Monday, July 31, 2006

Truth or Dare


The Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies took place last weekend. Bruce Sutter along with 17 negro leaguers were inducted. First of all I can't believe that Bruce Sutter made the Hall before Goose Gossage. Goose was, in my mind, the greatest reliever of his era. His numbers are better than Sutter's and it just amazes me that the majority of Hall voters don't see this. Anyway, that's an topic for another day. The talk this weekend was about what the voters will do about Mark McGwire in the upcoming election.

This years ballots will include Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. for the first time. They are both virtually assured of being elected in their first year of eligibility. McGwire was once thought to also be a lock for induction in his first year of eligibility, which would have made the Hall of Fame class of '07 one of the most memorable of all time. However, the steroids scandal changed that.

McGwire was one of five current or former players called to testify in front of Congress last year. Sammy Sosa gave an embarrassing performance in which he basically claimed to not to understand English. Palmiero told Congress that he had never taken PED's, only to fail a drug test a month later and be suspended from baseball. Palmiero's career is basically over as is Sosa's. Neither was offered a contract this year and both are for all intents and purposes, retired. Jose Canseco said that everyone was on steroids and Curt Schilling, while acknowledging a problem, said that it was not as widespread as Canseco claimed. McGwire refused to talk about any problems or abuse of steroids that may have taken place while he was playing and he refused to talk about his own PED use. He admitted to nothing, but his image took a beating that day.

McGwire was in a unique position that day to perhaps take a stand against steroid use in baseball. He was one of the most, if not the most popular player in baseball during his last 5 years of his career. Thousands of people would show up early to his games just to watch him take batting practice and the fans in the stands would scramble to retrieve one of his BP home run balls. His chase and ultimate breaking of the single season home run record was front page news across the country. His home run power became almost mythical. So there he sat, in front of Congress, with a chance to come clean about his part in the steroid mess and he chose to say practically nothing. Writers and commentators have talked since then about the fact that his failure to come clean has hurt his Hall of Fame chances. In fact, it's more than likely that he will not be voted into the Hall of Fame this year.

So did he do the right thing but not admitting any steroid use? You're damn right he did. For years every sports writer in this country who talked about the Pete Rose situation said that all he had to do was come clean and everyone would forgive him. Well Pete wrote a book in which he admitted to betting on Baseball after over 15 years of denying it. Do you know what happened to him? He was crucified. The sentiment to put him in the Hall, which was leaning in his direction before the book, turned in opposite direction so quickly that it made his head spin. People were saying that he wasn't contrite enough and that since he admitted to gambling on Baseball that he should never be allowed in the Hall. Writers, who for years had been asking for an admission and apology from Rose, turned their backs on him after he did what they had been asking him to do.

Mark McGwire may not get into the Hall on his first attempt, but he'll get in eventually. Opinions will soften over time and McGwire, unlike Barry Bonds was actually fairly well liked by the writers who followed the sport. He wasn't the friendliest guy, but he wasn't a jackass either. The worst thing that he could do is to admit to any wrongdoing on his part. That would doom him in the eyes of the sports writers. His best bet is to lay low and hope that over time, the sports writers will change their minds. There is no solid evidence that McGwire ever took steroids. Jose Canseco has said that he injected McGwire with drugs, but that evidence wouldn't hold up in court. Of course McGwire is being judged in the court of public opinion where the standards aren't quite as high. With that being said however, all McGwire has to do is lay low and his day will certainly come.

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