So Mark McGuire becomes the latest in a short line of admitted users of performance enhancing drugs. He did so out of necessity, having recently accepted a position as Tony La Russa's hitting coach. He offered no real admission as to why he took them other than to say he needed them to be able to physically stay on the field. I guess they didn't help him hit an average of 64HR and 139RBI per 162 games from the age of 31 thru 37. This is 24HR and 31RBI more than his 162 game average of what should have been his peak ages of 22 thru age 30. Similar admissions by Andy Pettite and Gary Sheffield continue a trend of athletes who don't look in the mirror and accept responsibility for their actions, that they took these drugs to gain an edge. They also claim to not know what substances they put into their bodies. Somehow I guess this makes them feel like they really didn't cheat. Regardless, Mark McGuire just doesn't measure up to The Hall of Fame standards.
Without a concrete and measurable way to determine how these drugs enhance performance, we are left with many unanswered questions. Do these drugs prevent injury? How do they affect pure baseball skills (the physical) and how do PED's affect statistical performance? Without an admission of guilt, who do you lump into the group of users? These half-hearted admissions do little to pacify baseball purists, who are left with the mess of what to make out of the steroid era. Lets face it, baseball is a game of numbers, quantifiable and measurable success. Entry into the hallowed Hall of Fame is more about those numbers (and a players supposed integrity) rather than any other criteria. It is difficult enough to judge players from one era and compare their numbers to players from another era, without skewing the process with PED's. Players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Rafael Palmiero, whom without a cloud of uncertainty hanging over their heads would undoubtedly gain entrance to The Hall of Fame, now must wait out a judgment of guilt manifested in voting results. Do we create a "Steroid" wing in the Hall of Fame? How do we now judge lesser players from the steroid era who's careers may have looked a lot better if not compared to the inflated numbers of players on PED's? We can't even clearly define the performance enhancing era as it may have started in the early 80's. Without Olympic style drug testing and blood tests, there is no doubt players are still escaping detection. Just ask any gym rat who knows a little something about these drugs and they will tell you it's hard to catch anyone without getting a blood sample. The technology of the drugs are always one step ahead of the testing. What a mess.
I don't think most players care about the numbers of the game. I think most of todays ballplayers only care how the numbers translate into salary dollars. Maybe I'm too cynical, but I feel like the history of the game has lost some juice. I like to see my records stand and gain some momentum before they are broken. Maybe in today's multimedia world in which we live, the numbers don't mean as much. When I was a kid, baseball cards were a big part of being a fan. You knew the numbers on the backs of those cards and you followed the home run race, or you knew who was leading the league in strikeouts. Do people care today if the numbers are skewed, or is it the age-old adage of what you don't know can't hurt you. Is a fan willing to overlook a players indiscretion, as long as he continues to perform at a high level for his team? Do Yankee fans forgive a player like Andy Pettite because he seems like a nice guy? He didn't cheat, he just used illegal drugs to feel better. As a Mets fan, whispers of Mike Piazza's back acne make me sick. Will I ever know that he did or didn't use some form of PED? I don't want to find out that one of my baseball heroes was a cheater. But if his name is on that list of failed MLB drug testers, then his name should come out, along with all the names of all the other players who failed. It's not fair to the players who's names were already leaked to the press. Maybe if an immense talent like Ken Griffey Junior had decided to use PED's, he may have hit 800 home runs by now.
What about the affect of PED's and how they can affect a teams chances on winning a World Championship. From The New York Times.. When the Yankees won their third successive World Series and fourth in five years in 2000, the team was loaded with players who used performance-enhancing drugs before, during or after that season." Up to ten Yankees from the 2000 World Championship team have been linked to PED's, including Roger Clemens, Denny Neagle, Jason Grimsley, Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch, Mike Stanton and David Justice, but for some the use for which they are cited occurred after the 2000 World Series. But who really knows when and where these drugs were used. I say it is impossible to know for sure regardless of an admission by any player. Some say baseball should do something about records possibly enhanced by PED use, like more asterisks, but why should a team be any different from a player? If an individuals achievements are looked at and put into question, then it goes without saying that a teams achievements must also be examined. From The NY Times..According to the Mitchell report, Clemens used steroids in the latter half of the 2000 season. Neagle played for the Yankees in the latter half of that season and, according to Mitchell, used human growth hormone. Neagle won four successive starts from Aug. 27 through Sept. 12. Clemens, following Neagle in the rotation, won three of four starts. Three times they won consecutive games. Their efforts helped the Yankees increase their division lead from three games to nine.The Yankees, who lost 13 of their last 15 games, won the division by 2 1/2 games over the Red Sox. Without the performances of Neagle and Clemens, who knows what would have happened? How about Mike Stanton's perfect World Series. Four plus innings of perfect ball with seven strikeouts. Like Roger Clemens, he looked like a man possessed. Go back and look at the video. Roid Rage? Who knows? Now he may have been clean, but the seeds of doubt have now been planted by his subsequent Mitchell Report implication. I guess we will never know, and this makes me sad. To think we have to question if a team merits the title "World Champion." Do we have to put an asterisk next to WS titles?
Steroids have been in baseball going back to the 1980's and we will never know who that first player was. Is there someone already elected to The Hall of Fame who may have already used Steroids? And is it our job to care? Hall of Fame members Mike Schmidt and Goose Gossage are of opposite opinion on the matter. While Schmidt has said he would welcome McGuire with open arms if he is elected to the Hall, Gossage has gone on record to say that there should be no place in Cooperstown for any player who used PED's. "Cheating is not part of Integrity." Gossage goes on to say "The integrity of the Hall of Fame and the numbers and the history are all in jeopardy. I don't think they should be recognized. Here's a guy Aaron, we're talking about the greatest record of all records. And he did it on a level playing field. He did it with God-given talent. And the same with Maris, absolutely. These are sacred records and they've been shattered by cheaters." I agree with the Goose on this one. I guess my question would be how do we make this right?