The Steroids in the Hall of Fame Debate… Remove Suspicion, Keep Integrity in The Hall of Fame

January 11, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

With last week’s results of the 2011 Baseball Hall of Fame class, it became increasingly apparently to me that anyone remotely tied to the steroid era was going to have an extremely difficult time gaining an invitation to Cooperstown. We all knew there was no reason for Mark McGwire to begin work on any type of induction speech. We were fairly certain that, despite the lasting image of seeing Rafael Palmeiro in Congress saying that he had “Never used steroids – period” he’ll never be portrayed in baseball history as anything but a steroid user, fair or not. What made last week’s results interesting, was the low vote total for Jeff Bagwell.

By all accounts, Jeff Bagwell was a stand up guy both on and off the field. He was the consummate professional. You never really heard a negative peep out of him from his playing days as a Houston Astro, at least not on a national level. He, along with Craig Biggio, helped make professional baseball relevant in Houston for over a decade. He made Larry Anderson relevant to a baseball transaction junkie like myself (he was traded from the Red Sox to the Astros for Anderson… oops, Boston!). But the fact that he played in the so-called Steroid Era is playing against him, and is likely going to keep him out of the Hall of Fame, despite his Hall of Fame worthy credentials. Well, that and the fact that you look at him and think, “How did this guy hit 449 home runs?” Keeping guys like Jeff Bagwell out of Cooperstown is unfortunate, but it’s necessary to keep the integrity of baseball’s most sacred membership.

As I type this, I have yet to read the argument written by Babe Ruthless. But if I had to guess, I’m going to step out on a pretty stable limb and say that he is going to hide behind that “innocent until proven guilty” line of reasoning. That line of defense may work in our judicial system, theoretically, and it may have worked for the likes of O.J. Simpson and his legal Dream Team back during his murder trial in the mid 1990s. But that’s just not the way it works with public perception, and it’s not the way it works in the mind of Hall of Fame voters.

We live in a time where you are often lumped together by who you “hang” with, for lack of a better term. It’s called “guilt by association.” It’s an indirect mindset that we humans deal with on a daily basis. Parents deal with it every day with rebellious teenagers. Police deal with it when investigating potential criminals and drug dealers. Translating to baseball, guys like Jeff Bagwell played during the Steroid Era during the prime of their careers. While it’s true that it was never proven that he took steroids, the dark cloud still hangs over that era, and, quite frankly, it’s an era that Major League Baseball as a whole would prefer to forget. What better way to forget than not elect anyone with any assumed guilt?

When you think Cooperstown, you think of a place to honor and respect baseball’s greatest, both past and present. You don’t think about steroids and needles and ‘roid rages. The integrity of the Hall of Fame must be preserved to help continue the “moving-on” era. To do so, all clouds and suspicions must be kept in the sky – outside the halls of Cooperstown.

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The Credibility of a Cheater Debate – Canseco Is A Joke Even After All These Years

January 26, 2010

Read the debate intro and the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

I remember the days of the late 1980’s when the Bash Brothers had just entered the league and were tearing up American League pitching. In fact, thinking back, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco dominated my early non-Braves baseball memories as a child. My goodness, they could both hit the ball a long way (although years later, we find out they apparently cheated to do it.) Now, over 20 years later, both guys have taken a tumble from the good graces of sports fans. So who, Bleacher Fan asks, is more credible at this day in time? That’s easy. It’s Big Mac.

When Jose Canseco first came out with his steroid claims, which were strategically made right before the release of his book, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits and How Baseball Got Big, I thought to myself, “Oh this guy is just trying to sell books.” I still feel that way, though he has been vindicated to some degree with his previous disclosure of steroid use by former and present baseball stars. It was later reported that Canseco offered to keep Maggilo Ordonez’s name out of another book of his if Ordonez invested in a movie project being promoted by Canseco. You tell me, how does that make your buddy Jose credible in any way? It makes one wonder if he offered that deal to any of the others.

