the same lens as the players?"

We should remember to ask this same question in a few years when Steinbrenner and Selig are elected.

Dec 31, 2010 10:38 AM
rating: 12
 
Richie
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Or put another way, it's OK when I and people thinking like me character assassinate. Because we've accurately picked out the appropriately bad characters. So therefore it's not really assassinating.

Dec 31, 2010 11:10 AM
rating: -9
 
eighteen

You and Jedjethro need a remedial reading comp class.

Jan 01, 2011 21:46 PM
rating: 3
 
jedjethro
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Try rereading things when you're 19. Maybe it will be possible understand things you're not capable of now.

Jan 03, 2011 05:52 AM
rating: -10
 
abcjr2

"I see voting by the BBWAA like possession of the card itself as a privilege and a duty to be taken seriously, not reduced to a patronage scam or an exercise in petty revenge."

I agree completely, but abuse has been around for a long time. As it turns out, the story about a Boston writer leaving Ted Williams off the ballot in 1942, after he won a triple crown, is probably apocryphal, but serves as a myth that tells a larger truth:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/sports_blog/2010/09/sports-legend-revealed-did-ted-williams-lose-an-mvp-award-because-a-boston-voter-left-him-off-the-ba.html

Dec 31, 2010 11:59 AM
rating: 0
 
NJTomatoes

"In no small part because of the way the industry handled the matter and the media responded to it, we will never know how much of an impact it had, leaving us with this mess."
Should read: "...and the media participated in it..."

Dec 31, 2010 12:21 PM
rating: 1
 
Winenegress

"All of you sanctimonious roid-ragers can click the minus-rating button all you want, but it doesn't change the fact that basically a generation of players hijacked the record books by cheating. And those that might have not been doing PEDs are still complicit by their sins of omission. Now click away."

Guess what? Illegal drugs are part of life and sports. Who's to say the stars of the 20s and 30s didn't use cocaine or some form of amphetamine. Baseball in the 60s and 70s wouldn't have been played without greenies. During the PED era, baseball had not banned the substances so I do not think the record book has been "hijacked" any more than it was when the leagues were all-white, mobbed up (see deadball era) or all hopped up on greenies.

Also considering that steroid use is also prevalent among non-athletes (you looked around a gym, fire house or police station lately?), I think most of the general public , like chicks, dug the long ball and didn't much care how they came about.

Dec 31, 2010 13:39 PM
rating: 7
 
mark1623

@winenegress: I agree with your general point, but steroids were banned in baseball since at least 1991, when Fay Vincent sent out a memo to all the teams making clear that steroids and other illegal drugs were not allowed in baseball.

Dec 31, 2010 17:56 PM
rating: 1
 
calhounite
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I don't think there's been any attempt to character assassinate Bagwell. That's a strawman. People have said they don't know if Bagwell juiced or, given x factors, that they think Bagwell may possibly have juiced (same thing). What the heck can they say?. Bagwell definitely did NOT juice? How with no testing?

What I find strange about Bagwell is his comments to the effect that he didn't mind competing against roiders. As a roid-free competitor he was satisfied with his 40, and wasn't interested in a roider's 70. That's just weird on several levels. Honest competitors do NOT willingly compete against roiders as a general rule.

There should be a "pass" option included as one of the ten votes to enable a candidate to be held over to the next ballot. 5 percent yes/pass total, and a candidate continues on the ballot. Would help sort this mess out.

Dec 31, 2010 18:14 PM
rating: -9
 
Matthew Avery

Not knowing something isn't a story. It's not something worth publishing. And yet stories about how we're not sure if Bagwell used 'roids get published.

And do you really think more time is going to resolve issues that are already over a decade old?

Bagwell is a top 10, probably top 5 1B of all time. Excluding him would be far, far dumber than excluding Blyleven.

Jan 01, 2011 09:13 AM
rating: 1
 
SGreenwell

I'm just glad that your apparent psychology degree has allowed you to peer into what is and what isn't a proper response for a man competing against others with an unfair advantage. Thanks for the diagnosis, doctor.

Also, we don't KNOW that Bagwell didn't like, murder a guy in New Britain in 1990 - He's never denied it. Let's get Chief Wiggum in on this, because I think something went down.

Jan 02, 2011 18:48 PM
rating: 2
 
calhounite
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Most people don't want to ruin their health in order to make a living and advance in their profession.

But here's another "diagnosis", sport, but you want like this one either.

