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Friday, December 14, 2012

Livingston: Steroids and the baseball HOF get a fresh look

The one where even low-badge numbered Bill Livingston starts to see the light. (92 - Against B/C~ 75 - For B/C)

I used to declare myself an “absolutist” on such players. Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch first raised many of the issues that have come to trouble me. ESPN’s Dan LeBatard was another who made me reconsider my stance. After all, how can you invoke an absolute standard when lack of drug testing encouraged an “anything goes” attitude?

...Before steroids, there were amphetamines. Bottles of “speed” were reportedly placed in players’ lockers in years gone by, to help them get through the marathon season. Wasn’t that artificially inflating the numbers, too?

Before pharmacology led to better play through chemistry, Babe Ruth’s numbers and those of a lot of other Hall of Famers were enhanced by baseball’s policy of racial segregation. Those players didn’t create the working conditions, as did the steroid users, but they still faced only white men between the white lines.

...With so many players of the 1990s and the first years of this century, you really have no proof of who took what. I had my suspicions about the impressive physiques of several Indians players in the glory days of the 1990s. Manny Ramirez eventually tested positive twice elsewhere. Albert Belle, from all evidence, was more of a retro-cheat, corking his bats. That’s almost an “Awww, how cute!” transgression, given what was going on.

I never mentioned the names of the Tribe players I suspected, whether the banned substance was amphetamines or steroids. That was because I lacked proof. After the legal system barely laid a glove on Bonds and Clemens, what’s a voter to do?

As many as 10 names can be on a ballot, and I intend to max mine out. The names of some of the suspected drug abusers will be on it. They’ll probably be blackballed for years.

Repoz Posted: December 14, 2012 at 08:46 PM | 20 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, hof

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   1. Rob_Wood Posted: December 14, 2012 at 10:13 PM (#4325255)

A well-reasoned article. Good job Bill.
   2. J.R. Wolf Posted: December 14, 2012 at 10:43 PM (#4325273)
There's no excuse for ever pardoning PED users. Bad job Bill.
   3. Juan Uribe Marching and Chowder Society Posted: December 14, 2012 at 10:48 PM (#4325275)
They're not convicted criminals. They don't need pardons.
   4. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 14, 2012 at 11:38 PM (#4325301)
The BBWAA having the standing to "pardon" PED users would be like Mr. Kobayashi pardoning Kaiser Söze.
   5. cmd600 Posted: December 14, 2012 at 11:55 PM (#4325307)
This is incredibly interesting to me. Livingston is the prototypical candidate for a 'keep any and all suspected (that's damn right you're included Bagwell) users out forever and ever' ballot. He's an old curmudgeon who is absolutely sure that everything was better when he was a kid. On top of that, he's a grade A idiot, who doesn't just not want to be taught new things, he seems to resent that there might actually be more to know about baseball than he learned as a kid.

If a guy like that can be persuaded to figure this out, a lot more of the BBWAA can too.
   6. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: December 15, 2012 at 12:06 AM (#4325312)
If a guy like that can be persuaded to figure this out, a lot more of the BBWAA can too.

Or maybe the fact that he indiscriminately lumps "suspected" users with known users shows that he really is an idiot. That sort of reasoning would work just great in our courts, either filling our jails with innocent people or dumping proven criminals in the streets.
   7. Repoz Posted: December 15, 2012 at 12:08 AM (#4325314)
If a guy like that can be persuaded to figure this out, a lot more of the BBWAA can too.

That's about 4 or 5 voters that have flipped to the PRO Bonds/Clemens side so far...haven't come across one that's gone the other way.

With the "I'm teaching them a lesson this year!" voters combined with recent and forthcoming flippers...I think Bonds/Clemens go over 50% next year.
   8. J.R. Wolf Posted: December 15, 2012 at 01:24 AM (#4325344)
It's just sad watching people without morals or standards give in.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: December 15, 2012 at 01:39 AM (#4325356)
He never actually says he's voting Bonds and Clemens. He does some some alleged users names will be on there.

Or maybe the fact that he indiscriminately lumps "suspected" users with known users shows that he really is an idiot.

He doesn't do this. He says we have no proof of who took what. Well, we don't really. Even among admitted users, we don't know what they were taking for how long, etc. And of course we don't know who else was/wasn't doing what so we can't judge how "fair" the playing field was. Regardless, that's not the gist of his argument.

His basic argument is:

1. Now that he thinks of it, speed was PEDs too
2. Now that he thinks of it, spitballs are against the rules
3. Pre-integration players numbers are inflated too
4. Baseball didn't give a damn and it's not his responsibility as a sportswriter to keep the game "clean"

On the last point ... the records still stand (he makes this point), the HoF has made it clear these players are eligible for election (i.e. not Rose) and baseball has even welcomed McGwire back into a position of responsibility in the game. Both the HoF and MLB seem to be making it clear that steroid use does not invalidate the numbers or disqualify anybody from anything.

