Thursday, January 19, 2017

The coming apocalypse

No, not the imminent reign of the Huckster Elect and his merry band of saboteurs, rank amateurs and parolees from the lunatic fringe.

I'm talking about the imminent invasion of Cooperstown by the PED generation.

The Blob (in its previous incarnation) predicted this some time ago, but it looks like it's going to happen even sooner than it thought: Steroids Era violators are going to have plaques in the Baseball Hall of Fame someday. At the same time Tim Raines, Pudge Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell got the Hall call yesterday, something else of interest emerged: Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds both continued to gain ground toward the magic number of 75 percent of the votes.

Clemens polled 54.1 percent this time around, and Bonds 53.8 percent. Still a long way off, but a significant jump from last year, when Clemens got 45.2 percent and Bonds 44.3.

It's going to happen, folks. And that is as it should be.

Simply put, a Hall of Fame without the best player and best pitcher of their generation -- and in Bonds' case, one of the top five players of all time -- isn't much of a Hall of Fame. And, yes, the circumstantial evidence is strong that both used PEDs during their careers. But during the so-called Steroids Era, who did not?

The late Ken Caminiti once said that, during the 1990s, as much as 80 percent of Major League Baseball was using some form of the juice at some point in time. He was widely sneered at for that,  but the farther we get away from those days, the less fantastical it seems. And so the problem becomes, if you single out Bonds and Clemens and a few other notables for exclusion, how, if you're fair about it, do you not exclude everyone from that era?

Raines, Bagwell and Rodriguez are all contemporaries of Bonds and Clemens, after all. And while no evidence exists any of them juiced during the Time of Juicing, how do we know that for sure? Lance Armstrong passed every drug test they could think up, after all. And we all know how that turned out.

As for Raines, his career spanned both the Steroids Era and the Greenie Era -- i.e., the 1960s, '70s and '80s, when popping amphetamines to get you through day games after night games was a common practice. They were the magic beans that preceded the magic juice.

Look. The intention here is not to smear the three newest members of the Hall. Their numbers, and their contributions to baseball, speak for themselves. They are as deserving of induction as anyone who's come before them.

But their induction does highlight the essential quandary here: How do you put the Steroids Era in its proper context? The Hall itself cracked open the door to this question last year, when it inducted Bud Selig -- who oversaw the Steroids Era, and who enabled it for a long time because all those performance-enhanced athletes were making the owners who signed Selig's paycheck a lot of money. And who needed something to save the game after they blew it up with the 1994 strike.

How does that not muddy these waters even further?

And how do we determine who gets in and who doesn't from that time?

The Blob has always maintained Bonds and Clemens should get in, because the timeline for both players' alleged PED use is pretty clear.  And both were Hall of Fame players before they ever touched the cream, the clear or the magic syringe.

Says here their voting percentages would be even higher were they not both utter jackwagons during their playing careers. There may be no official Miss Congeniality contest in the HOF voting, but there sure is an unofficial one.

The case for, say, Alex Rodriguez or Manny Ramirez is less clear, because both serially violated the PED protocols MLB belatedly laid down, and lied about it throughout. But even they will eventually be forgiven, because that's the way time works. It is the great softener of bias, and the great lender of context.

Context which can solve the Steroids Era quandary with one line added to the plaques of whatever Steroids Era violators someday enter the Hall: "Some of his numbers were accrued during what has come to be known as the Steroids Era."

Simple as that.

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