Yesterday, Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk called out Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire for using performance-enhancing drugs. I get why he is so upset, and he has every reason to be, but you can’t hold two players responsible for a generation of cheating. It’s just as much MLB’s fault for letting this go on as it is the fault of the players who took that needle in the ass. There were no rules against steroids in Major League Baseball in the 90’s for God’s sake! How can you call it cheating if it’s not against the rules? Just ask Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt what he thinks about ‘roids.
I’ll give him this: Fisk had a point when he said that Clemens’ career would have ended in Boston without PEDs (thank God it didn’t). But can anybody honestly say he/she wouldn’t do everything in his/her power to keep playing the game he/she loves? If I was a ballplayer and my playing days were coming to an end, I would seriously consider taking something to stay on the field. Furthermore, I wouldn’t call it cheating because the organizations practically encouraged it. Again, what would Michael Jack Schmidt do?
Unfortunately, I don’t believe we will ever get to know exactly which players were on steroids and which were clean. And there’s definitely blood on Bud Selig’s hands. But what I do know is that these players belong in the Hall. I grew up watching them (Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Rocket, among others) and will always remember the Summer of ’98, Bonds’ historic feats (and volatile personality) and Roger being Roger. We can’t act like this era didn’t exist (also, wasn’t there a level of cheating in every generation?), and we need to honor these players. Perhaps on their plaque in Cooperstown there could be an asterisk on the bottom saying that the guy played during the steroid era. Even if he was clean he’s just as guilty for letting that go on. To quote Elie Wiesel, “Whoever witnesses an atrocity and does nothing to stop it is just as guilty as the one committing it.” Well said.
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On another note, one of the saddest parts about this whole steroids thing is that Barry Bonds would have been a Hall of Famer even if he didn’t start using ‘roids. His numbers are great right up until the turn of the century (when he allegedly started using) and, even if you take away everything after that, warrant serious HOF consideration. Rocket, too, boasts a strong resume prior to the time he was accused to start using (1997). As far as McGwire goes, I don’t believe he should be in the Hall regardless of the steroid issue. He was classy, played hard and was a good role model (before the steroids scandal broke), but he wasn’t a Hall of Famer. Same goes for Sosa (minus played hard).
One final thought on this whole steroid topic: My favorite athlete of all time is Don Mattingly. For those of you who don’t know (and if you don’t please never read this site again), Mattingly was the Yankees’ first baseman during the period of futility (late 1982-1995). He looked to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in the 80’s but couldn’t keep it up in the 90’s due to back problems. Where I’m going with this is: I wouldn’t give two shits if Hitman took something to keep up his performance, stay on the field for another year and claim a WS ring. He would have gone from being ‘The Best Yankee To Never Win A World Series’ to ‘Champion.’
I could live with that.