Why even have a Hall of Fame? Manny Ramirez and the Worst of the Worst in American Sportswriting

by Cleveland Frowns on April 11, 2011

As sad as it is when it happens, when we can so clearly see the ills of society-at-large come to infect our national pastimes, it at least helps show how following sports can be important. Like how our inability to join the rest of the civilized world in providing for universal health care helps get us an NFL lockout, or the fact that we can’t make peace with plants and let go of a demonstrably backward policy on controlled substances helps people get away with saying with a straight face that one of the most truly awesome athletes of our time, Manny Ramirez, doesn’t belong in baseball’s Hall of Fame (and much worse).

We don’t have to pretend that resolving these bigger issues is simple, including MLB policy on performance-enhancing substances, because with respect to Manny and the Hall of Fame it’s enough to note a few things: 1) That efforts to develop new untraceable substances and delivery methods have always outpaced the efforts to police the users; Which makes sense because, 2) the incentives to use these substances to further MLB stardom are incredibly compelling and probably impossible for a non-competitor to fully comprehend; Further, 3) people don’t follow rules when they perceive incredibly compelling reasons to risk breaking them; So we shouldn’t be surprised that 4) there’s plenty of evidence suggesting that many if not most of the era’s stars (if not just about everybody) used the substances; Finally, 5) we’ve come a long way with greenies, clubhouse cocaine, and Lyle Alzado in that athletes, with the help of doctors, have continued to make progress in learning how to use the substances safely.

Of course, it’s easy enough to see that these questions exist, and from there reflect on Manny’s career for the smallest fraction of a millisecond to understand that Manny’s greatness transcends the era and his own role in it however the questions are resolved; that Manny Ramirez would have been one of the greatest players of any era, no matter which specific kind of performance-enhancing substance was in prevalent use. It’s hard to imagine how it could be easier than it is with Manny to acknowledge (if not celebrate) that the world is a complicated place, and that even our most famous baseball stars aren’t immune to the complicatedness.

Easy enough for everyone except the sports columnist whose apparent goal is to ensure that the neurologically-impaired stay that way. Because one has to pretend that everything is really simple when he wants to write like the Plain Dealer’s Bud Shaw did that Manny Ramirez’s “true legacy” is “being dumb; really dumb.” It hurt when Manny left Cleveland as a free agent to go on to win two World Series with the Red Sox, so Shaw not only reduces the PED-issue but also, implicitly, that of MLB’s skewed economics to rouse the rabble by dismissing the legacy of one of baseball’s best hitters and compelling characters as that of, simply, a dumb cheater. Extra dumb, Shaw tells us, because Manny tested positive for PEDs, got cited for making an illegal U-Turn, and once thought his teammates were talking about teammate Chad Ogea when they were really talking about O.J. Simpson.

And Shaw’s money shot:

“I’m at ease,” Ramirez told ESPN Deportes. “God knows what’s best [for me]. I’m now an officially retired baseball player. I’ll be going away on a trip to Spain with my old man.”

So, God decided for him? And not the 100-game suspension he was facing for failing a spring training test for performance-enhancing drugs — again?

If there was any doubt, now you know for sure. It’s completely unfathomable to Shaw that Manny himself is (or anyone on earth could be) comfortable enough acknowledging that the world’s complications as manifested in his MLB career are out of Manny’s hands in some significant part.

And here’s more of the same from the PD’s Dennis Manoloff. “Manny no more belongs in the Hall of Fame than Bozo the Clown,” D-Man writes, “and that might be an insult to Bozo.”

In fairness, Manoloff does better than Shaw in at least asking some questions while making the “cheaters don’t get in” argument, but does much worse in worrying as much as he does about a need to punish Manny:

If Ramirez, a former Indian, is allowed into the Hall some day, he will have gotten everything he could have wanted out of baseball but paid no legitimate price for cheating. And if you think shame is enough of a price paid by Ramirez, well, “Manny being Manny” must not have computed the last 19 years.

But if the PED’s are supposed to be so dangerous, what does Manny need to be punished for? Why aren’t the supposedly harmful effects of the drugs punishment enough? If they’re not, why ban the substances in the first place?

It’s understood that there’s a ‘race-to-the-bottom’ element to the discussion; the argument being that by giving Manny and the rest the right to experiment with these medicines, it encourages others to do the same to keep up. But eventually everyone learns from those who pushed the envelope the furthest (again, as folks have learned from Alzado’s example, and no doubt continue to learn). Under the existing rules, the experimentation happens anyway, but in an underground black market, making it almost impossible for society to take lessons from it. And to the extent that the race-to-the-bottom is a concern even under prohibition, then the unsupported wishful thinking by Manoloff (and others) that “the vast majority have been clean” has to be wrong.

When the sportswriter can’t so much as bother to acknowledge that these questions exist, we’re left to assume the column is about the columnist’s revenge as much as it’s about anything else. Flogging the “dumb cheater” is the easiest way there is to take out legitimate frustrations against an economy where the ballplayers are paid so much more than everybody else is. And Time’s Sean Gregory gets right to it here:

[Manny] never truly engaged fans, or reporters, who at the end of the day connect players to the public. When it comes to judging his legacy, and wondering whether Ramirez used steroids throughout his career — if he got busted during the days of tougher testing, it stands to reason that he used drugs when testing was a joke — why give him the benefit of the doubt? Manny clearly never had any love for those who paid his $20 million per-year salaries. There’s no reason to love Manny back.

So it’s not hard to see that Manny is being held to account in large part simply for not caring about the same things that the sportswriters who cover him care about. The Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers was even more to the point. “As little as Ramirez seemed to care,” Rogers asked, “why should we?”

One good reason we should care is that there couldn’t be any worse horseshit than the notion that “Manny never truly engaged fans.” Manny, once described in The New Yorker as “the closest thing in contemporary professional sports to a folk hero,” one whose “originality resonates at the level of species,” captivated fans whether they loved him or hated him, and embodied eccentric genius as much as any athlete of our time. In this world, apparently, at least as regarding Major League Baseball, that might be the precise reason an athlete is kept out of his sport’s Hall of Fame. Which isn’t just sad, but scary; as bad an example as there is of “it’s different, I don’t understand it, so I’m going to put it in this box labeled ‘BAD’ at the first opportunity I get.” America’s warped relationship with plants and medicine and related warped notions of criminology are what creates this particular opportunity, and we only have to reflect on these incredibly reductive sports columns and Manny’s career for the smallest fraction of a millisecond to see it.