As I've said before, the character clause is just one set of the criteria that the voters are supposed to assess. There is nothing I see in the phrasing to suggest that being of "bad" character is supposed to outweigh all those other criteria to the extent a great player should be barred. A voter still needs to demonstrate (to his or her own standards of course) that the character fault was so egregious as to over-rule the performance and other criteria.

His argument is hardly airtight -- and he doesn't argue it well, jumping all over the place in this piece. I don't know what Miklasz said but the way it's paraphrased here, it sounds like Miklasz was arguing they shouldn't be in the HoF. But he's not "indiscriminately lumping" "proven" users with everybody else in this piece, he's indiscriminately lumping the steroid era with the greenies era, the pre-integration era and the deadball to liveball transition era and concluding that it's not his job to impose a moral/aesthetic standard that wasn't imposed by the HoF in the past or by baseball contemporaneously. Baseball has made its bed and he's going to let it lie in it.

   10. John Northey Posted: December 15, 2012 at 02:24 AM (#4325376)
Using steroids as a tool to cut out guys who are marginal makes sense as that is where the character clause comes in. But for the best of the best you just can't take character seriously as the first ballot ever put in Cobb (about as nasty a person as there is in the HOF) and Ruth (known to spend time with mobsters and alcohol when alcohol was illegal). Over the years many other top talents got in regardless of how their 'character' was. Guys on the margins like Albert Belle and Dick Allen are kept out due to it, guys thought to be good for it are put in (Puckett was much loved when voted in, then the roof fell in).

So expect Bonds & Clemens to get in within a few years, but Sosa, Palmeiro, McGwire to wait a long time.
   11. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 15, 2012 at 03:14 AM (#4325383)
Well, not exactly. The closest Albert Belle got to induction was a mere 67.3% short of 75%. That was better than Dick Allen, who only needed another 71.3% to make it. Meanwhile, Kirby Puckett was 36 votes (7.1%) over the line; that margin almost matches Belle's high total.

Until the last couple of years, not one candidate's margin of election or exclusion can be accounted for by the suddenly all-important character clause.
   12. Bug Selig Posted: December 15, 2012 at 08:50 AM (#4325392)
It's just sad watching people without morals or standards give in.


Jesus Christ, am I glad I don't know you.
   13. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: December 15, 2012 at 09:46 AM (#4325408)
It's just sad watching people without morals or standards give in.


Seeing as they have no morals or standards, one wonders just what it is that they are supposed to be giving in on.
   14. J.R. Wolf Posted: December 15, 2012 at 11:39 AM (#4325455)
Jesus Christ, am I glad I don't know you.

And vice versa. Moral relativists make me want to throw up.
   15. LargeBill Posted: December 15, 2012 at 11:57 AM (#4325471)
8. J.R. Wolf Posted: December 15, 2012 at 01:24 AM (#4325344)
It's just sad watching people without morals or standards give in.


I suppose like all people I can be a judgmental prick at times. However, it takes a special type of sanctimonious jackass to proclaim that others have NO morals or standards merely because they may have a different opinion about whether suspected PED users should be given fair consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
   16. akrasian Posted: December 15, 2012 at 12:29 PM (#4325483)
I suppose like all people I can be a judgmental prick at times. However, it takes a special type of sanctimonious jackass to proclaim that others have NO morals or standards merely because they may have a different opinion about whether suspected PED users should be given fair consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I'd say it's even worse than that. Equating not wanting to (figuratively) lynch steroid users with having no morals, while simultaneously not caring about other PED users in the hall, shows a curious lack of moral thought. Add in not being explicitly opposed to drunk drivers or adulterers in the hall (both more severe moral failings than trying to improve one's play using methods the leagues were showing they didn't mind) and it shows a bizarre moral inconsistency.

I don't know Wolf - but I have met people in real life who are like this. Often they claim to be devout Christians without actually understanding Jesus' moral teachings. Sadly, they are the ones who drive many away from religion, showing intolerance and a lack of understanding of subtle distinctions, labeling anything they disagree with as "moral relativism" or worse.
   17. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: December 15, 2012 at 12:37 PM (#4325485)
Moral relativists make me want to throw up.


Everybody is a moral relativist. As soon as you go from "Thou shalt not kill" to "Thou shalt not kill unless the other guy is trying to kill you" you've become a moral relativist. Get over it.
   18. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 15, 2012 at 02:52 PM (#4325565)
But if I get over it, then the moral relativists win!
   19. Walt Davis Posted: December 15, 2012 at 06:31 PM (#4325689)
I'm confused what the supposed moral relativism is here.

Steroids by prescription are considered perfectly moral as far as I know. That steroid use without prescription is considered immoral (by some) is moral relativism -- the act is moral under some circumstances but not others.

The moral absolutist choices are either (a) steroid use is always immoral even if medically justified or (b) steroid use is never immoral. While one suspects that even us virulent pro-roiders draw the line somewhere, we are clearly close to the moral absolutist camp B.

So, really, we're to be lauded for our staunch moral absolutism in the face of society's waffly decline due to moderately right-of-center public policy and feminization. Good on us.
   20. Bug Selig Posted: December 16, 2012 at 02:24 PM (#4326020)
EDIT - Removed, not even worth it.

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