Probably the main reason that the non-user player during the steroid era tolerated his illegitimate competition was because he wanted to keep the option to use roids. He had a ringside seat to observe the quinea pigs, probably noting that roids were very effective in extending careers. These non-users already knew they had the ability to play in the majors unaided. Those that didn't were called minor leaguers. And with the huge monetary incentives, good performance capping a career meant millions. Perhaps this was the purported non-user Bagwell's plan before his shoulder ripped apart.

Uh oh done invaded your house again.



Jan 02, 2011 20:41 PM
rating: -5
 
Mr. Cthulhu

Why invent a reason for any player keeping quiet? You are a baseball fan, you know the culture around the clubhouses. Its a code of silence, what happens in the clubhouse or on the road stays there. No matter what. Sure a player aware of steroid use could go out and say something, but they would be ostracized by other players and quite possibly the media. The media would run with it, but players and commentators would say that they should have handled it internally etc. Now, maybe that isn't what would happen, but it would be a logical that any player who knew (or suspected) teammates of taking steroids that they would expect this reaction. Hell, they might just keep it to themselves because they believed that there was more honor in silence than in outing a cheater.

Basically, even if Bagwell knew and said nothing, it still takes a large leap on anyone's part to assume he kept silent for purely selfish reasons.

Jan 02, 2011 22:40 PM
rating: 0
 
SGreenwell

You are making a whole lot of guesses and conjecture based on what you think. Do you have any proof of it all beyond your instincts or feeling?

If I understand it correctly, your argument basically boils down to that because Bagwell no doubt saw other players using, he would realize that he could steroids to prolong his career and enhance his peak. You offer no concrete proof for this, such as a damning interview with Bagwell, or quotes from his past teammates.

"Invaded my house again"? Who are you, Antoine Dodson?

Jan 03, 2011 01:40 AM
rating: 0
 
calhounite
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It's called a "reaction" to a "response" pal. Do you believe everything somebody says just because they say it? If so, you must be one gullible piece of work. Bagwell's response to steroid allegations wasn't convinciing to ME for the reasons stated. And it takes one arrogant prick to say noone can decide how to take a response except someone holding a psych degree.

Jan 03, 2011 22:23 PM
rating: -5
 
calhounite
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By the way, since your critiqing my response to Bagwell's response, where did you get your psych degree ... from the College for Stupid Pricks?

Jan 02, 2011 22:25 PM
rating: -15
 
SGreenwell

I guess I would just like to take this opportunity to complaining about the way in which these comments are continually portraying psychiatrists who make pat diagnoses of patients' problems without first obtaining their full medical history.

Seriously, I doubt you know Jeff Bagwell, and I certainly don't know Jeff Bagwell, so it seems silly for you to be determining what he would and wouldn't do if he was exposed to steroid users.

The murder example was meant as a facetious argument to prove the point - The absence of information can't be used to derive truth. Just because Bagwell wasn't outraged about steroid users (I mean, if he wasn't) doesn't mean that he is automatically a steroid user, anymore than being unable to prove where he was every second in New Britain in 1990 means he is a suspect in every murder there.

Jan 03, 2011 01:46 AM
rating: 5
 
jedjethro

I hadn't heard about his involvement in a crime at New Britain before this ... I wish I could rely on the media to report these things. Thanks for bringing this to light SGreenwell.

Jan 05, 2011 07:49 AM
rating: 2
 
flandry

I couldn't agree more. Bagwell always has had a good reputation; never a whisper of steroid use. How can you hold his excellence against him without any actual evidence of wrongdoing? Based on the change in his physique from 22 to 29? Geez, you should see the change in me from 22 to 45! At the very least I'd be convicted of junk food abuse! To deny a player of a spot in the HOF because of vague suspicions about the era he played in is pathetic. And this whole idea of being at fault because he didn't speak up enough about the problem is even sillier. Maybe, like most players, he thought his job was to just play ball.

Dec 31, 2010 18:53 PM
rating: 7
 
jedjethro

Except he and Biggio ran off at least two managers. They were the de facto runners of the franchise. Maybe Michael Jordan should get to pick his coach. Biggio and Bagwell were never that good to deserve that kind of pull.

Jan 05, 2011 07:50 AM
rating: -2
 
CRP13

Where are you GETTING this nonsense you keep spouting off? Are you trying to come up with unprovable and ridiculous statements just to get a reaction? Because, well...it's working.

Jan 05, 2011 10:00 AM
rating: -3
 
jedjethro

What nonsense, CRP13? It's common knowledge around here that both Larry Dierker and Terry Collins were shown the door because of problems of Biggio and Bagwell. Maybe they should have been fired anyway. But when should players be in charge of a team?

