Thursday, January 11, 2007

More National Pastime:Still not NASCAR

This is a second round involving a first sporting love, baseball. The last column gave short shrift to a continuing controversy that is always bubbling just below the surface...until the pressure is too much and a new eruption bursts forth. This speaks, of course, to the eternal debate about wet-tarp sliding. Oh, wait; steroids, yeah, steroids.
Somewhat overshadowing the achievements of Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn was the babble of Mark McGwire's chances at The Hall and why those chances stand where they do. Resisting the urge initially, it cannot be restrained any longer.
So why is McGwire's case so important? The answer is that it stands as the acid test for the "known" steroid/performance-enhancer users who might find themselves at the BASEBALL HALL OF FAME's doorstep and don't want to buy a ticket and stand in line to get in. McGwire might be the first of his "generation" but he certainly will not be the last. At least not as long as anyone can say Barry Bonds.

Let alone Sammy Sosa. Interesting that he was traded from the White Sox because he was a speed guy, not a good hitter (considering that he was dealt for a very fading George Bell).
What a coincidence that Sosa was caught with a corked bat AFTER the waft of steroid rumor had begun to float. Invited by an SI writer to go with him to take a drug test, Sosa shrank (or not, as the case may be) from the challenge.

Inevitably, nothing with the word steroids in it can go without some expounding upon the poster fool for performance enhancement, Ben Johnson. No, not really, it's the aforementioned Mr. Bonds. With his "flaxseed oils" and ever-increasing cranial cavity, his protests will likely fall on deaf ears. What is interesting is how his apologists will claim that his numbers before his homerun spiked run would still get him in easily. That, in an of itself, is highly debatable. The funny part of the joke is that the apologists essentially acknowledge that Bonds did become a cheat, but as if he were two separate people (half as unnecessarily bitter or twice the jerk?) they feel his career is not connected from one year to another, and as such should be judged first half and second half. If that were a valid way to approach the matter, how many players had promising but interrupted careers due to silly reasons like fighting in World War II, for instance. "Hey, not fair, they were off getting shot at and literally saving the world. If their numbers go up it's because they have fresh legs."

Also, please, please, everyone, reject the moronic Ty Cobb argument that is used to defend other idiots' chances of Hall-of-Fame-ing. Yes, Cobb was a murderer, racist, thug, and all around jerk. Yes, in a perfect world he wouldn't be in The Hall. Saying that other cheats, addicts, or assorted miscreants should get in because he did is ridiculous stance, sorry. Such a view is akin to those who say that all the other drugs should be legalized because alcohol and tobacco are. Show some restraint, draw a line, and get a grip.

Worry about guys that are far more deserving without the taint of...whatever. A player like Andre Dawson was a great right fielder, or a guy like Alan Trammell, who will be perenially overlooked, should get in well ahead of cheats like Mac, Sosa, or Albert "Corked Bat" Belle. Not to mention the relief guys that continue to get overlooked. There shouldn't even be much debate.

Is it fair that not all the cheats get caught? Of course not. Are the all the cheats ever caught? In any facet of society? No. Do we cheer on the thieves and thugs in other walks of life? Just sports. Why is that? Do we as a society invest too much into these empty idols to admit to ourselves when the idols fail? As a fan of baseball it is hard to keep ingesting the slop being fed as excuses for behavior no normal adult would toloerate from their own child. When players fail to live up to even lowered expectations it is up to the fans to take the sport back to it's foundation to clean up the mess. Reward only the players with the least to disbelieve, maybe? Like politics, fans get what they vote for; in this case the voting is done with hard earned dollars. Expect more from the players. Ask for more from the executives. Most importantly, demand more from Baseball.

Sorry, can't have a picture every time.
Until next time, be good.


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