Meanwhile, McGwire has recently admitted that he took steroids throughout much of his playing career. While he has taken a beating from many, something else leads me to give McGwire a break. Former U.S. Congressman Rep. Tom Davis, who, at the time of the infamous “Let’s not talk about the past” hearing was chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, has stated publicly that McGwire pleaded to tell the truth. But to do so, he wanted immunity. He did not want to face any type of legal trouble. Unfortunately for McGwire, immunity was denied. Thus he made the decision to essentially plead the Fifth Amendment. It is important to note that he DID NOT lie in that situation. Did he hide the truth? You bet. But, there is a difference.

McGwire is attempting to re-enter the baseball world as former manager Tony LaRussa has given him a job as Cardinals hitting coach. St. Louis fans have obviously forgiven him, judging from the standing ovation he received at a recent team function. Albert Pujols, arguably the game’s best player today, has come out in public support of McGwire. Does not that stand for something?

Do we really want to believe in someone who has resulted to mixed martial arts fighting (and sucking at it), and someone who has been involved in Celebrity Boxing, just to make a quick buck? As Bleacher Fan wrote in the intro, there are no winners. But Jose Canseco is the biggest LOSER!

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The Congress Involved in Sports Debate – Congress Should Be Involved with Sports… Provided Priorities are in Check

October 29, 2009

Read the debate intro, Loyal Homer’s argument, and Bleacher Fan’s argumentabout whether or not the U.S. Congress should be involved in sports issues.

In theory, this debate should be black and white. Congress versus no Congress. But, like many of our other debate topics, the involvement of Congress in sports issues is as complex as it is relevant. Sports leaders are interacting with members of Congress in some capacity every day. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has worn a path from the NFL offices in New York to Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., including an appearance yesterday.

Loyal Homer called Congressional involvement in sports issues “wrong and unnecessary.” I do not go that far with my assessment. Loyal Homer also misdiagnosed some classic Sports Geek sarcasm in the debate intro when he wrote that sports are, “purely a form of entertainment.” Sports are not purely a form of entertainment. Sports are business… BIG business. Congress likes to stick its nose where the big money is. But, is Congress taking on a noble endeavor to rid sports of illegal activity and unfairness? Probably not, but the debate verdict is still awarded to Bleacher Fan.

Bleacher Fan is right to point out the double standard held by some that sports must all be fair, but that the government – in the case of this debate, Congress – has no right to become involved. Bleacher Fan is also correct to point out that sports organizations are no different than any other business.

Congress is not in the fairness business. Congress is in the law making business. But, characterizing Congress as simply a “law making body” is like saying a Ferrari is just another car. The responsibilities of a Congressperson are extended to other areas of our lives. Congress routinely extends its power to create dialogue about particular injustices in various segments of the population. Examples include an issue involving a cluster of dangerous pollution spewing smoke stacks near a neighborhood or a business arrangement that is entirely unfair to a majority (read: the BCS). Congress does not have nice, neat lines hemming in its power and responsibility. Those elements are fluid because society needs them to be. Extending that power to an issue in sports – BIG issues in sports – is a positive thing for society.

Like government, sports are a highly visible element of society (there are as many sports channels as news channels). When injustice or cheating occurs, sometimes the sport’s governing entity is slow to clean it up… or even acknowledge it. Sports organizations have shown over time that a certain level of accountability is necessary, and Congress is positioned to provide that accountability.

Congress can and should be involved in sports to the extent that fairness must have a voice. Often in sports, as in “real” life, old decisions shape current realities. For example, American schools go dark in the summer because the summer used to be the planting time for our formerly agrarian economy. In sports, it is college football’s resistance to abandoning the seemingly antiquated bowl system in favor of a more modern approach to determining a champion. Oh, and that antiquated system substantially benefits the finances of the top 65 university’s in the country, arguably to the detriment of the lesser funded schools. Life happens, and old injustices remain untouched. It is a good thing for society that representatives are charged with the responsibility of preserving some level of fairness. It helps when the aforementioned representatives are elected, too.

With the verdict rendered, I also believe it is fair to write that Congress does prioritize. While Utah Senator Orrin Hatch’s letter is ten pages and addressed the President (and he probably had an aide write it), the BCS issue has not found its way onto the Congressional docket. Sometimes only the perception of action is necessary to drive results. In other words, when Congress tables the Health Care Bill to tackle this BCS issue a massive problem exists. However, that situation is unlikely. For right now, the degree Congress involves itself in sports – a hearing on occasion, a ten page letter to the President, grandstanding behind the mic at a local fundraising event, even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell being forced to answer some serious questions about concussions in the NFL – is fine.