Jan 05, 2011 14:10 PM
rating: -1
 
amazin_mess

He has to get in. His performance was good enough and there's no proof he did anything wrong.

Dec 31, 2010 19:13 PM
rating: 1
 
frugalscott310

It depends on your view of the HoF, as it does with a lot of other guys. The way I see the Bagwell situation, I can accept some bit of trepidation in voting for him. If you look at his career with an unbiased eye, he really had 7 outstanding seasons, from 1994-2000 (using WAR, wOBA, OPS+ or whatever yardstick you prefer). He had some very good seasons bookending those and he had some lesser seasons as he wound down.
In a 15 year career, he was Babe Ruth for seven of them and Boog Powell for the other eight. From that, you can legitimately make two arguments against including him in the hall. One would be that he did not sustain true excellence for a decade or more (assuming someone is from the small hall rather than the big hall school). He was merely very good for three or so of his best ten years. The other argument for excluding him right now would be the uncomfortable feeling that someone might have in trying to explain that seven year burst of excellence in an era when it is known that PED use was widespread.
This is not to accuse Bagwell of anything. It's also not to dismiss anyone who feels whatever way they choose to feel on his induction. It simply makes the point that there are schools of thought that can exclude him that are legitimate opinions, even if they are not your way of looking at things.

Dec 31, 2010 20:49 PM
rating: 0
 
grandslam28

Baseball was complicit in players taking steroids. About seven years ago I discussed steroids with a doctor on the Pirates. He said that at one of MLB doctors meeting where they passed out a list of what to test players for that one of the doctors asked why a bunch of other things were not being tested for and the head doctor said, "Don't shine bright lights in dark places."

I feel that since it was not against the rules of baseball at the time and that baseball allowed it to happen, they can not go back and condemn them now.

Jan 01, 2011 11:50 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Which is another part of the reason why we should get over the overwrought hand-wringing: the industry wanted things this way, right up until they decided it wasn't worth the headache and they were in a position to hammer out a serious testing regime with the union. In the meantime, attendance boomed, coffers filled, and writers played their happy role as obedient handmaidens.

Jan 01, 2011 13:10 PM
 
Richie
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So how much hand-wringing is properly wrought, Christina?

If you believe flat-out known steroid use is entirely irrelevant re the Hall, just say so.

If you believe known steroid use matters some (how much, then?) re the Hall, but suspicion of steroid use is entirely irrelevant, just say so.

If you're only against witch hunts, what level of evidence do you see as rising to justifiable? Confessed? (Bonds, ARod) Formally implicated? (Mitchell Report) Expert implicated? (Canseco saying "So-and-so did 'em, too!") "Everybody figures so ... " implicated? (Bret Boone; Clemens prior to his legal self-implosion)

Jan 01, 2011 15:02 PM
rating: -5
 
jedjethro

Why would this comment by Richie be voted down? Maybe Christina should just keep a kerchief dabbed in ammonia to revive herself when these brutish men comment instead of having the gallant gentlemen minus-clickers rally to her defense.

Jan 05, 2011 07:52 AM
rating: 1
 
mrdannyg

Really? It is minus'ed because it is awful. The general point is reasonable - wondering at what point it effects someone's candidacy, and by how much. The best thing you could say about his post is that he brings up a very obvious and well-worn point, as if it had never been considered.

It was voted down because he sarcastically and jerkishly oversimplifies someone who just spent a lot of words making her point very clearly, including where she chose not to state a specific position.

To make the suggestion these minuses are coming because Christina is female is the only sexist thing so far. You'd be getting the same minuses anywhere else.

Jan 07, 2011 14:18 PM
rating: 0
 
calhounite
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If "baseball" meaning Selig is the root cause of the steroid era (and he is) , why should a reporter who's against enshrining roiders be left holding the bag?

"Baseball" also include the player's union and is an auxilary cause without the complicity of which there would have been no steroid era. All players of the era share in the cause.

Bagwell was directly and publicly accused by a well-known mouthpiece for a well-endowed media outlet of juicing. No libel lawsuit has yet been forthcoming. Maybe that's because the testimony of the gym owner who alledgely stated that he supplied Clemens, Pettite, and Bagwell with their own personlized set of roids in the Clemens case disposition would then be deposed with Bagwell as the subject matter. If so, understandable, as would then be Bagwell's associations, health and performance patterns, and the strange pecularities of Bagwell's roid denial.

