Steroids and Mark McGwire
I see Steroids Mark McGwire is on this year's ballot for potential inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
When it comes to suspected steroid users and the decision to vote them into sports' greatest shrine, there are only two defensible positions, one right and one wrong: keep them all out or let them all in. Those who want to randomly cherry pick some for inclusion while casting out others out have no legitimacy because they can't set a standard that applies equally to everyone therefore rendering their position solely reliant on bias and supposition.
The people who wrongly chose to let them all in say that without concrete evidence in the form of admissions or positive tests, you can't selectively guess who did take steroids and who did not so the only fair thing is to open the door to everyone. That position has logic and methodology, but it is morally bankrupt, childish and lazy.
The people who rightly say, "keep them all out," (like myself) argue that inclusion into baseball's hall of fame is a precious honor which should be guarded righteously and when a preponderance of evidence leads you to believe that someone did, in fact, use steroids, he must be kept out to preserve the integrity of the previously enshrined members.
The Baseball Hall of Fame is not about you or me, it is about Christy Matthewson, Ted Williams, Roberto Clemente, Mike Schmidt and everyone else already elected and it is their legacy that is being protected when steroid users like Steroids Mark McGwire are kept out.
The use of steroids, human growth hormone and other illegal performance enhancing drugs are the ultimate short cut in sports. These drugs can turn lifetime minor leaguers into multi-time all stars, good players into single season home run champions and great players into greatest ever players. There is no greater fraud upon sports than steroid use because they turn ordinary ball players into legends.
The best reason we watch sports is to see competitive greatness, the best of the best competing against each other at a level we can not imagine ourselves ever reaching – steroids blow that notion out of the water because nothing you are watching is real when it is chemically enhanced. Steroids make sports a charade. With steroids, you don't know if the athlete is great or the chemist is great, if the effort is superior or the drug is superior. Steroids take away everything that is remarkable about the athlete: hard work, dedication, genetic predisposition, determination. Steroids provide for great acclaim and achievement where none has been earned and none is deserved. Athletes who take steroids destroy the entire idea of what it means to excel at sports and cannot be rewarded with hall of fame induction for it.
Steroids Mark McGwire is a fraud. He is a sham. He is a modern day "Piltdown Man," the much celebrated skeletal remains of what was supposed to be the definitive "missing link" between man and ape, but which proved to be a complete hoax.
Steroids Mark McGwire isn't real. Nothing he accomplished is real. It's a hoax and to post his phony numbers alongside those of men who accomplished theirs through effort and resolve would be a disgrace.
When it comes to steroids and baseball and the hall of fame, anyone whose career has a cloud of suspicion, not just a shred, but a cloud of suspicion around it must be kept out. I realize the difference between a "cloud" and a "shred" is subjective and indefinable, but so are the criteria for inclusion into the hall of fame to begin with. There is no formula, no benchmark, no clearly delineated set of achievements necessary for induction. Educated, respected, thinking individuals are given that responsibility and asked to decide for themselves whether someone is worthy or not. All I'm asking Hall voters to do is apply that same standard to who they feel took steroids or not.
What sort of evidence makes up a "cloud" of suspicion? Leaked grand jury testimony, unusual productivity into your 40s, wild peaks and valleys of production coinciding with the onset and fall of the Steroid Era, numerous muscle injuries, known associations with steroid distributors and users, dramatic changes in physique, accusations of use with no reprisals – just a few of the tip offs I'd use to finger someone a steroid user and keep him out of the Hall.
I have no problem speculating on who took steroids and who did not and then basing a player's worthiness to the Hall on those speculations any more than I have a problem calling O.J. Simpson a murderer based on my speculations about him.
For the people who say circumstantial evidence and accusations shouldn't be enough to keep someone out of Cooperstown, I say, "why not?'" This isn't a U.S. court of law; this isn't "innocent until proven guilty." This is whatever standard you think best upholds the reputation of the Hall, and that standard to me is "cloud of suspicion."
To simply throw your hands up and allow all steroid users into the Hall is cowardly, lazy and disrespectful of both the members already enshrined and the responsibility of having a hall of fame vote. If you want to turn your head while a generation of scoundrels and cheaters marches through the doors of the Hall of Fame, be my guest, but I'd be damned if I allowed it to happen on my watch.
Steroids Mark McGwire, Steroids Barry Bonds, Steroids Sammy Sosa, Steroids Gary Sheffield, Steroids Jason Giambi, Steroids Juan Gonzalez, Steroids Rafael Palmeiro – just a few of the likely to be inducted players with enormous "clouds" of steroid suspicion around them that I'd have no problem keeping out of the Hall.
Hall of fame voters are not merely judges, they are guardians. They are guardians of a game whose history matters. They are guardians of a club upon whose members a degree of immortality is placed. They are guardians of the gates of that club acting on behalf of the members already inside. It is the obligation of hall of fame voters to protect that place, to protect that club, from the charlatans, the scam artists, the cheaters and fakes.
It is the obligation of hall of fame voters to protect the Hall from steroid users.