Keeping Pete Rose out is one thing, but if you really want to know that things are upside down, try a baseball Hall of Fame without Manny Ramirez in it.

—————

*Per Bob Matthews of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, “The top eight [AL] MVP finishers [in 1999, when Manny finished 2nd]  should be used as a clue to how prevalent PEDs might have been: Ivan Rodriguez, Pedro Martinez, Manny, Roberto Alomar, Rafael Palmeiro, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Giambi.”

Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Ramirez’s former teammate Reed Johnson:

“wondered aloud about how many players in recent years might have had game-changing and season-changing performances for their teams because of steroids or other banned substances, but were low-profile enough to escape suspicion.”

“It’s hard to really point the finger at those [high-profile] individuals just because the other guys didn’t get caught,’’ he said.

((*)UPDATE: A hypothetical from Eno Sarris at Fangraphs:

Say you’re in a market-leading law firm. You’re eligible for partner. You survey the scene, and see that many of your peers are banking more hours than you. They’re madmen, clocking 16-hour workdays, and yet their output is not suffering. In fact, they’re killing it. All the adoration of the younger lawyers is directed in their direction, and they’re taking on huge cases, sometimes many at a time. As a senior associate, you’ve been successful, but you’re also an ambitious guy, and you can feel your grip on that partnership slipping. How are they doing what they’re doing? One day you catch an paralegal talking about how all the associates are using ephedrine and adderall, and how the drugs help them stay up and get work done – even calling them the “new coffee.” They are prescription drugs, and abusing prescription drugs is against the law. But your firm doesn’t drug test, and there’s been no institutional talk against the drugs.

Do you still manage to say no?

You may yet answer that you wouldn’t give in to temptation, but I submit that the hypothetical situation still humanizes the choices that Barry Bonds[, Manny and the rest] made.

If this applies to life in a corporate law firm, it applies exponentially to Major League Baseball, or times however many billion fewer people there are who grow up wanting to be corporate lawyers than ones who want to be ballplayers.)

**Scott Raab on how he’ll remember Manny:

The steroid era fits right into the game’s mythic history. That’s how I look at it — in the same context as the Black Sox, the color line, Pete Rose, Ball Four, and a thousand other aspects, small and large, of my favorite sport — and that’s how I talk to my son about it. . . . . Manny will always be in the batter’s box in my mind’s eye, unleashing that perfect swing, head down, hips turning, hitting the shit out of the ball.

***Some relevant statistics, again, per Matthews:

When this season began, here’s where Ramirez ranked among active players:

First in extra-base hits.

Second in slugging percentage (.586; behind only .624 by Albert Pujols) … 2nd in total bases (4,825; behind only Alex Rodriguez’s 5,043) … 2nd in doubles … 2nd in RBI (1,830; behind only A-Rod’s 1,831). … 2nd in at-bats/RBI (4.5; behind only Ryan Howard’s 4.3).

Third in home runs (555; 14th all-time; behind only A-Rod’s 613 and Jim Thome’s 589) and on-base percentage.

Fourth in games, runs and walks.

Fifth in hits (2,573).

Ramirez retires with a .312 career batting average, and a major-league record 28 postseason HRs. He is [15th on the all-time home run list], 18th on the all-time RBI list [and second all-time behind Lou Gehrig with 21 grand slams [to Gehrig’s 23].

Ramirez has also appeared in more postseason series than any player in history, 23, and his team won 14 of them. He’s tied with Pete Rose for the longest LCS hitting streak in MLB history (15).

More on Manny’s numbers here at Hardball Talk.

****The New Yorker piece by Ben McGrath quoted above is probably the definitive Ramirez profile.

And a comprehensive summary by Eric Walker of how warped the arguments over Baseball’s Drug War have become, also an excellent read.

UPDATE (2): Joe Posnanski at SI.com: “Peter over at Cleveland Frowns has a passionate post about Manny Ramirez and the Hall of Fame, and it made me think about Lyndon Johnson.”

  • Anonymous

    Frownie, I love that quote.
    Have you read the book “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole.
    Definitely one of the best books ever written.
    He is in my top three for authors.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Confederacy_of_Dunces

    “Just Manny being Manny” I would venture to guess or perhaps even place a wager that Manny will soon be playing ball in Japan, Venezuela, or parts unknown.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think he’ll be playing in Japan. I’m pretty sure that they actually take drug use seriously over there. As in if you are caught your life and career are finished, as opposed to the feigned U.S. outrage, “OMG! One of our professional athletes is using illegal drugs!!! Is he on our team? Yes? Then it must be a mistake! I’m sure there was a mix up in the lab! Wait? He’s not on our team? Let’s cover him in BBQ sauce, stake him to a red ant hill, and watch him writhe in agony as he is consumed alive piece by tiny piece. *cough* Pass me that joint will you? *cough* Using illegal drugs…FOR SHAME!!! *cough cough*”

      • NoVA Buckeye

        now china on the other hand…

    • Anonymous

      Yes, all time great book for sure.

      • http://profiles.google.com/nmesha Nick Mesha

        Never read it, just bought it. Can’t wait to read it. Amazon Prime FTW.

        Future column Frowns, book recommendations. great piece today on manram.

        • Anonymous

          Thanks. You are in for a treat. I’m jealous.

          Not sure about a whole column on book recs, but they do pop up here from time to time. Here’s a strong one: http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/2010/12/happy-holidays/

          Also, fwiw, Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle is pretty much the Magna Carta in these parts. These days, at least, anyway.

          • Anonymous

            I can’t think of a Vonnegut book I didn’t like. One of my all time favorite lines from “Man Without a Country,” “Never did I think I would live to see the day when the three most powerful people in American are named Dick, Bush, and Colon.”

