By Jake McCormick
For you’re enjoyment (or angst), a reimagined Family Guy scene set on a tour of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York:
– “You will find more of Branch Rickey’s contributions to Major League Baseball in the pamphlets provided.”
– “Yeah, I’m paging through your pamphlet and not seeing anything about the years between 1989 and 2005. It’s just a big gap.”
– “We were on vacation. Remember the strike? Now, if you look to your right…”
– “What are you talking about? Players started looking like bodybuilders in Pumping Iron.”
– “That’s because Commissioner Bud Selig promised players an ’89 LeBaron if they worked out an extra hour each day. Check with Brian McNamee.”
– “Wait a second, you can’t just ignore an entire era. Jose Canseco has been the Ken Jennings of baseball by pointing out the viral spread of steroid use between those time periods.”
– “Nope, nope. He’s been holding a casting call for a Gears of War movie.”
– “A Gears of War movie? That’s preposterous.”
– “I will hear no more insinuations about the MLB. Nothing bad happened. Sie werden sich hinsetzen! Sie werden ruhig sein! Sie werden nicht beleidigen baseball! You will sit down. You will shut up. You will not insult Major League Baseball or the Baseball Hall of Fame!”
– “Uh…is that Ricky Henderson’s new bust?”
– “Oh yes! Despite a career of egocentric behavior, Mr. Henderson gave quite an impassioned speech…”
Although I doubt a tour guide at Cooperstown would start speaking passionate, angry German, those are valid questions that have a timetable for answers.
The reality is that the MLB, the Major League Baseball Writer’s Association, and Cooperstown will be forced, voluntarily or involuntarily, to address the Steroid Era’s overall place in baseball history. Much like with the Family Guy recreation joke above, there’s no way Cooperstown can willingly overlook the era because it draws even more attention to something already illuminated with lighthouse quality bulbs. People will always be interested in it, and if anything an “embrace” of the era will keep the turnstyles moving.
There’s a very simple answer to the steroid issue for the Hall and anything involved with it: Deal with it. Unless there’s a definitive Naughty and Nice list or Doc is waiting in a DeLorean outside of my apartment, we’ll never completely know how or whether a player compiled their stats in that time period. Baseball needs to write it off and keep chugging along with the mentality of James Earl Jones’ speech in Field of Dreams.
Build a separate wing in the Hall, complete with Before and After photos, used syringes, and walls dedicated to the best performances and memories from that era. And save a portion of that wall for Jose Canseco; he wasn’t good enough for a bust, but anytime you describe an athlete or executive as a pioneer and pariah while they are still living, he’s an integral part of history. In-game fan memories and moments like the home run chase of 1998 can never be replaced by after-the-fact admissions of tainted statistics. If you build it, people will come.
Each future Hall of Fame ballot will see an annual increase in bonifide 90s ballplayers; Tony Gwynn, Ken Griffey Jr., Roger Clemens, Ivan Rodriguez, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, Gary Sheffield, and the list goes on. What if they elect a player and then find out he juiced at one point in his career? If nothing changes with the No Juicers Allowed policy, are the writers going to continue lowering the required GPA that allowed Andre Dawson and Jim Rice into the fraternity, simply because they don’t want to go a year without an induction? What about the players already in the Hall that used amphetamines in the 70s, 80s, and 90s to help recover from hangovers and injuries, or the pitchers that benefited from an extra quarter inch of mound to work with?
Every era has its taint; it just so happens that this one is more of a hemmerhoid than a simple itch. All of these things will need to be addressed, and considering baseball’s three toed sloth pace with which it is coming to terms with the past, it won’t be until the Cooperstown voters and league officials embarrass themselves by way of stubborn denial. In the words of South Park: “Either it’s all OK, or none of it is.”
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