Users are kept out; enablers get in. That’s my summary of this weekend’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony where managers Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa will be inducted but the players they oversaw, namely Jose Canseco and Mark McGuire, will not.
In upcoming years, other suspected PED users — most famously Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Harold Baines and Gary Sheffield — likely won’t get enough votes either.
Not all of those players would be on my personal HOF list with or without PEDs. But bestowing the ultimate baseball tribute, a HOF plaque and heaping glowing tributes on managers who — despite their protestations to the contrary — absolutely knew that drug abuses were going on is hypocritical, even by Major League Baseball standards.
According to the 2007 Mitchell Report, an independent investigation into the use of steroids and other performance enhancing substances conducted by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, D-Maine, here’s a partial list of the most prominent players categorized by their managers:
- Cox: Gary Sheffield, John Rocker, Matt Franco, David Justice and Denny Neagle.
- La Russa: Canseco and McGuire.
- Torre: Sheffield, Justice, Neagle, Andy Pettitte, Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez.
In total, the three managers directed more than 30 players implicated by the Mitchell Report.
LaRussa managed McGuire for 15 combined seasons in Oakland and St. Louis. Yet he insists that over all those years he never saw any evidence or even a suggestion of drug abuse in the relatively small clubhouse confines. La Russa and Torre won World Series titles and presumably earned more lucrative contracts because their teams’ rosters included juicers who performed above the norm.
More conflicted signals about punishing drug users versus rewarding drug enablers: Since his retirement, Torre has been elevated to the lofty position of MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations. Torre also is rumored to be among the candidates to replace departing Bud Selig as MLB commissioner.
No column about who should and should not get into the Hall of Fame is complete without a Pete Rose update. Rose agreed to a lifetime ban from baseball in 1989, punishment doled out by then-Commissioner Fay Vincent. Twenty-five years ago, the fear was the Rose’s gambling addiction could have influenced any give game’s outcome while he was managing the Cincinnati Reds.
Rose admits that he bet, but denies that he made managerial decisions for the sole purpose of winning his wager. No evidence that Rose was culpable of manipulating his line-up or changing pitchers to effect the final score has ever surfaced.
Rose typically travels to Cooperstown each year, but stays outside of the mainstream. He’ll set up a booth a few blocks away from the popular, historic Otesaga Resort Hotel to sign autographs for devoted fans.
When they present him with a baseball, Rose often scribbles one of two messages that sum up his conflicted status: “I’m sorry I bet on baseball” or “Hits — 4,526; Steroids, 0.”
I’ve long argued that Rose should be in the HOF. Besides his unmatched 4,526 hits, other Rose records include most games played, 3,562 and 10,056 at-bats, marks that will never be surpassed.
Nearly a quarter of a decade has passed since baseball expelled Rose. Many convicted capital criminals spend less time in jail. Rose jokes that he hasn’t given up on Selig and holds out faint hope that he might be reinstated.
At age 73, Rose has been punished long enough. Selig should make the magnanimous parting gesture when he leaves office of forgiving Rose.
Joe Guzzardi is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research and the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.