          • Anonymous

            super like because like just isn’t good enough for anything vonnegut.

            “sit thee doon, sit thee doon” and pick one up – any will do – today.

  • Anonymous

    Frownie, I love that quote.
    Have you read the book “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole.
    Definitely one of the best books ever written.
    He is in my top three for authors.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Confederacy_of_Dunces

    “Just Manny being Manny” I would venture to guess or perhaps even place a wager that Manny will soon be playing ball in Japan, Venezuela, or parts unknown.

  • http://twitter.com/rickwfny rick grayshock

    I don’t think I agree with your supposition that “only morons follow rules when they perceive incredibly compelling reasons to risk breaking them”.

    There is no honor in playing by the rules even if those about you aren’t? What of those that are able to attain greatness without circumventing the rules to do so? What then is their reward.

    I am with you though that at this point not allowing all of these players into the hall of fame is just ridiculous.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Rick. I think this gets right to the conversation that we should be having, and that columns like Shaw’s, etc. are keeping us from having.

      Whatever honor there is in playing by the rules is a reward itself, and is, we’re assuming to some, a compelling reason to avoid breaking them. Others don’t see the same reward, some for differing and specific reasons, and have great incentive to break these rules. What it comes down to is whether the particular rule is any good or not (i.e., whether playing by the rule is a useful thing for humans), and the only way we can really find out here is by letting these guys try for themselves, which, notably, they’re plenty willing to do. In the end, we might find out either that the guys who do it only with fruits nuts greens and beans are the only ones left standing, or we could find out that PEDs really do lead to longer healthier more productive careers without side effects that would make it not worth using them. We might also find that different rules are good for different people. If you had more respect for a guy who was demonstrably not a user, that would be your right, would add texture to your experience as a baseball fan, and would enhance your reality in that way.

      Whatever we’d find out, my real point is that we’d learn a lot more than we’re learning now, and the ridiculousness of the notion that Manny doesn’t belong in the HoF highlights how the current regime works to warp reality.

  • Anonymous

    Frownie, Drs. have not made PED safe.
    Most importantly they can do nothing to stave off the oncological effects.
    While they have started sticking IV’s in athletes arms right after endurance events to prevent arterial agglutination in their hearts due to loss of plasm volume thus a crazy high hematocrit, and blood like mud, which caused the death of at least 100 cyclists and runners, (Early EPO era) there are still athletes dying from it and now even Joe Nobody amateurs.
    They can do nothing to control the epiphyseal plate regeneration usually called “hip injuries”, caused by Somatropic Hormone, (rHGH).
    The doctors who help athletes cheat are only concerned with not getting caught and they like to hang around the superstars, there is very little that they do to insure their future health.
    These are just a few examples, there are a myriad more.

    Sorry to be a jerk, you struck a bit of a raw nerve.

    • Anonymous

      You’re not being a jerk. If what you’re saying applies to PED’s as used in baseball, then it should be provable, which should be enough to convince these guys not to use them. What could be a better deterrent than these guys dropping like flies? I assume that cyclists and runners have moved on from whatever it was that caused the death of at least 100 of them.

      • eldaveablo

        “What could be a better deterrent than these guys dropping like flies?”

        Man, I wish this would work. I just think between sports covering things up, and people not seeing what they don’t want to see, this angle will never receive the exposure it deserves.

        Case in point: all the hits to the head in football. The days after MoMass & Cribbs got laid out by the Steelers, all sorts of venom was coming from Pittsburgh. Do you think they would feel that way if the sad SAD story of Mike Webster was better known? Would players maybe accept some of the changes? Who knows?

        While I know this comparison isn’t perfect because I used soulless, non-humans (Pittsburgh fans/athletes) to compare, but I think it carries through.

        People love to live in denial, especially when they are grown men with delusions of immortality being paid millions to play something we all loved to play as kids. Hell, people live in denial when they defend their own players against the indefensible.

        This all said, Manny should be in the HOF. Unfortunately, the world is more of a popularity contest than it should be, and Manny was mostly hated by the people responsible for voting him in. I doubt Andy Pettitte will have as hard of a time getting in.

        • Anonymous

          “Man, I wish this would work. I just think between sports covering things up, and people not seeing what they don’t want to see, this angle will never receive the exposure it deserves.”

          Why so fatalistic? The point is that if we stop making it so easy for sports to cover things up and for people to avoid seeing what they don’t want to see then this angle *will* receive the exposure it deserves. There’s reason to believe we’re making progress here, just as humans have done with respect to any of a number of similarly difficult issues throughout history.

      • NeedsFoodBadly

        Note that armstrong says the runners and cyclists are “still… dying from it and now even Joe Nobody amateurs.” So they haven’t moved on from those practices.

        That’s why these rules exist. Saying “Hey, go hog wild on the drugs” and then seeing where the bodies fall isn’t a particularly sane method of law creation. The effects of these drugs may take years or decades to appear. Young people think they’re invincible. Athletes probably even more so. Consequences that only appear years down the line won’t deter them from doing steroids. The rules exist to protect players’ health as much as anything else.

        • Anonymous

          Nothing in Armstrong’s comment makes clear that fewer aren’t dying, or if the ones who are dying are dying from riskier more exploratory practices.

          Nothing in your comment (and nothing anywhere else on earth) proves that people are so stupid as to engage in behavior that’s sure to shorten life by decades and decades. If people want to take the risk, are we better off letting them and seeing how it works out? Or are we better off pretending we can stop them and learning nothing as a result of the pretension? I’m not saying that anything here conclusively resolves the issue; just that we should be trying to answer these questions instead of doing absurd things like keeping Manny out of the Hall of Fame.

          • Anonymous

            You’re right. Nobody knowingly engages in practices that are proven to reduce life expectancy or outright kill you. No one smokes cigarettes, injects heroin or snorts crystal meth. No one rides in a car without a seatbelt, taunts angry bulls then runs through crowded streets, or knowingly associates with Ray Lewis.

