I wrote an entire post about the Theo/Tito love fest on ESPN Sunday night and forgot to publish it yesterday because life got in the way. It now already seems old thanks to the Roger Clemens verdict, which I will now rant about.
Actually, I won’t rant about the verdict. I’ll just say that watching Clemens tearfully thank his supporters I realized that this verdict gives him the extra juice he needs (no pun intended) to pretend to himself and the world that he isn’t a liar. You are, Roger. In my opinion, the only reason you got the ‘not guilty’ verdicts is because Andy Pettitte told the truth and then went on the stand and said he wasn’t sure he told the truth and it gave the jurors the out they needed.
What I’m here to rant about is Ken Rosenthal. Ken gets my ire today because his was the first piece I read today about the question we’ll be hammered with for the next five years or so “Will Clemens get into the Hall of Fame”? Rosenthal has this asinine plan he sticks to for ANY player how had the misfortune to play in the ‘steroid era’:
“…as I’ve written before, I vote “no” on virtually every player from the steroid era as a way of distinguishing them from the greats of the past. Is that an unfair penalty for candidates thought to be non-users? Yes, but all of the players were part of a union that had the power to implement change.”
So not just players who admitted to using or players it was proven used. Players whose name has been thrown around with no proof of anything (Mike Piazza comes immediately to mind) and players who never had their name attached to steroids or any performance enhancing drugs but played with guys who did. The fact that Ken Rosenthal admits this, in writing, to the free world blows my mind. The fact that he admits this and hasn’t had his Hall of Fame voting privilege taken away from him disgusts me.
I get that most frustrated writers who will never achieve what the people they are voting for have achieved probably become a bit drunk with power when voting time rolls around but Rosenthal’s self-imposed rule takes playing God to another level. And, yes, I know he isn’t the only writer who has admitted to voting ‘no’ on a player’s first time on the ballot. Which I also think is asinine. It reminds me of a teacher I had in grammar school who refused to give me all A’s on my report card even though my grades reflected that’s what I should have gotten. She told my mother, “No one is perfect. No one deserves all A’s.” She made a bad decision and any writer who keeps a player off a ballot the first year ‘just because’ is making a bad decision as well.
But Rosenthal’s decision goes beyond bad. It’s mean. It’s selfish. It’s just wrong on many levels.
If you’re going to vote someone into the Hall of Fame, just do it. There is no reason, in my opinion, to wait. They aren’t going to be more eligible in a year or two than they are the first year.
But more importantly to me, not voting for a particular player, just his first time on the ballot or ever, because there is a possibility but no proof that his career is tainted is just wrong. Any player who currently resides in the Hall of Fame could probably be considered to have a tainted career by the standards that people like Rosenthal are employing. We know how prevalent speed was in clubhouses. We know there were (are?) players with other drug problems who played and excelled. They call steroids and HGH ‘performance-enhancing’ and that sets off all kinds of bells and red flags with folks but isn’t getting more energy artificially ‘performance-enhancing’? Greenies are now on the no-no list but for years they weren’t and the players used them liberally. Will players who drink Red Bull one day be considered ‘tainted’? Who decided Ken Rosenthal and others of his ilk are the arbiters of clean and dirty players?
I don’t like Roger Clemens. I want him to be revealed as a cheating, lying, dirtbag. It’s a personal opinion and one that I think should exclude me from ever making a decision like “Should he be in the Hall of Fame?” because I’m completely biased. There seem to be two types of sports writers, those who think steroids et al ruined baseball and want to punish all those associated with them and those who couldn’t care less. We’re constantly told by these writers that they can’t be ‘fans’ because they need to be neutral in their writing but we all know none of them are neutral and Rosenthal’s piece today screams with bias.
