EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 28, 2013

The real damage done by steroids

By The Numbers
Pete Delani

---- — They still don’t get it.

Following the release of the results of the Baseball Writers Association of America hall of fame voting in which no players qualified for enshrinement, the players and their apologists once again demonstrated their lack of understanding of the depth of damage caused by the Steroid Era. Player’s Union executive director Michael Weiner released a statement following the release of the results saying:

“Those empowered to help the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum document the history of the game failed to recognize the contributions of several Hall of Fame worthy players,” “To ignore the historic accomplishments of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, for example, is hard to justify. Moreover, to penalize players exonerated in legal proceedings—and others never even implicated—is simply unfair.” Weiner also called the situation “unfortunate, if not sad.”

“The Hall of Fame is supposed to be for the best players to have ever played the game,” his statement read. “Several such players were denied access to the Hall today. Hopefully this will be rectified by future voting.”

O always thought the Hall of Fame was for the fans and ultimately for the game. I was taught and I told every team I’ve ever coached the following: “The game is bigger and more important than any of us. While I would help you in baseball and life anyway I can, if you ever force me to choose between you and the game, please know I will always choose the game because it’s given us more than we can ever give it.”

The Hall of Fame doesn’t owe Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds or any other tainted player.

Those players who dabbled in steroids have essentially asked the baseball world to choose between them and baseball.

They ask us to look away from the cloud of suspicion that hangs over their head and instead judge them by their performance in an era intoxicated with performance enhancing drugs. Like no other sport baseball was defined by its numbers, and there lies the problem. They linked generations, allowed grandfathers and grandsons to talk about and debate players from one generation to another because the numbers were understood. I could sit at a table and listen to my grandfather and uncle debate what was better Babe Ruth hitting 60 home runs in 1927 or Roger Maris hitting 61 in 1961. As I grew up, I understood the historical significance of the debate because Jim Rice, the Red Sox most dominant power hitter, had 46 for a season high, and only George Foster of the Reds had surpassed 50 homers. Without having seen Ruth or Maris, I intuitively understood their greatness.

Numbers — sacred numbers like 714 homers for Ruth and 755 for Hank Aaron or Maris’ 61 in 1961 – were rendered irrelevant.

Bonds’ homer totals? Anyone?

Thirty seven years separated Ruth’s and Maris home run duel. Between 1997 and 2001, that magic “61” was surpassed six times by Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Bonds.

I can’t honestly tell you I know how many each one hit despite having watched them.

The Steroid Era has severed this current and all future generations of children from being able to take part in the discussion with their fathers, uncles and grandfathers as to what the greatest seasons, players and stats are. Baseball fans were asked to choose between the players and the game.

Unfortunately, the game lost.