            There’s a wealth of scientific evidence that indicates the proper usage for steroids. Controlling Crohn’s disease or arthritis is a good use that improves quality of life for sick people, as there aren’t really good alternatives. Want to get big and crush fastballs? One option: inject steroids, which can cause cancer, make you go sterile and/or give you terrible backne. Or alternately, work hard, lift weights, eat well – with no side effects other than learning life lessons about the value of hard work. Which should we encourage? Don’t be dishonest and say we don’t know the outcomes of these things. We do. We have scientific, empirical evidence, which inform rational, good rules.

            Don’t do steroids or other PEDs. It’s not rocket science. It’s a good rule. It exists, like countless other rules and laws, to protect people’s health. It is not hard to understand.

          • Anonymous

            You want to ban cigarettes, too? And Pamplona?

            Look, I don’t really argue with this:

            “One option: inject steroids, which can cause cancer, make you go sterile and/or give you terrible backne. Or alternately, work hard, lift weights, eat well – with no side effects other than learning life lessons about the value of hard work. Which should we encourage?”

            The issue is how best to encourage. Taking the experiment out from the darkness (where we’re already sure it’s going to happen no matter what the rules are) seems like something worth considering given the incentives, the way athletes have continued to cheat, and what we know about every Prohibition regime that’s ever been attempted.

            Anyway, what is it that we really know about these things other than that we’ve made progress with them from the days of Lyle Alzado? Dishonest? Come on.

          • Anonymous

            I’m not arguing these running with the bulls should be banned. Or smoking. I am merely illustrating that people will knowingly participate in activities that actively and directly shorten their lifespans.

            Re: PEDs – there have been advances, yes. Is pro baseball the best laboratory to test out which ones are relatively safe and which ones aren’t? No. This is not how we test the efficacy and safety of drugs in civilized society. We do it in controlled, lab environments for very good reasons which should be self-evident. This is not the darkness. This is the appropriate environment.

            If you’re saying banning drugs is impossible to enforce 100% of the time, well, so is catching speeders, but cops still shoot radar. Nothing is 100% certain, other than the Indians beating the Giants in the World Series in 5 games in 2011.

            How best to handle drugs in general vis a vis the current War on Drugs vs. public health benefits is a good discussion to have, but it’s beyond the scope of PEDs in sports. We know that a good number of PEDs are very unsafe to use and are being used unsafely. This is proven. The side effects are known. The risks are quantified. These should be banned. Even if it were found some PEDs were just dandy, there would be others justly banned.

          • Anonymous

            It’s not just that banning PEDs is impossible to enforce 100% of the time; It’s that the ban is impossible to enforce at all without creating a ridiculous mess of a sideshow, and there’s a legitimate question as to whether the process might cause more harm than good. That folks have continued to develop smarter treatments even despite the ban is strong evidence that this is the case, as is evidence that no prohibition regime has ever worked anywhere ever.

            As far as smoking and Pamplona, neither of those activities is proven to directly shorten any one lifespan. Plenty of people who smoke live lives as long as anybody’s; and I don’t know for a fact, but feel safe assuming the same goes for folks who run with the bulls (and also that there’s significant overlap between the two populations).

            The issue of whether certain PEDs are safe should be irrelevant, at least as not worth the hair-splitting. If people know that certain ones are dangerous, they’ll avoid them for safer alternatives, as they’ve been doing (there’s no upside like the natural effect of the tobacco plant or the thrill of running with the bulls to justify the risk).

            Also, the darkness I’m referring to is the place where people go when you force them to take their use underground (as they always have, throughout history, whenever anybody’s tried to ban any substance). The issue is whether that darkness is more harmful than what would happen if we’d just let it all be in the light. Seems like a dim view of humanity to suggest we’d be worse off, especially when we see how bad it already is with the darkness.

          • Anonymous

            You’re missing the point by focusing on two of many examples, one of which was flip. Things that are harmful are not judged or legislated on an individual basis. Why do we have seatbelt laws (which, incidentally, are hard to enforce)? Is it because every time someone drives to the store without their seatbelt buckled, they immediately die? No. In the same way, not everyone who smokes is going to shorten their lifespan. But if we look at the population of smokers compared to the population of non-smokers, we see shortened lifespans.

            Not everyone can afford doctors who can tailor the perfect drug cocktails to their unique biochemistry and monitor their hormone cycles to ensure the least amount of damage. Barry Bonds might. Joe AAA Ballplayer doesn’t, and unless you think every high school and minor league team should have a Roid Doctor on staff, players at those levels will take unsafe concoctions that will cause very real, very permanent health problems.

            You’re also wrong about the PEDs. People will do them even if they know they are dangerous. This is not a dim view of humanity. This is an accurate view of humanity. People do meth. People do heroin. People eat fatty foods and don’t get enough exercise, fully well knowing the physical consequences. Doing steroids (whether safe or not) to get big muscles does have an obvious upside, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

            You are right that no prohibition has ever been 100% effective. But y’know what? We don’t catch every murderer, but it’s still illegal, yeah? Just because something is hard to enforce doesn’t mean you just give up. Sometimes it means you try harder by making stricter rules, or you try to make your enforcement more efficient, or change the culture.

            Do you genuinely believe PED use doesn’t lead to significant health problems?

          • Anonymous

            Prohibition of a substance and making murder illegal are two completely different things. The second isn’t “prohibition.” And compared to how many “users” we catch, we pretty much do catch every murderer.

            To this:

            “Not everyone can afford doctors who can tailor the perfect drug cocktails to their unique biochemistry and monitor their hormone cycles to ensure the least amount of damage. Barry Bonds might. Joe AAA Ballplayer doesn’t, unless you think every high school and minor league team should have a Roid Doctor on staff, players at those levels will take unsafe concoctions that will cause very real, very permanent health problems.”

            It gets right to the point you keep missing. Players at those levels already experiment, even with a ban enforced. If you’re worried about them not being able to afford the fancy doctors, you should be arguing against prohibition, because then the fancy doctors will be taken off the black market and into the light, where other cheaper doctors that Joe AAA Ballplayer could afford could see what they were doing.

            Relatedly, of all the drugs you mention, meth is by far the most damaging. It’s also synthetic, and nobody would do it (nobody would make it) if they could get their hands on coke or other naturally-occurring stimulants which turn out to be a lot safer.