I agree with Loyal Homer that Congress would never make a law that directly intervenes in sports activities. It is likely Congress never will write sweeping legislation designed to institute a playoff system into college sports. If it does, then Congress will have overstepped… and The Sports Debates will not be the only website or news outlet voicing concern.

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The Congress Involved in Sports Debate – Should Congress Have A Voice In Sports Issues?

October 28, 2009

Read Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan’s argument about whether or not the U.S. Congress should be involved in sports issues.

The 111th United States Congress is currently in session and there are myriad topics on the agenda. The most talked and written about topic currently up for debate in committees and coming soon to the respective floors of the House and Senate is the Health Care Bill, a bill designed to overhaul the way the United States approaches health care. Other items on the Congressional Agenda? The Unemployment Compensation Act, the EMERGENCY Unemployment Compensation Act, the Assistance for Unemployed Workers Extension Act, the Agent Orange Equity Act, the Wireless Prepaid Access Device Enforcement Act, the Federal Prison Work Incentive Act, etc. Those few items on the Congressional docket do not even come close to scratching the surface. However, what common trait does each of those potential pieces of legislation share? Relevance! It makes sense that Congress is spending time discussing these issues, and each is a contemporary issue of importance to some constituency or to the Federal government.

It turns out, however, that the litany of issues and topics Congress is addressing includes a sports issue. We know from time to time that Congress has inserted itself into sports conversations. We all remember the shaky finger pointing and denials from Rafael Palmiero and the oddity of the de facto trial of Roger Clemens. President George W. Bush even used the highly visible platform of the 2004 State of the Union Address to call for a ban on steroids in baseball. In short, precedent exists for government involvement in sports. But, why does the government care so much?

Perhaps it is a question of confused jurisdiction. Many fans are perplexed by the government involving itself in sports matters. After all, sports are just entertainment, no diplomacy required. To create further confusion the U.S. government does not involve itself in sports in traditional areas that make logical sense. The reason for government involvement is not about millionaire tax evasion or green card issues or visas and international travel. Instead the government is concerned with baseball performance enhancement and, now, its latest muse and a favorite topic of President Barack Obama, the Bowl Championship Series.

In the bizarre tradition of American politics, Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch wrote a 10-page letter to President Obama encouraging him to call for an investigation into the BCS and potential violations of the Sherman-Antitrust Act. It seems like an email would have been quicker. Nevertheless, storm clouds may be gathering over the BCS, despite the BCS chairman’s public refusal of President Obama’s playoff idea.

It is not the job of The Sports Debates to diagnose WHY Congress is involved in what appear to be issues exclusive to an “entertainment holding company” (e.g. the NFL, NBA, etc.). This website exists to determine the big picture issues… like if Congress should be involved in sports in the first place.

Today’s debate question: Should the U.S. Congress get involved with issues specific to sports?

Bleacher Fan will argue that Congress has every right to become involved in sports issues, even though they are a legislative body not an enforcement body. Loyal Homer will argue that Congress should butt out and let the various sports entities govern their own issues like a business does.

Approach the debate as if I am a key swing vote in a swing state in a swing election. I can give the power to one debater or the other. Debaters – the polls are open!

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The Publish the Steroids List Debate – “You Got Me Blacklisted At Hop Sings?!”

July 7, 2009

Read the debate intro and Loyal Homer’s argument that MLB should push for the steroids list to be published.

She named name!” That’s all it took for poor Elaine Benes’ new boyfriend, Ned Isakov, to be banned from the one place his father could visit. Unfortunately, Ned, like his father, was “betrayed, by people he trusted!

While I make light of the “naming names” situation, there are some very serious issues at the heart of today’s debate. Like the Senator Joseph McCarthy Communism hearings of 1954, it’s a situation where some people wish to embark on a witch hunt of persecution against certain people, all because their names show up on a new list of names.

I find the hypocrisy in this situation to be a little unsettling. These people, who are so concerned about solving the problem of steroids, would actually be willing to violate the terms of a legal contract in order to do so… and isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?

