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Gazzolo: Baseball has never been able to get out of its own way

Last Modified: Friday, January 11, 2013 5:49 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

No news proves to be bad news.

Baseball writers have their own lockout going, and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight.

Instead, it looks like this lockout will be refreshed every year about this time, when the writers fill out their Hall of Fame ballots and decide just which legendary players get in and which ones are left out.

Where once they really only looked at numbers, now they must judge the intentions of players, their body shape and whether they believe that player cheated a system that has always made cheating a part of the game.

Wednesday, when this year’s much-anticipated vote became official, not one player was elected into the Hall.

Baseball’s writers pitched a shutout in the first major vote of the performance-enhancing drug era.

Barry Bonds, the best player of his generation and his record seven MVP awards, was not voted in.

Roger Clemens, the greatest pitcher of his time and his record seven Cy Young awards, was not voted in.

They were joined by Sammy Sosa as men whose numbers proved them worthy but their history with PEDs and rumors of such use left them off too many ballots. Mark McGwire has already suffered this fate.

All may one day get in, but there are no guarantees for anybody in this era of tainted numbers.

This even hurts players who are only rumored to have such demons in their background or are judge guilty by timing of when they played.

Mike Piazza didn’t get in Wednesday and there is no proof he ever took anything, just those whispers.

Every player who amasses big numbers is called into question because of an era that saw PEDs used at an alarming rate.

This was nothing new to baseball, though. Back in 1988, stories first began about the Oakland Athletics and Jose Canseco being users. Canseco was forced to defend himself only later to admit to the use in a book that broke open the facts of steroid use.

Clearly, steroids have taken over baseball once again.

I understand that writers want to keep the game and the Hall as clean as possible, but they don’t always seem to have the best interest of baseball in mind.

Many of the folks who voted against Bonds, Clemens and others Wednesday are the very same who turned their backs on the PED debacle when it was taking place.

There wasn’t a locker room in the world where you could not find a suspicious bottle of something just sitting around during the decade that followed the strike of 1994. It was baseball’s dirty little secret.

Yet the great protectors of the game today are the very same enablers of the PED era back then. They didn’t confront the issue when it was taking place.

And shame on the baseball establishment too for also turning its back on players and their PED use. In fact, they endorsed such actions with their wallets. The game itself is as much to blame for this mess as anyone one person or any group.

As the numbers in the game exploded, so did players’ bank accounts and so did the number of people watching. Owners paid off the steroid era with their cash and their silence.

Everybody got caught up in the summer of 1998 when Sosa and McGwire chased down Roger Maris’ home run record. Their battle was filled with good stories written by the same folks who now take shots at the men.

Sosa and McGwire may have saved baseball back then, but now they are considered demons in a world filled with less-than-moral characters.

The Hall of Fame has never been about the best people in the game, but rather the best players. Cooperstown is filled with shaky folks who won at all costs.

And the game of baseball has always had performance-enhancing drugs of some type used. Pain killers are a form of PEDs, so is a cortisone shot.

Then there were the ’70s when players used uppers and other pep pills to get their energy going before games. That practice goes back to the days of Mickey Mantle and other greats.

Yet nobody worries about those players and their legacies.

There seems to be a simple way to fix this: players should be voted into the Hall based on their numbers and contributions to the game. It’s that simple.

Then, if you want, let’s make sure all know that they played during a time when steroids and PED use was at a high level. That way nobody is playing judge and jury, and in the end history will decide.

None of this will change in the future, either. Players are still today finding ways to beat the system. Better drugs, better ways to hid test results are always being found.

That will never change.

Either way, Wednesday proved to be a sad day for baseball.

It was supposed to be one of joy, when baseball celebrated its greatness. Instead, we get finger-pointing and second-guessing.

Baseball just never seems to be able to get out of its own way.

•••

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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