          • Anonymous

            What evidence do you have that people wouldn’t do meth if they could get their hands on coke? This is contrary to my understanding of drug use and drug addiction. You don’t choose to do what’s most “natural.” People who have access to coke still do meth. Many (most?) people do heroin in spite of knowing the dangers. People do anabolic steroids because they like big muscles.

            You’re missing the point that people do things that they know will actively harm them. This isn’t a value judgement – Most people do things they know might be risky or harmful for any number of reasons, myself included. Again, why do we have seatbelt laws? Why do we have speed limits? Is giving up because something is hard a good thing?

            Let’s “bring everything into the light” like you say and make PEDs legal for everyone across the board. Those doctors/treatments will still be expensive and boutique, because those treatments are expensive and time-consuming. They’ still only be accessible to the Barry Bonds of the world, while the grinders jam anabolic steroids and melt their balls off, tear ligaments and have their hearts explode.

          • Anonymous

            You continue to ignore plain economics and make increasingly less sense.

            I understand re: not giving up on something b/c it’s hard but you’re misapplying the principle here. Re: The boutique that only Bonds can afford, you ignore that once it’s not on a black market, competition comes in to make it all much cheaper. You also continue to ignore the progress that has been made even in the black market.

            As far as grinders jamming anabolic steroids and melting their balls off until their hearts explode, I don’t know what else to say. I don’t think people are that dumb. You do. Agree to disagree.

            Also, the evidence that people wouldn’t do meth if they could get their hands on coke is that meth is about 9,000 times cheaper, largely because people figured out how to make it in a lab, which they might have never tried to do if the plants weren’t taken away from them.

          • Anonymous

            I am making perfect sense. Everyone else is making imperfect sense and trying to steal my magic bag.

            Your economic analysis is much too simplistic to bear the weight of your argument. Just because something becomes legal does not mean it becomes cheap or accessible. That’s a fundamental flaw in your argument. First, as regards PEDs, I don’t think you understand how the regimens used by pro athletes work. I’m not an expert, but I know that they aren’t just pills or injections you take and go on your merry way. They’re often tailored to individuals and built around hormone cycles, which require testing to fully understand. If you make all that allowed by the rules, guess what? It’s still not cheap or easy to do. SO! Barry Bondses get to keep doing it, whereas others who want to match his unfair advantage take cheaper, unsafer alternatives (and we don’t KNOW HOW UNSAFE THE FORMER TREATMENTS ARE UNTIL WE PROPERLY TEST THEM).

            You can liken this to a nutritionist, who tailors a diet to your specific metabolism and occupational requirements. But there’s a big difference between eating right with a nutritionist and eating right on your own vs. doing PEDs with Vic Conte and buying a syringe off some juicehead in your locker room. The consequences and advantages are drastically drastically different.

            Secondly, your evidence regarding coke and meth makes zero sense, since again, people who can afford coke and have access to coke still do meth. It’s not an economic decision, or at least, it’s not always an economic decision. People don’t make their choices on purely an economic basis. That doesn’t make them dumb. It just recognizes the complexity of the human animal which is subject to a whole suite of pressures beyond mere cost/benefit analyses.

          • Anonymous

            Holy Christ everything gets weirdly squinched up when you get this far down a thread.

          • Anonymous

            The wronger you are, the more you get squinched up. I think that’s how it works.

          • Anonymous

            It’s patently obvious that the reverse is true. The strength of one’s argument is entirely dependent on how skinny it is. Arguments are essentially like supermodels.

            But this is yesterday’s post, so let’s let it rest. Enough steroids! On to Peyton Hillis’s imminent coronation as King of Football.

        • Anonymous

          Very good discussion from you two guys on this, I think it’s evidence that it really is a pretty tough issue. It’s a very special type of prohibition, a prohibition from doing something that isn’t really desired for itself, but to get one over on the field. Then the whole field has to do it to try and keep up with the leaders. So this is a kind of drug use that has negative effects on just about everyone using or not. You might call it an externalized gateway drug. I can’t think of anything quite analogous to PED’s in this sense.

          On the other hand, if it really can’t be policed effectively, you’re taking a problem and potentially making it worse, as Frowns suggests. I suppose because of it’s special status of creating widespread external harms, I’m not convinced that it can’t be controlled, because if you can create the right culture it’s a population with an interest in policing itself. Part of the phony outcry here is undoubtedly just a posture that attempts to promote that culture, so I can cut it that much slack. But it’s so patently phony I don’t think it can work. It needs to be taken out of the realm of “morals” and into the realm of pure interest. Some light should be shined on the guys who ultimately were denied opportunities to play MLB because bubble roster players ahead of them were using. It shouldn’t be a moral argument, it needs to have some self-interest tooth in it.

          • Anonymous

            Great points. I think that grounding the issue in self-interest is key.

    • Zarathustra

      Let’s assume all of this true. Why again shouldn’t an adult baseball player be able to weigh those consequences against the benefit of lots of cash and a place in history as one of the best to play the game? Some of us may value the prospect of living a healthy life well into their later years; others may not place as much value on such things and make a rational decision that fame and enormous wealth–not just for today, but for at least a generation or two of one’s descendants–are well worth any potential future health costs.
      Is this not almost exactly the question that Achilles faced?

      • Anonymous

        The question is whether giving the athletes the right to experiment in this way is a violation of others’ right to earn a living as professional baseball players without having to engage in the same pursuit.

        We have to ask which right we think is most important, then we have to ask which is easiest (or whether either or both are even possible) to enforce.

        • Zarathustra

          That is a very important question. (Ultimately, I think, as usual the most pertinent point in all this is why the mainstream media seems incapable of even addressing these questions before reflexively opting for the path with the easiest answers.) But likewise don’t you have to consider the rights of the marginally talented player who may indeed benefit from ped? That player is bound by punitive rules (that of course can never be properly enforced) that raise his barrier to entry into the major leagues? Shouldn’t he have the right to improve his chances of a successful career and not have to risk running afoul of mlb? If what we are talking about is possibly much safer than believed to be and fair enforcement of the punitive rules are problematic shouldn’t we error towards the rights of the player who has the most to gain in this circumstance?