Even my five-year-old niece knows “two wrongs don’t make a right.” For some reason, though, some people who CLAIM to be in favor of maintaining baseball’s purity are okay with violating legal agreements to accomplish their goal. It’s quite the double-standard, as they are using a position of moral high ground as justification to violate another moral issue.

Beyond the simple question of morality you have to consider Constitutional implications. Article Five of the Bill of Rights states, “No person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself in any criminal case.” To translate, no person is required to perform any action that may incriminate them.

The players who submitted to this testing did so under the guarantee that the results would remain confidential. Furthermore, as Sports Geek points out in his introduction, there was no ban against the use of performance-enhancing drugs when the testing was conducted and completed. So, what would publishing this list actually gain?

If Major League Baseball were to knowingly and willingly publish that information, it would be a violation of that agreement and would expose the players unfairly to a new witch hunt. These players, who did not break any rules at the time they participated in the test, would be subjected to public ridicule and criticism all because they were lied to when they WILLINGLY participated in testing.

There is nothing to be gained from publishing this list. The players cannot be punished for their actions, since they did not break any rules at the time, and MLB cannot go back and change or prevent players from taking these substances. The only justification I could see for releasing this information is to protect the health and safety of other people. If, for example, it was found that one of the players had contracted a highly contagious blood disease, THEN you would have justification for disclosing the results.

The need for good public relations by Major League Baseball is NOT justification enough to violate the Constitutionally protected rights of these players, no matter how guilty or innocent they may be.

More than any other point, we should not forget that the American system of justice exists to protect the rights of EVERYONE, both the accuser AND the accused. The need to protect the “sanctity of baseball” does NOT supersede the need to protect the sanctity of the Bill of Rights.

The MLB PED Suspension Debate – The Verdict

July 2, 2009

Read Loyal Homer’s argument that Manny should not be allowed to “rehab” in the minor leagues during a PED suspension, and Sports Geek’s argument that the rehab is necessary.

No time for preambles, I’ve got a season and a half of Entourage to catch up on before the new season begins on July 12th, so let’s get down to brass tax…

The winner is Loyal Homer!!!!!

Sports Geek ALMOST had me. I very much agree with the comment that the Los Angeles Dodgers deserve the right to get their player ready the very day that his suspension ends.

HOWEVER, there is one issue that I have with the argument, and it ultimately determined the outcome. When Sports Geek wrote, “If you’re gone for a week and come back, are you ready for a Monday morning 8 a.m. meeting with your boss to plan and execute the next project or initiative? No! You’ll be rusty and the risk for error is high, considering the information you’re working on is old.”

The implication of the comment is that I, as an employee, deserve some leeway because I spent a week on vacation. My first issue with this is that Manny wasn’t on vacation. He was being punished for violating a very serious rule in baseball. Second, I have come back from vacation with a Monday meeting at 8 a.m., and I assure you that I didn’t get the luxury of a warm-up period (a situation that I am quite confident is shared with many of our hard-working readers.) Instead, I am expected to pick up right where I left off and make sure that I am immediately performing at 100%.

My salary barely constitutes a fraction of the salary that Manny Ramirez takes home, and I have to be on my ‘A’ game every single day – no excuses. For the money that Manny makes, he should be putting forth a massive effort to make sure he is ready to go as soon as his suspension is over. It is HIS responsibility, NOT the Dodgers, to make sure that happens.

It’s not like Ramirez was in a hospital with pneumonia over the last 50-game stretch. He had EVERY opportunity to get himself into game condition, even if it required him to swing in the batting cages at $0.50 for every 20 pitches.

To Loyal Homer’s point, Manny broke the rules and is being punished. It is HIS responsibility to do everything in his power to make amends to the team and the league that he offended. This was the risk that Ramirez took when he used performance enhancing drugs. Likewise, a clear message needs to be sent by the league AND its organizations that PEDs are unacceptable. When a person violates the rules, the league does not owe it to them or to the organization to allow the convenience of a warm-up period.

I want to echo Loyal Homer’s sentiment that the league should consider revising this clause when the collective bargaining agreement is ready to be negotiated again. This is just another example where the team owners and MLB commissioner Bud Selig are more concerned about taking care of their fraternity brothers than they are cleaning up a game that is SUPPOSED to be America’s pastime.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Ari’s yelling again, and I don’t want to miss it!