There's seems to be a lot of rabid animosity toward anyone caring whether or not Bagwell juiced as a factor for Hall consideration. If someone doesn't care, fine, their solution is to allow users in who otherwise, having not been users, would not have met the performance standards for Hall consideration, pretty much making the Hall of Fame a sick joke. Some solution.

Jan 02, 2011 10:05 AM
rating: -4
 
frampton
(870)

Apart from anything else, this notion that a failure to bring a libel suit is somehow evidence of the truth of the "libeler's" statement/accusation needs to be put to rest. These players are almost certainly "public figures" who then would have to prove actual malice: that the statements were made with knowledge that they were untrue, or with reckless disregard of their truth or falsity. That's an extremely difficult standard to meet, and not meeting it means lots of money in legal fees. Those are very good reasons not to bring a libel suit, even if the accusations are not true. (Not to mention the inherent difficulty of proving a negative.)

Your statement that "If someone doesn't care, fine, their solution is to allow users in who otherwise, having not been users, would not have met the performance standards for Hall consideration . . ." assumes that steroids could make the difference between a HOF career and a non-HOF career. There's absolutely no conclusive evidence that that's possible.

Jan 02, 2011 10:48 AM
rating: 9
 
calhounite
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Another reason to nor bring the suit is the allegations are true. Look, Bagwell, like the whole group of steroid era players, is asking for his word and reputation to stand in the place of testing as assurance that he played his career out roid-free. That would be a pretty good deal for a player who maintained a clean public image while keeping his roid contact confidential. However, no reporter who does not want his vote to be effectively an endorsement of peds, is under any obligation to accept this level of assurance, public condemnation to the contrary be damned.

Whether Bagwell used or didn't is up to the individual reporter to decide, and if in explaining his vote, expresses concerns about Bagwell'a possible usage, he's not disclosing anything the public is not already aware of.

Your second point makes no sences unless you're denying the definitions, peds being performance enhancers and the HOF being a measure of performance. True, there's no quantifiable amount to the enhancement that one can subtract from the performance, Maybe ther's not one at all. Since the rest of the sports universe has decided to just deligitimize peds, I would say it's up to the baseball roider to prove otherwise. Can get McGuire to help.

Denying entrance to those who didn't use is an injustice, but allowing roiders in would definitely destroy the Hall's integrity. That will probably be the "solution" down the road, but it will be just a surrender to the reality that baseball has destroyed its integrity.

Jan 02, 2011 11:59 AM
rating: -5
 
Mr. Cthulhu

Please stop it with the Baseball's integrity was destroyed! Baseball has never had an era of integrity, hell that would be a boring era! As Christina noted above there are several other injustices and scandals throughout all of baseball's history. Steroids may seem like the worst scandal, since it is happening now and not being remembered with the fondness we put on the past.

Jan 02, 2011 22:48 PM
rating: 13
 
jedjethro

I don't equate roids with Ty Cobb being a violent, racist a-hole. At least his performance on the field wasn't a mirage. I imagine many fewer people than once did still view baseball's racist past through rose-colored glasses. Why not put Ben Johnson in the track hall of fame? Oh that's right; he's a disgraced cheater whose performance was a result of juicing up.

Jan 05, 2011 07:58 AM
rating: 1
 
mrdannyg

Don't avoid the obvious. There are plenty of people enshrined who were known to throw spitballs, take amphetamines, etc. Things that almost certainly falsely improved their baseball ability. Not just racists and drunks.

Having said that, the Ben Johnson point is interesting. I'd love to see any steroid-assisted stats deleted from player's permanent records. Just like Johnson's record/medals get stripped for races after he tested positive, just delete the stats for an entire season if a player tests positive after it (or portions thereof).

Jan 07, 2011 14:25 PM
rating: -1
 
sgshaw
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The evidence against Bagwell is circumstantial, but it's also substantial. The time he played, the teammates he played with, the physique, the injuries, the kind of player he was (anything to win), and the rumors among the media all lead to the inescapable conclusion that Bagwell used. I don't have a link, but I remember listening to a radio program on ESPN Boston on which Gammons indicated that Bagwell was a steroid user.

Voters can vote how they want. You can say that using doesn't matter or you can say that they're all guilty. However, you want to parse this issue is fine. But don't pretend that Bagwell wasn't using steroids. That is committing the same willful blindness that we now accuse the mainstream media of practicing in 1998.