      • Anonymous

        Very poetic, but when you are coaching top level juniors (under 18) and you see them face that decision it sucks.

      • Anonymous

        Very poetic, but when you are coaching top level juniors (under 18) and you see them face that decision it sucks.

        • Anonymous

          And everybody knew bags in high school or college who weren’t top-level athletes at all and just shot up because they wanted bigger arms. Amazingly, the ones I knew are still walking, and alot of them have even had babies. I dunno.

  • Anonymous

    how do we petition Frownie to get a HOF vote?? because good luck convincing the Baseball writers to come around on Manny anytime soon, if ever. until the first known PED user gets in the HOF, it seems to me that it will be an uphill battle for my main man Manny.

    LOVE the Tribe’s chances against a 21 year old making his MLB debut tonight, whodathunk Mitch Talbot and the Tribe would only be +110 dogs in the 4th game of a West Coast road trip against the Angels??

  • eldaveablo

    And don’t forget to vote for Peyton! He’s officially in the final 4.

    http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/feature/madden2012cover

  • Anonymous

    Good stuff Frowns, I agree on Manny. And to that extent, I find Red Sox fans that bitch about Manny among the worst people in (sports) society. He was a leader in ending the historic world series drought. (along these lines: anti-clarett buckeye fans need to shut it, too)

    And it is a fact that Babe Ruth would not be an all-time great if not for his drug of choice: booze. Sure, alcohol is not thought of as a performance-enhancer, but functioning alcoholics, by definition, are see a decline in performance without alcohol.

    • Ess Eh

      plus it was an all white league when Babe Ruth played

  • Anonymous

    i must say, i am surprised no mention of the Tribe’s epic weekend.

    i will be representing in Anaheim tonight….hopefully Wednesday….i really hope my caring doesn’t jeopardize the early season progress.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, didn’t really fit with the Manny column, but what more needs to be added? They are on an unstoppable bullet train to 160-2. Sizemore was 2-4 in a rehab spot on Saturday in Akron, and Pomerantz was unhittable in his first start at Kinston. Also, the Red Sox took 2 of 3 from the Yankees proving that they’re probably not one of the worst teams in baseball, and Josh Beckett, whom we beat, was a beast last night (10Ks or so).

      Awesome that you’ll be at the park tonight. Frownie Fotos please.

    • Anonymous

      the kid they have on the mount tonight has only pitched less than 7 runs of AAA ball, so if we don’t smack him around maybe you should stay away on wednesday!

    • Anonymous

      good work tonight, maybe you need to go back tues AND weds..

    • Anonymous

      great game. pretty decent stadium (i like it better than dodger stadium).

      not much on the foto scene, as i had to come from work and only had my cell camera, so just have a few dumb pictures. no way to debut as a foto journalist. will have to step up next time .

      in all seriousness, in 2 weeks i have gone from not caring about baseball at all to loving this team more than any since 1999. we’ll see how they react when then hit on tough times, but it sure seems these guys are legit contenders in the central. at least into the all-star break. and that is reason for excitement.

      • Anonymous

        just gotta stay healthy, that was been the achilles heel the past 2 years.. defense is solid and our pitchers don’t really give up the long ball much, so as long as we don’t have too many errors we should be in most games, especially with our killer bullpen which looks as strong (or stronger) than it did in 07. Chris Perez is legit. and the bats could always score, so i don’t expect too much of a let up in offense, especially with very little contribution from santana, choo, or sizemore..

        TON of games to go, but we got a fairly reasonable schedule for next couple weeks so let’s try to ride this heat wave while we can.. i think it’s gonna be a down year for the Central, 90 wins should win it..

  • http://twitter.com/technivore Matthew Rich

    Why is it that the portrait of Manny Ramirez on that baseball card is one of the most moving pictures I’ve seen in a long, long time?

    For sure this is one of those areas where I think there is a huge, huge disconnect between your average sports writer / radio personality and the great majority of fans. Anybody who likes baseball even the slightest little bit, even people like my wife who only suffer to be dragged to baseball games so they can make fun of all the trashy girls at US Cellular field, can see what was so great, and so special about Manny Ramirez.

    True Question: I wonder if there was a performance enhancing drug that would make Bud Shaw suck less, would he take it?

  • http://www.scottraab.com Raab

    I can’t adequately describe my pleasure at seeing Pete’s take here. I couldn’t agree more, and I couldn’t have made the argument with equal eloquence and force.

    My tribute to Manny is much simpler. I’m linking to it here in a shameless attempt to drive traffic to scottraab.com; please note, however, that Frowns is among the links on my site, so it’s a quid pro quo, not an entirely one-sided grab.

    http://www.scottraab.com/2011/04/10/manny/

    By the way, I tried to buy the domain name pissypopulist.com, but Nancy Grace already owns it. I did, however, manage to nab whoreofakron.com.

    • Anonymous

      Completely fair. Thanks. This is right on:

      The steroid era fits right into the game’s mythic history. That’s how I look at it — in the same context as the Black Sox, the color line, Pete Rose, Ball Four, and a thousand other aspects, small and large, of my favorite sport — and that’s how I talk to my son about it. . . . Manny will always be in the batter’s box in my mind’s eye, unleashing that perfect swing, head down, hips turning, hitting the shit out of the ball.

      What kind of sad soul would remember Manny in any other way?

      Bummer re: Nancy and esp. re: whoreofakron.com. I coulda been rich.

  • Matt Brown

    Well-reasoned points as usual, even if I don’t completely agree. Anyway, my prediction…

    Contrary to the inane jabber passing for analysis that you’re hearing and reading from the usual sources these days, Manny and most of the other greats from his era are eventually bound for Cooperstown. It’s just not going to begin happening for another decade or so, and when it does happen, it will be for some of the worst possible logic and reasons.

