Mike Albrecht is a good buddy and fellow baseball fiend who called me out yesterday for not ranting over the fact that no was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. I don’t put much stock in the Hall and am not much of a baseball historian, but the news comes down to this: the voters decided not to put anybody up for immortality on a bronze plaque because so many of the candidates were admitted dopers from the Steroid Era. Will some of the big names eventually find redemption and get elected? Sure. Forgiveness comes with time and they 15 years to find it.
Baseball players aren’t known for being the paragons of athleticism. You can be a fat f%&k and have a successful career swinging the bat and ambling down the base paths like a bear chasing a cart covered with cookies. A few mediocre players discovered the wonders of steroids in the 1990s, went from skinny to ripped, knocked the cover off of the ball and made the American Pastime a joke. When Barry Bond’s baseball that broke Hank Aaron’s home run record was put up for auction, the buyer gave the fans a choice of possible fates for the souvenir, one of which was to brand it with an asterix of infamy, or blow it up. I was a blow-it-up vote.
The concept of clean sport is a joke and went out the window when the English Etonian concept of amateurism died with the death of WASP establishment in the 1970s. Sailing used to have a rule that no logos other than a little sailmakers badge was allowed on a boat. Today the America’s Cup boats have big BMW and Red Bull logos on their synthetic sails like luffing billboards. Rowing kicked Grace Kelly’s father out of the Henley Royal Regatta because he was a bricklayer and it was thought that blue collar rowers had a manual labor training advantage. Baseball is just a pack of good old boys who were late to the drug party and decided to ass some growth hormones to their steady diet of Chick-Fil-A and Burger King. Any one who looked at cycling before Lance came along, and thought it was a clean sport in some romantic Greek Olympian ideal of pure competition is a romantic stoner. The Tour de France has a noble history of cheating, lying and stealing with competitors hopping trains, throwing tacks on the road, and taking The Cocaine to get themselves up and over the mountains.
Doped vs. clean classes of competition is the only way to go. Let science and Big Pharma sponsor the Tour of California (oh, wait, that’s right, Amgen, the makers of EPO already sponsors the Tour of California) and put their best chemicals on display and let the no-logo, my-body-is-a-temple crowd have their own pure competition.
But for baseball, a sport of inches, let me point out that the miracle of Red Sox in Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS between the Sox and the Yankees came down to a matter of inches when Dave Roberts stole that base and beat Posada’s throw to second. The timing, the distance, the margin of error could easily have been influenced by any dope in Posada’s arm or Robert’s legs and yet, those inches, the most miraculous inches in the history of the game, a margin of miracle so tiny that it’s a wonder the people of Boston don’t march on City Hall and demand a statue of Roberts be erected in the Common, will always carry a question of whether they were delivered by man or materials.