Jan 02, 2011 17:49 PM
rating: -7
 
SGreenwell

"Willful blindness" is knowing that something is up and not investigating it. How is using vague accusations 10+ years after the fact suddenly dispelling that? Heck, if a media member is really that concerned about it now, they could still go and investigate. There are tons of ex-players from that era; go talk and interview some specifically about Bagwell and whether they ever saw him juicing.

But, voters probably won't do that, because most of them frankly don't care enough to do so. It's easier to fill up column inches with vague accusations and speculation than to get off your rump and do some original reporting.

Jan 02, 2011 18:52 PM
rating: 4
 
amazin_mess

This is the same line of reasoning that's going to keep Barry Bonds out of the Hall. If Bonds is kept out, the HOF will have become a complete joke. MLB knew all along that these guys were using and they looked the other way because they wanted to maintain the rennaisance of '98.

Jan 02, 2011 17:57 PM
rating: 3
 
grandslam28

No, Bonds went from a Hall of Fame caliber player to the best hitter ever. Bagwell on/not on steroids was not as good as Bonds before steroid use.

Jan 02, 2011 18:44 PM
rating: 2
 
amazin_mess

Right, but what I mean is the line of reasoning that no steroid user ever makes the hall.

Jan 03, 2011 03:15 AM
rating: 1
 
MWSchneider

The problem is people are using such vague criteria to determine whether they think a player was using or not; for example, his physique changed, his head got larger, his numbers shot up suddenly. I don't know what the indications of steroid use are, but a lot of what is cited (at least by fans) is simply gossip based on ignorance.

The whole thing about maintaining the integrity of baseball records is silly. Sports records are always contextual, whether relating to different rules, conditioning methods, inclusion or exclusion of groups from the game, etc. The NFL, for example, is a radically different game from what it was in the 70s due, in large part, to rule changes designed to increase passing. There is no way that Peyton Manning or Tom Brady would have set the TD pass records they did if they played in the 60s or 70s because the rules allowed much tighter defense. Same with baseball; how can you really compare records set in the 20s with today. For example, let's say, for argument purposes, that no one used steroids and the increase in home runs was due entirely to new training methods that increased strength. Let's further say that such training methods weren't available to Ruth, Aaron, Mantle, etc. Would we then discount the records because it's not fair to the older players who didn't have the advantage of the new technology?

I think steroid use is bad and we should attempt to get it out of sports, not because of the effect on records or "integrity" (I think gambling is a lot more deleterious to the integrity of the sport than steroids). They are dangerous substances that have serious health consequences to athletes and players should not feel they have to put their health in jeopardy to play sports. Other than that, who cares, especially since we really don't know how much, if any, effect steroids have on performance in baseball. In football, it's fairly obvious because much of the game is based on strength. But baseball requires a different set of skills; strength is obviously important but it's not necessarily the most important attribute.

Jan 03, 2011 12:08 PM
rating: 11
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

A reasonable statement, and I'm glad you brought up the issue of long-term health, because it's that factor which seems to have been swept under the rug. I would much rather see a public outreach campaign that talks about the post-career implications for users, but as long as we stigmatize the era--and thos few players who used or were accused of using have to worry about their Hall of Fame cases--that seems unlikely at best.

And the extent to which football is now so utterly different, both as a matter of the rules--Bubba Paris could only make the NFL Hall of Fame in an era where blocking is effectively legal compared to the old standard--but also chemistry, usually gets overlooked. While baseball gets held to one standard, football gets treated as an exercise both ahistorical and amoral.

Jan 03, 2011 12:30 PM
 
grandslam28

Football is also run by very smart people where even though steroid use has to be at least just as big as in baseball, nobody knows or cares. There is no scandal.

Jan 03, 2011 12:41 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Indeed; having broken their union, there's not a lot of need to use the issue as a brickbat come time to negotiate. That's the other key dynamic in baseball--beyond a sense of its own history, of course.

Jan 03, 2011 12:53 PM
 
Richie

Gambling is less deleterious to the sport than an important rule followed by half and broken by half for the reasons Bill Russell noted 40+ years ago now. You just cannot offer any important player a sum anywhere near enough to making his lone contribution to throwing a game anywhere near a financially reasonable proposition for him. We'd need a very different financial mileiu for gambling to re-emerge as a significant threat.

As you allude to in your final sentence, of course steroids helped the using players. They build strength, a very useful baseball attribute, and repair fatigued muscles, again very useful (especially for relief pitchers). Seriously arguing "gee, we don't if steroids helped much" is factually akin to saying cigarettes are good for you.