    The steroid era players will wind up in the Hall, partially because a younger generation of writers who grew up watching these guys will begin voting, but more importantly due to a phenomenon that I guess you could call “emotional fatigue.” It’s currently in vogue for the media to scream about how Manny will ABSOLUTELY NEVER get in the Hall, but given some time, they’ll simply get tired of making that argument. They’ll seek out a viewpoint that “feels” a little fresher, begin to view the past through (Pete) Rose colored glasses, and begin writing columns staking out the “contrary” ground that these guys were all true greats, they’ve suffered enough, etc…

    I predict that Mark McGwire will be the first one to get in. I say McGwire because he’s still active in the game as a hitting coach (and likely will be active in some role a decade from now), so he’ll be in the public eye. Also, for the bulk of his career the media’s relationship with McGwire was generally quite positive. I foresee a spate of “c’mon, let’s let Big Mac in the Hall” type coverage, mixed with a dose of ’98 nostalgia. Eventually, his vote total will crack the election threshold, and while the writers effectively need to vote somebody out year after year, all it takes is one year of enough positive vibed to vote him IN irreversibly.

    Once this happens with McGwire, the dam will break. The argument then instantly shifts to an “if ‘x’, then why not ‘y'” argument. So then it’ll be “welcome to Cooperstown Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro…” et al, likely within a short period of years. Manny won’t be one of the first of these guys voted in, since he has the cold, hard facts of his drug suspension(s) coupled with his persona as strikes against him. However, he WILL get in.

    I say all of this not to argue for or against these players’ inclusion in the Hall, but as an observation of the climate and a prediction of what will come to pass. In the end, I say that a player either IS a Hall of Fame or he is NOT one. If a player’s sins make him unworthy now, they should make him unworthy later as well. If he will be dubbed worthy at some later date, he SHOULD be every bit as worthy of induction today. However we ultimately judge these things, what we should strive for is consistency, not a wobbly bar that changes over time due to emotional fatigue and/or the whims of the moment.

    • Anonymous

      Nice, Matt. Thanks. Seems about exactly right.

  • http://twitter.com/jimkanicki jim kanicki

    i must take this opportunity to share my favorite manny episode. i remember watching this live and beer came out my nose. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5nuY1X8GBY

    as for the ‘dumb cheater’ component to this discussion, my take is that theyre making a point that manny is/was dumb for having violated the rules again having been caught just a year or so ago. i’d disagree with the point in that it seems more arrogant than dumb.

    but i will not get bogged down in this… not when mitch talbot is toeing the rubber at 10:05 tonite!! too much pending happiness!!

    • Anonymous

      Like’d for the video. I LOLd so hard.

      • Anonymous

        What about when Manny played for Cleveland? He stole second base, but the shortstop told him there was a foul tip. Manny starts walking back to first and BAM Manny is tagged out. He was never the brightest guy on the field, but he could hit the ball a ton. “Me hit ball good.”

  • http://twitter.com/localgod54 Jape

    Well put, Frownie. Great read.

    One of the great characters of the game has retired. Baseball is less for his departure.

  • Ess Eh

    I think it is funny that there is only backlash against some players. I don’t recall Andy Pettite’s HGH use getting more than a passing note. Guess what sports writers and HOF voters? The pitchers were juicing too and not just Pettite and Clemens. Manny, Bonds, McGwire, etc. probably hit more homers off pitchers that were juicing than off those that weren’t.

  • Anonymous

    the only publication more worth quoting than a vonnegut novel/story/essay is the new yorker. lol yay for manny and for limo libs too.

    • Anonymous

      Frownie drops Swift on us today too. Or Swift via John kennedy Toole, which is even better. Pretty much never disappoints.

  • Anonymous

    Frownie, your take on making peace with plants reminded me of a couple quotes from the late great Bill Hicks:

    “I think people need to be educated to the fact that marijuana is not a drug. Marijuana is an herb and a flower. God put it here. If He put it here and He wants it to grow, what gives the government the right to say that God is wrong?”

    “Why is marijuana against the law? It grows naturally upon our planet. Doesn’t the idea of making nature against the law seem to you a bit . . . unnatural?”

    If you haven’t seen his stand-up, you really ought to get on youtube and check him out.

    • Anonymous

      “Bill Hicks stole Dennis Leary’s act, spiced it up with jokes, and then had the nerve to do it ten years before Leary.”

  • http://www.redright88.com Titus Pullo

    I’ve never had a problem with the players from the 1990s using steroids primarily because baseball never had a problem with it.

    We’ve learned over the years that it was not only the jacked-up homerun hitter who juiced, but pitchers as well, plus plenty of guys who did it to recover from injuries, etc.

    So either don’t put anyone in from the steroid era or accept that baseball turned a blind eye to the whole issue and just treat everyone the same. Ramirez, Bonds, McGuire, etc., certainly inflated their numbers by juicing, but they still would have had good numbers without steroids. The PEDs don’t make you good, they just make you better.

    Plus it’s naive to think people weren’t using steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs before the 1990s. We know the San Diego Chargers were using them in the 1960s; you don’t think there were some baseball players checking them out in the ’60s, ’70s & ’80s?

    Manny’s a little bit different because he actually got caught, but the hysteria from some about how this is ruining baseball or what have you is just the usual pearl clutching from those media types who still cling to a Norman Rockwell-like view of baseball.

  • Zarathustra

    What if Manny, Bonds, McGuire, etc. all live near the average life expectancy with little to no sign of the harmful side affects that everyone frets about? Who will answer for the moralistic fervor created by today’s Luddite media that deprived these men of their rightful place along the greats of their sport? Will anyone step up to question their previous assumptions?
    It will all be moot at that point anyway as we will be long past the singularity and everyone will long past have been using variations of these substances that these men were wealthy enough to experiment with today.

    • Anonymous

      Dr. Kurzweil, I presume?

    • Anonymous

      well i guess there’s the whole issue of whether it is considered cheating or not, and i think most people, particularly the HOF voters are nearly in unison that doing PED’s gives players an unfair advantage over players who do no use (or didn’t use them as much)…

      • Anonymous

        Is breaking a rule cheating?

        I think the HOF issue is moot for the present era of baseball – it’s been so widespread that you have to keep out a generation of players, essentially. Give Manny and the McGwire set an asterisk or something.

        It’s disingenuous to suggest that once a rule is in place (a well-publicized, meaningful rule) it’s okay to break it willy-nilly w/out consequences.