When considering whom to enshrine in the Hall, writers are supposed to take into consideration the character of the players. Now obviously they didn’t do a lot of this back in the day since Ty Cobb happily sits there but just because the first Hall of Fame voters didn’t take character into consideration doesn’t mean the current voters have to ignore it. Tell me you think Mike Piazza was a horrible guy off the field (or even on) and you won’t vote for him to go into the Hall and I’ll say “fine”. (Although not before asking you to prove it. I mean Ty Cobb’s horribleness is legendary. We can’t be that random.) But don’t tell me you think even just association taints anyone who played in that era so no one is going in…at least not until you’ve made them suffer for it first.
Barry Bonds put up Hall of Fame numbers. I hope his plaque is never placed in Cooperstown (as I’ve noted many times before, there are plenty of mentions of Barry in the Hall of Fame, he hasn’t been left out, he just doesn’t have a plaque) because I just don’t like him. Most of that has to do with the reasons I don’t like Roger Clemens (although less personal for me since he never played for Boston) and even though I KNOW it’s wrong, I don’t’ want him rewarded with a permanent spot in the Hall of Fame.
(An important aside: Barry Bonds, in my opinion anyway, seems like a not completely horrible person. He’s done charity work, his fellow players seemed to like him…I’m sure there is other stuff. Aside from my belief that he’s a lying, cheater, he seems perfectly nice. And I don’t mean that sarcastically. It is because of my contradictory feelings about him that 1) I’m glad I don’t have a vote for the Hall of Fame and 2) I don’t feel like a hypocrite criticizing the professionals who DO have that HoF vote.)
I think if you have admitted to using performance-enhancers you should not be allowed in the Hall of Fame. (Looking at you, Mark McGwire.) But I have a difficult time saying that about players who have supposedly tested positive for them (because I really don’t trust MLB’s testing methods), players who have been accused of it with no real proof (in my mind, Clemens has been accused with proof outside of MLB’s grasp) and especially players who have NEVER been even rumored to have used but played in the stupidly named ‘steroid era’. (Stupidly because, among other reasons, all of Manny Ramirez’ positive tests seem to have come AFTER the era.)
It always occurs to me AFTER I write these train of thought pieces that I’ve probably contradicted myself throughout. I’m okay with that. I’m a fan blogging about baseball. My opinions have no impact on the careers and legacies of these players. Hopefully I didn’t do that today, but in case I did let’s recap. Why did I write this rant today?
* I think Ken Rosenthal is a horse’s ass for admitting that he won’t vote for anyone from the ‘steroid era’ the first time they’re on the Hall of Fame ballot…but he’ll consider it after that. Actually, not just for admitting it but for doing it. It’s unprofessional and he’s making it all way too personal.
* There are many writers, Rosenthal included, who were around in that era and did nothing. Rosenthal worked for Sports Illustrated from 1990-2000 and from 1987-2000 covered baseball for the Baltimore Sun. He actively covered baseball in the thick of the ‘steroid era’…so by his way of thinking, doesn’t that mean he holds some responsibility? Are we supposed to believe he didn’t know anything was going on? I don’t believe for a minute that he, nor his contemporaries, didn’t know about the enhancers players were using but they continue to tell us that was the case. This is why I think it’s personal for him. It’s also what adds to his hypocrisy. I’m sure he wouldn’t take kindly to my accusing him of being in on the cover-up back then. He wouldn’t appreciate my saying that I believe he and his fellow writers are as responsible for that era as the players are. But he’s okay with lumping every player of that time in the same pile just because.
* My opinions on steroid and PED use in baseball have changed over the years. The idea used to upset me a lot more than it does now. I also have different standards for the superstars (Clemens, Ramirez, Bonds) who use over the no-names…I acknowledge my inconsistencies on this subject and remind folks, again, that I don’t have the honor of voting for the Hall of Fame…and I’m happy for that.
* I will always dislike Roger Clemens, I will always dislike Andy Pettitte and I will always roll my eyes when people speak fondly of either one. (That really doesn’t clear up anything in the above rant…I just wanted to fit it in!)