Put the cheaters in the Hall of Fame
by DONALD KAUL
May 24, 2009 | 524 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE QUESTION on every sports fan’s lips these days (and sports fans being what they are, their lips are moving as they read this) is: “Did Roger (the Rocket) Clemens use steroids late in his career or didn’t he?” And the corollary, of course, “Should he be allowed to enter Baseball’s Hall of Fame?”

The answer to the first part is: “Yes he did. And I have more bad news: Santa Claus is a fake, too.”

A crew of New York reporters have just published a book, American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America’s Pastime, that pretty much proves it on him. They report that the FBI has DNA samples from needles used to inject steroids that match Roger’s DNA. Ballgame over. Rocket, you’re busted. Not that Roger admits it, even now. As impervious to reality as Dick Cheney, he insists that the DNA match is “impossible,” because he never took steroids.

OR, AS the old saying goes: “Are you going to believe what I’m telling you or are you going to believe your lying eyes?”

The good liar is somebody who can convince others of his innocence; the great liar is one who can convince himself. Clemens is a great liar. I honestly think that he has convinced himself that he didn’t take steroids or human growth hormone or anything else stronger than aspirin. But he did. Everything we know about the case points to it, from his size (he is as big as a 2-car garage) to the regeneration of his dying career at the same time steroids came into use, to the testimony of friends and family to DNA results. Roger juiced.

So on to the second part of the question. “Should he be in Baseball’s Hall of Fame?”

OF COURSE he should, as should Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez and the rest of the miscreants, real and suspected, of the Steroid Age. (I’ve suggested that they should institute a Hall of Shame within the Hall of Fame where disgraced figures like Pete Rose, the Chicago Black Sox, Hal Chase and the suspected juicers could be remembered. I still think it’s a good idea.)

To do otherwise is to have a Hall of Fame that’s missing the very best players of an entire epoch, holders of the sport’s most important records. Moreover, if you do exclude the steroid suspects you really can’t be sure whether the players voted in didn’t use steroids or merely never got caught.

What about rewarding cheaters, you say? You can call it cheating if you want, but when everybody out there seems to be doing it and the rules against it aren’t being enforced, using performance-enhancing drugs is more self-preservation than cheating. The fact is we don’t know comprehensively who used the drugs, when they started, when they stopped or even what the exact effect was. We know very little and that little filtered through the self-righteousness of sports writers who are, as we know, as moral as a Methodist picnic.

I don’t think the steroid business would be such a scandal if baseball fans weren’t so reverential about statistical comparisons. Football, for example, went through its steroid era and fans didn’t seem to care much. Football isn’t about records.

BASEBALL IS. Despite the fact that every era in baseball is different, played with different rules, different balls, on different-sized playing fields, with different eligibility (no blacks allowed for most of its history), different equipment and different strategy, fans still insist on comparing achievements on the basis of comparative statistics that are not really comparable.

So when players are seen to be “cheating,” it is not merely their opponents they’re cheating, they’re cheating on the Holy Church of Baseball. They’re cheating on Babe Ruth.

I know, it’s nuts, but that’s baseball.

Look at it this way: These players, at great risk to their health, took drugs to make baseball more enjoyable to the fan. Cut them some slack.

Don Kaul is a 2-time Pulitzer Prize-losing Washington correspondent who, by his own account, is right more than he’s wrong. dkaul1@earthlink.net

(Distributed by MinutemanMedia.org)
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