        • Anonymous

          breaking a rule that gives you an advantage over other players that are allegedly playing by the rules? i’m not the judge on that, but the sports journalists who vote for these guys to get in sure do. write all the journalists and make your case to them.

    • Anonymous

      We’ll all be Ubermensch?

  • http://twitter.com/jimkanicki jim kanicki

    if manny et al get in — under the presumption that ‘everyone was doing it’ … then,

    does mark prior like get to be inducted twice?
    should pedro martinez have his name underlined or something?

    irregardless, i remain strongly agnostic on this HOF issue.

    • Anonymous

      That “everyone was doing it” is only part of the argument. You have to also ask how much Manny’s use mattered.

      Anyway, Pedro was a pitcher, which is different, and you must mean to refer to someone other than Mark Prior. But yes, it makes sense that players who could somehow prove they were clean (not sure how — e.g., if Pettite was using, how can we tell who wasn’t just by looking at them?), then yes, they’d have themselves a special place in history and nobody would need the BBWA to give it to them.

      • http://twitter.com/jimkanicki jim kanicki

        gred maddux, mark prior… tomatoe, to-MAH-toe.

      • http://twitter.com/jimkanicki jim kanicki

        the idea that you’re placing a presumption of guilt onto highly performing players who’ve exhibited no physical symptoms and failed no tests is itself evidence of the damage caused by PED abusers to MLB.

        and again.. i dont really care. but i care enough to point out an unfairness being dealt to players who opted not to risk their health in pursuing excellence.

        • Anonymous

          Evidence of the damage caused by PED abusers to MLB? Or evidence of the damage caused by bad rules, or false notions of what “abuse” is?

          Don’t disagree that there’s damage.

  • James W Sandy

    O’Shaunnesy at SI wrote that even though Manny was “one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time” he couldn’t vote for him because one time it appeared he failed to give his all and so he didn’t care. Or something like that. Manny is one of the greatest hitters of our generation. Its that simple. I don’t care if he was injecting elephant hormones into his head; everyone else was doing it too and he still mashed the ball.

  • http://twitter.com/cpmack Chris M

    If anyone here thinks drug use it’s something that’s limited to the late 80’s / 90’s / til whenever, then you’re kidding yourselves, and, I think more likely, the BBWA is kidding themselves. Jim Bouton wrote a book about all of this 40 freaking years ago. I think Jose Canseco was all of about 6 years old when this book was written.

    It’s basically a must read when discussing this topic.

    http://www.amazon.com/Ball-Four-Jim-Bouton/dp/0020306652

  • Anonymous

    These arguments are so true they shouldn’t need to be made. But they do, and leave it to Frowns to do it so well. When the HOF folks make decisions like this (which is a foregone conclusion) it simply means the Hall of Fame doesn’t exist, except in a kind of Soviet agitprop way. The fans and writers who push this line of b.s. are just laying bare their own bad psyches and hunger for comfortable falsehood and simplicity.

    You can go back to the Clouds for the best and oldest lampooning of the kind of dunces squawking about how Manny’s most notable feature is his stupidity. “I’ll stop believing Zeus exists. Why, I swear, if I see him walking down the street I won’t give him the time of day.”**

    Manny Ramierez? Never heard of him, wasn’t he some dummy? Pete Rose who? OK. Sure. Right. We get the idea. We’ll play along.

    The attitude towards this generation of busted cheaters will soften. It’s pretty obvious when people don’t believe what they are saying, and eventually people stop saying it. But it can take a really, really, really long time.

    **
    SOCRATES: So now you won’t acknowledge any gods
    except the ones we do—Chaos, the Clouds,
    the Tongue—just these three?

    STREPSIADES: Absolutely—
    I’d refuse to talk to any other gods,
    if I ran into them—and I decline
    to sacrifice or pour libations to them.
    I’ll not provide them any incense.

  • http://twitter.com/GetBucketsFT Get Buckets

    Great column. Let the Hall of Fame keep A-Rod, Bonds, Manny, Clemens et al out. At a certain point, it says more about the HOF than it does the players doesn’t it?

  • http://wahooblues.com Lewie Pollis

    This is truly fantastic. One other thing to note: the HOF is tainted already. Perry’s spitball and Cobb’s spiked cleats are there. McGwire’s steroids are no less legal than Mays’ “red juice,” Mantle’s “greenies,” or even Jeter’s crybaby one-man show when he pretended to be hit by a pitch.

    If the morality clause can’t be applied consistently, it shouldn’t be a factor at all.

    http://www.wahooblues.com/2011/04/12/cheaters-sometimes-prosper-why-are-steroids-worse-than-spitballs.html/

  • http://bryanjoiner.com/ Bryan Joiner

    How I missed this… well, I do know how. The salt mines are crumbling and people are angry. But this column. Beautiful. Wonderful. True.

  • Anonymous

    A good read. But do we really care where Ramirez (or any other modern-day MLBer) ranks on the all-time postseason HR list or how many times his team has been in the playoffs considering how easy it is to reach the postseason these days? Postseason cumulative counting stats don’t have much value these days without being normalized in some way (vs ABs, games, etc.). In short, you make a compelling argument without bringing that info up and its inclusion paints you as reaching a bit.

    • Anonymous

      I see what you’re saying, but the postseason stats were only included as the second-to-last footnote, for reference.

      Plus, Manny’s postseason stats are still as useful as any in comparing him to players of his own era.

  • pumpkino

    I find it highly amusing when people equate steroid use to grand crimes against humanity.

    Two things – I will not accept the concept of “cheating” until someone actually shows actual scientific analysis of how much the “cheating” gained the players. Current evidence suggests likely little to none – in which case, cheating is a misnomer. “Because they thought it would” or “because they broke a record” is not scientific analysis nor cheating.

    The other is well-stated in the column – has anyone noticed that all the horrid steroid users were either unpopular with the press and/or men of color? The one semi-proven positive effect of steroids is faster recovery from injuries – shall we open the door on the anomaly that is Cal Ripken, or shall we acknowledge that we are dealing with non-sacred vs sacred cows here?

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