First of all, I kind of love the baldness of the Heyman story linked below – its assumption that the worst thing about the A-Rod affair is not that he may have done it, but that he got caught when the CBA said that he shouldn’t have. But while the morality/legality of PEDs will always be a loaded topic, I think that when it comes to history and sanctity, Roger Angell said it all:
Hallowed but hollow, perhaps, since home-run totals are determined not just by the batters but by different pitchers, in very different eras, and, most of all, by the outer dimensions of the major-league parks, which have always varied widely and have been deliberately reconfigured in the sixteen ballparks built since 1992, thus satisfying the owners™ financial interest in more and still more home runs. Bonds has been called a cheater, but the word should hardly come up in a sport whose proprietors, if they were in charge of the classic Olympic hundred-metre dash, would stage it variously at a hundred and six metres, ninety-four, a hundred and three, and so forth, and engrave the resulting times on a tablet.
We™ve always known that the lifetime home-run mark, œbaseball™s most hallowed record, has been rubberized in the cause of higher numbers. Alex Rodriguez, with five hundred and eighteen lifetime homers, plays half his games in Yankee Stadium, where it™s three hundred and ninety-nine feet to the left-center-field wall; Joe DiMaggio swung for the same fence when it was four hundred and seventy feet away. Pitchers™ mounds in DiMaggio™s day were fifteen inches high but in 1969 were lowered to ten inches, to make them more dinger-prone. Not much later, the strike zone shrank down to the size of a cellar window. Lore like this is amazing to kids, but it doesn™t count for much except when editorialists and sports columnists begin to go all trembly about the sanctity of old records.
Tim Marchman of Slate also writes in this vein, with a bone-dry nod to “the great Jay Marriotti…”:
That anyone could have connected those dots and yet maintained a belief in Rodriguez’s purity tells you everything you need to know about how much baseball’s drug scandals have taught the press and the public. Twenty-one years after Canseco freaked out the world by hitting 42 home runs and stealing 40 bases while carrying enough muscle to play linebacker, 11 years after the dubious exploits of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, eight years after Barry Bonds dropped 73 bombs, and four years after a 42-year-old Roger Clemens ran up a 1.87 ERA, smart people who pay close attention to the sport still haven’t caught on to the recurring pattern by which suspiciously superhuman achievement is invariably revealed, in the fullness of time, to have been chemically aided.
If the real lesson of the Rodriguez revelation is that anyone you ever thought might be on steroids likely was on steroids, it doesn’t necessarily follow that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, the SI report may offer baseball its last best chance to come clean and admit the truth: There isn’t much anyone can do to stop determined ballplayers from doing drugs, and there may not be much reason for anyone to want to stop them.
And, as CSTB’s proprietor just noted to me, “I also heard a rumor Cy Young won 511 games without having to retire any guys who weren’t white.”
Jayson Stark (linked second in this post, and in the Heyman post as well) thinks it’s a shame so many all-time greats now look to be excluded from the Hall of Fame. Personally, I’d vote for most of them without wringing my hands. But most of all, I’d say that Barry, McGwire, Sammy, A-Rod and the Rocket ought to be there because that is the Cooperstown the game of baseball (and its media accomplices) deserves.