Wednesday, September 29, 2010
How many 'Mr. Milkshakes' already in Hall?
I still haven't watched Part 1 of "The Tenth Inning" -- last night I was watching actual baseball games, and this morning I've been writing this (see below). But it's loaded on the DVR, and today's the day. Obviously, though, a lot of people have watched it already. I mentioned this in Wangdoodles this morning, but Thomas Boswell claims he saw a player -- later elected to the Hall of Fame -- mixing a "Jose Canseco milkshake."
Over at Wezen-ball, Larry Granillo ran through the list of candidates (and came up with a good one).
To some of us, though, the true identity of Mr. Milkshake is somewhat less interesting than the fact that Boswell's kept this information to himself for 22 years, even as the issue exploded across front pages and involved many of the sport's biggest stars. Here's Craig Calcaterra:
I recently spouted off about making evidence-free accusations of PED-use, and I stand by such spouting. But in this case, Boswell has apparently been sitting on evidence of a Hall of Famer using what Boswell believed to be PEDs for over 20 years.
I know that Boswell reported as early as 1988 that Jose Canseco used steroids -- and his reports were basically ignored by all but a handful of booing fans that fall -- but why haven't we heard anything about this Hall of Fame player before now? Given all that has transpired in the past decade, wouldn't information about a Hall of Famer's PED use have been extremely relevant to the national discussion? I'm not saying Boswell just tell the mikshake story and leave it at that, but why not interview the player about it? Why not do some more reporting on it? Why wasn't this out there before last night?
What has happened, if what Boswell says is true, is that a PED user was elected to the Hall of Fame by baseball writers who currently believe that the world will end if a PED user is elected to the Hall of Fame. Mr. Milkshake has a plaque in Cooperstown, but because of the perceived need to keep the Hall of Fame pure, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire won't get one anytime soon.
There are two reasons I believe this de facto no-steroids Hall of Fame policy can survive for more than a few years.
The first reason is that it's generational. The younger the Hall of Fame voter, the less likely that you'll find a hard-line policy about PEDs. It'll take a long, long time for the older voters to fall from the voting rolls ... but new, younger writers become BBWAA members every year. Granted, with the business changing so quickly, a lot of those younger members won't be members long enough to actually participate in Hall of Fame voting. But in 10 or 15 years the electorate will look quite a bit different than it does now, and it will be more favorably disposed toward the superstars of the 1990s.
The second reason is that the contradictions will become enormous. Even before Boswell's revelation, any rational observer has to have surmised that somebody in the Hall of Fame used steroids at some point during their careers. Maybe Boswell will reveal the identity of Mr. Milkshake or maybe he won't, but we'll learn more things about players from the late '80s and 1990s and 2000s, and we'll learn that some of them used steroids and were subsequently elected to the Hall of Fame. Maybe voters can hold the line if it's just Mr. Milkshake ... but what happens when we discover more Mr. Milkshakes? Can the voters continue to exclude four or five superstars from the '00s when they've already (unwittingly) elected four or five (eventually) acknowledged users?
Maybe. But I doubt it. So here's my advice to voters who ostensibly refuse to vote for anyone under serious PED suspicion ... Get out in front of this thing, guys. Try to look ahead five or 10 years. See where this thing's going to be. And don't wait for that to happen. Instead of getting dragged, kicking and shouting and screaming all the while, to the inevitable conclusion, take the lead. Do some reporting. Put things into context. Celebrate the players -- assuming you can find any -- who spoke out against drug use within the Players Association. Write about the impacts of cheating without resorting to ill-devised moral crusades.
More than anything, though? Think through this thing. Lead the way. Do what journalists are supposed to do. There's no one right answer. But some are better than others.