Tag Archives: steroids

If LaRussa goes to HoF, why not McGwire?

In the 2011 Hall of Fame voting, Mark McGwire received 19.8% of the vote, far short of the 75% required to gain admission to the Hall.  His 583 career home runs are the most of any player that is eligible for the Hall (retired 5 years), that has not been enshrined.  For many years that honor belonged to Dave Kingman and his 442 home runs.  In McGwire’s first year of eligibility he received 23% of the vote.  For right now, the trend shows that Mark McGwire will never be elected into the Hall of Fame.

Neither will Rafael Palmeiro.  Palmeiro is one of four players to have 500 career home runs and 3,000 hits.  The other three are Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray.  In his first year of eligibility, Palmeiro received 11% of the vote.  No one has ever made the Hall after receiving 11% of the votes.  Palmeiro and McGwire are exhibits A and B for the steroid era sluggers making the Hall of Fame.  Both of them are confirmed users.  Both have incredible, HoF-worthy numbers.  Neither will be enshrined in the near future.

Why do I bring this up? Because this week Tony LaRussa retired.  He retired after an emotional run to his third World Series championship.  He retired after what was a mixed-bag of managing. In the Series he made some world-class gaffes as well as incredibly shrewd moves.  There is little doubt that LaRussa is a Hall of Fame manager.  He has won three World Series titles, including wins out of both leagues.  He has won division titles with three teams.  He has won the manager of the year twice (and will likely win it again this year).  He is third on the all-time list in managerial wins behind only legends Connie Mack and John McGraw (and is second all-time in losses).

Shortly after he retired the accolades, congratulations, and well-wishes came pouring in.  It seemed like every news source and commentator was fawning over his incredible achievements and his already paved route to Cooperstown.  I just want to say, “Hold on a second.”

While McGwire and Palmeiro sit outside Hall, we’re going to let LaRussa stroll right in?  No, he never used performance enhancing drugs, but he certainly benefited from them.  It has been argued that LaRussa is the most complicit manager of the steroid era.  Tony LaRussa managed Mark McGwire in two different stops – his two most successful, I might add.  McGwire has finally admitted to using steroids, first in Oakland in 1989, and again in his famed run toward 73 home runs with the Cardinals in 1998.  His manager both times? Tony LaRussa.  He claims that LaRussa, who has time and again defended McGwire, didn’t know anything about it.

This book was "bashed" at first, but most Canseco's assertions have been vindicated.

At best, it seems hard to believe that LaRussa knew nothing – twice.  At worst, he was a complicit participant in the greatest systematic cheating scandal in the history of the game.  Some go so far as to say that he was actively covering up the steroid use of his players while at the same time berating any reporters with the gall to ask questions.  And according to Jose Canseco, the guy who has been proven right over and over again despite being ridiculed and insulted when he first made his accusations, LaRussa knew everything.

I’m not saying that LaRussa shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame, but it seems clear that a standard about the steroid era has been set.  It will be interesting when 2013, when Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens become eligible for the first time.  If any of them get in, it will surprise me.  Interestingly enough, because managers are voted into the Hall differently, LaRussa will first be eligible (along with Joe Torre, Lou Piniella and Bobby Cox) in, how cool is this, 2013.

So it turns out 2013 will be an interesting year for the Hall of Fame and the steroid era.  Three known users and two managers that benefited greatly from the era (Torre managed A-Rod, Clemens, Giambi) will all become eligible.

I’m not passing judgment on LaRussa’s resume, but I’m surprised that almost all national media outlets have been completely silent on LaRussa’s less than sparkling involvement in the steroid era.  It seems to me that there is a double standard.  If the players don’t go in, why would their managers?

For further reading:

Sorry Albert, I don’t believe you.

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Sorry Albert, I don’t believe you

My new Sports Illustrated came in the mail today.  On the cover is Albert Pujols, slugger for the St. Louis Cardinals.  The headline reads, “Albert Pujols has a message: ‘Don’t Be Afraid to Believe in Me'”

Albert Pujols on SI

Sorry Albert, I have nothing against you personally.  I might actually believe that you are clean – but I’m not giving you the benefit of the doubt.  I want to believe you are clean – you are an amazing player.  I lived in St. Louis for three years and marveled in your greatness.  You are the only player I have ever watched that actually surprises me when you make an out.  You are so good that I actually expect a hit every time.

There are no signs that you are, or ever were, on steroids.  Yet you did sort of come out of nowhere.  You have always been a huge man, yet you do sort of look smaller on the cover of this issue.  Maybe you are clean – and I hope you are, but I still don’t believe you.  And you have no one to blame but yourself – and your union.

I assume you’ve heard the saying, “Once bitten, twice shy.”  Well, I was bitten when I believed Mark McGwire say that bottle of chemicals in his locker was just a supplement, and I was bitten over and over again each time I drove by the sign that read Mark McGwire Expressway just north of Busch Stadium.  I was bitten when I believed that the reason for the increased home runs in the late 90’s was because of “hard balls.”  I was bitten again when owners called Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco embittered liars.  I was bitten (how many times is that now?) when Rafeal Palmeiro wagged his finger and angrily declared “Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids, period. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never.”  And I was bitten when Alex Rodriguez made himself out to be the great anti-Barry with Katie Couric.  So I guess after all the times I have been bitten by the owners, media and especially by members of your union, I’m more than twice shy.

You might be clean, but you are not blameless.  Where was this indignation when Barry Bonds’ hat size went from melon to globe? Where were you when your former teammate, he of the cartoon-like forearms that were built on something more than spinach, was declaring, “I don’t want to talk about the past”?

There is plenty of blame to spread around in this whole steroid mess.  The owners probably turned a blind eye to it as Sammy and Mark rescued the game from the despair of labor disputes and a cancelled World Series.  The media droped the ball as they gawked at the home runs while ignoring the signs.  But the players – the clean ones – are as much to blame as anyone.  They were the ones that really, undeniably, knew what was going on.  They were the ones that were most directly being negatively effected by the cheaters.

So now you clean players want to say, “It wasn’t me – He did it.”  Sorry, it doesn’t work like that.  As far as I’m concerned – you’re all guilty.  The whole era is tainted – not just Barry’s numbers, but yours too, Albert.  Because it was you, Albert, that had the power to prevent the steroid era from happening.  If the union cared about the clean players, then it would have acted to make testing happen to protect their integrity.  Yet, the union continues to drag its feet.

You want me to believe you?  Then demand that your union leadership be fired – now.  Demand that Bud Selig is fired – now.  Demand random blood testing – now.  Demand full season suspensions for first offenses – now.  Do that, and maybe I’ll believe you.  Until then, you, and no member of your union, deserves the benefit of the doubt.

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