Jan 03, 2011 12:47 PM
rating: -2
 
mrdannyg

This is seriously wrong for a couple reasons. The analogy to cigarettes is just wrong. The correct analogy would be to suggest maybe cigarettes are not that harmful - the previous poster was not arguing that steroids had a net negative effect on athletic performance.

Also, the potential for gambling to effect a game is still significant. Look no farther than the NCAA or the pay scale in the minor leagues to see where the potential lies. Even in the pro ranks, we're not talking about just throwing a game. A single at bat could easily change a betting outcome without changing the outcome of a game. There's no limit to people's greed - just because someone has a 7- or 8-figure salary doesn't stop many people from wanting more.

This isn't to say gambling is a bigger problem than steroids, just that your arguments for the opposite were unreasonable.

Jan 03, 2011 18:55 PM
rating: 0
 
Karl Barth

Richie wrote: "As you allude to in your final sentence, of course steroids helped the using players. They build strength, a very useful baseball attribute, and repair fatigued muscles, again very useful (especially for relief pitchers). Seriously arguing "gee, we don't if steroids helped much" is factually akin to saying cigarettes are good for you."

No one knows how or how much illegal p.e.d.'s help a baseball player. Dismissing that lack of knowledge is a mistake. There is plenty of evidence that players improved only marginally through their use of p.e.d.'s - for example, the list of people who tested positive includes gobs of guys that you and I would agree are replacement-level fodder. The 'roids didn't turn them into Babe Ruth, thus we can safely conclude that there is a limit to what a p.e.d. can accomplish.

Given that we don't know how much effect the drugs had, it is careless or fallacious to conclude that a p.e.d. user must be excluded for that usage. Following your logic, we better exclude Mickey Mantle for using greenies; after all, we don't know how much effect they had on his performance. Sorry but that dog doesn't hunt.

Note that I am not saying that the p.e.d.'s were nothing. There were effects on guys' baseball performance. We simply do not know what they were. Really.

As for "gambling is less deleterious to the sport..." I suggest that is totally incorrect. Your "financial milieu" should take into account the artificially lower salaries of younger players. They are even the most vulnerable to poor judgement, as well as the ones who could have a financial incentive to, um, hedge their bets, as it were.

Jan 04, 2011 12:10 PM
rating: 2
 
Richie

That's basketball Bill Russell, of course.

Jan 03, 2011 12:48 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

In Sacramento, he's better known for being a very tall golfer.

Jan 03, 2011 12:55 PM
 
FLeghorn

This is one of the stupidest threads I've ever labored to get through. Many of the people commenting on this question are the sorts I would dread having to ride in an elevator with. It's embarrasing, particularly as BP usually is at least of a higher rate of discourse than the usual ESPN site with all of the mouthbreathers and Cowherd afficianados.

Jan 03, 2011 20:09 PM
rating: 1
 
BurrRutledge

The BP comments are usually top notch, no doubt. Two topics that tend to get heated are the Hall of Fame voting and steroids/PEDs. Put the two together - conflagration.

Jan 04, 2011 09:17 AM
rating: 1
 
jnossal

Um, I have to disagree. BP commenters tend strongly toward insufferably smug group-thinkers and sycophants. Critical reasoning is generally in short supply. The comments left here might be more intellectually pointed than the poorly spelled rantings left on most boards, but too often the naivete is just as evident.

Case in point, the unavoidable urge of most BP readers to negatively rate any comment with which they disagree, no matter how lucid or well-constructed. This is the equivalent of shouting down your opponent in a debate and serves little purpose other than to make an opposing view less accessible. If you disagree, leave a comment saying why that is so instead of going the lazy route and spray-painting over a point that happens to conflict with your own personal worldview.

ETA on this post being negatived into oblivion: 7 minutes.

Jan 09, 2011 09:42 AM
rating: 1
 
Richie
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Not all of us use the site to revel in our intellectual superiority to the great unwashed unfortunately among us. Only most of us so use it.

The preceding was based on the suspicion it was MY SIDE! you were calling stupid. If it was THEM! you were calling stupid, then +++++!

Jan 04, 2011 09:18 AM
rating: -4
 
CRP13

I've never seen so many "minuses" in a BP article.

Jan 04, 2011 10:11 AM
rating: 0
 
jnossal

Thank you, Christina, for comparing baby boomers to salmonella. For that, you have my eternal thanks, admiration and love.

Jan 09, 2011 09:44 AM
rating: 0
 
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