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No. Not saying that, because saying that would make me as illogical as whoever would ask such questions. The point is not the purity of Cooperstown. The point is: What do we know, today and going forward, about the purity of Cooperstown? And we know this: Bonds and McGwire and Clemens and Sosa and Palmeiro and too many others with Hall of Fame numbers achieved some of those numbers with the help of steroids. They cheated. You ask me, Bonds and Clemens were Hall of Famers before they cheated, and therefore belong in Cooperstown. But that’s a complicated issue, and there’s a legitimate reason to deny anyone known to have cheated if for no other reason than to send a message to future candidates that cheating will not be rewarded.
I wonder who will be pegged a cheater from this year's crop ...
Eventually, in months or years, someone from this year's group of eight Derby sluggers will land on the wrong list of names. That's damn near a lock. The most scrutinized player in this Derby is Albert Pujols, whose offensive numbers have been superhuman since he debuted in the big leagues in 2001 ... when the Derby featured Bonds, Sosa, A-Rod and Giambi. And Luis Gonzalez. And Bret Boone. And Troy Glaus, who showed up on the Mitchell Report. That's seven presumably dirty players in the eight-man field of 2001. Who was the lone clean schmuck? Todd Helton. He didn't make it out of the first round. Of course.
So anyway ... the guy from this year's crop could be Pujols. Could be Brandon Inge, who is slugging 100 points above his career average and on pace for 37 home runs, one year after he hit .205 with 11 homers. It'll be somebody, unless the cheaters are finally starting to wise up to the point where they realize they shouldn't be flaunting their ill-gotten power gains at the Home Run Derby, for God's sake. Would a bank robber hang out in the Wachovia parking lot?
For years, Sosa and McGwire and Bonds and Giambi and -- well, hell, just name a steroid user, and he has been in the Derby -- flaunted their power in the Derby. And why? Because baseball was rewarding them. Baseball was juicing the balls and looking the other way while the players were juicing themselves. The Home Run Derby was created in 1985 to celebrate the long ball, and it has remained an All-Star Game constant even as the steroid scandals have chipped away at the sport's soul.
It's unseemly, is my point. Baseball has been devastated by its devotion to the long ball, and by the lengths its players have gone to hit them. And still baseball trots out the Home Run Derby every year.
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