Archive for the ‘Jeff Pearlman’ Category

Because I have to post something today

July 17, 2009

Yesterday, there were two different and, I think, kind of crazy, posts on the Hall of Fame and steroids made by two very different people. (If it hasn’t come through yet, I’m in the stop-moralizing-and-put-them-all-in camp, and I’m sure there will be a day to discuss that, but today is not that day.)

First: Jeff Pearlman puts out this one. It’s almost a caricature of the typical indignant whine: “But they cheated! What’s happening to this country? Think of the children! Integrity! Sportsmanship! Character!” Which is certainly not surprising coming from him, but nonetheless disappointing, since I’ve been reading his blog for a couple months now and find that I really enjoy almost everything he writes about any topic other than baseball. People just have blind spots, I guess.

Consider this, though: “As soon as they chose to cheat—to violate the law of the United States in an effort to enhance their careers—they deemed themselves ineligible.”

One day earlier: Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Come on, man. At least be consistent with the reasons behind your crazy.

Second: Meanwhile, Bill James comes out with his thoughts on the topic, which would be a big deal except that link is subscription-only (though it’s only a very-worth-it three bucks a month) and has been read by a grand total of 200 people so far.

It should come as no surprise that I like Bill James. A lot. “Revere” probably isn’t too strong of a word. “Worship”? Debatable. I’ve read unauthorized biographies (okay, biography) of Bill James. I have friends that call me Bill James. There are, finally, a few really extreme numbers people who are starting to resist this notion, since he’s kind of softened his stances in the last few years, but I maintain that everything good that happens in baseball these days goes back to Bill James at some level.

But this article? Kind of crazy.

Okay, only one part of it. The first part, where he says that all the steroid users will go into the Hall eventually because “steroids keep you young” and eventually “every citizen will routinely take” steroids (which he then calls “anti-aging pills”) “every day.” Now, I’m fully prepared to accept that Bill knows a lot more than I do about everything there is to know in the world (the law, my own personal life, you name it), but that seems really out there to me. I’m hoping it’s satire and I’m just missing the joke…but I don’t get that sense from reading it at all.

Most of the rest of the article is great, actually. James argues that (2) the moral high ground will vanish once someone who used PEDs gets in (and they will, even if it takes someone about whom the news doesn’t leak until they’re already in); (3) “History is forgiving[, and] statistics endure,” something I’ve been saying since this whole mess started; and (4) old teammates advocating for their PED-using brethren will help get them in (not sure how I feel about this, but it’s not crazy).

And fifth, James puts forward the best pro-inclusion argument I know of in the most eloquent way I’ve ever seen it put. Just trying to take the very best bits while hopefully still respecting Bill’s proprietary rights:

It seems to me that, at some point, this becomes an impossible argument to sustain—that all of these players were “cheating”, in a climate in which most everybody was doing the same things, and in which there was either no rule against doing these things or zero enforcement of those rules. If one player is using a corked bat, like Babe Ruth, clearly, he’s cheating. But if 80% of the players are using corked bats and no one is enforcing any rules against it, are they all cheating?

It seems to me that, with the passage of time, more people will come to understand that the commissioner’s periodic spasms of self-righteousness do not constitute baseball law. It seems to me that the argument that it is cheating must ultimately collapse under the weight of carrying this great contradiction—that 80% of the players are cheating against the other 20% by violating some “rule” to which they never consented, which was never included in the rule books, and which for which there was no enforcement procedure. History is simply NOT going to see it that way.

I would encourage you to subscribe, to read the whole article, and to soak up everything else on his site as thoroughly as you can. But anyway, I’d have to say that fifth argument absolves him of all the crazy of his first argument. Pretty solid stuff there.

Feel free to discuss/berate/question in the comments.

Advertisements