We love arguments, contests, and elections. Love the drama, the passion, the polarizing candidates, the fake piety, the rank partisanship, the heart-felt and often appallingly disingenuous editorials, and the heavy dose of moral relativism.
It's that time again. Baseball Hall of Fame ballots for the class of 2018 had to be postmarked as of Sunday, December 31, 2017. The final results will be announced January 24, but the angst is well underway. This year, in particular, the garden-variety question of who, on performance, merits induction, has been largely dominated by the public evaluation of a generation of original sinners, the steroid boys.
It's been more than a decade since the first retired PED's user came on the ballot, but this year's discussion was juiced (sorry about that) by Hall of Famer Joe Morgan's November letter to every member of the Baseball Writers Association of America (the voters) essentially begging them not to admit tainted candidates.
Morgan is right to be concerned. In a manner that mirrors the chaos and distrust in our political system, the fans and the writers are gradually turning towards acceptance of behavior that was once considered disqualifying. They aren't alone—institutions and people in positions of authority are doing it as well. The Commissioner's Office itself has a bifurcated approach—significant punishment for present users, but a queasy truce with the past. Retired offenders are no longer persona non grata. Fox Sports hired former litigant/third baseman Alex Rodriguez as a color commentator last season, and, if there was resistance from the league, it was very hard to hear. Other ex-players have begun to drift back into the game, and their presence no longer is seen as controversial. That couldn't have happened without at least a wink and a nod from the Commissioner's Office.
That wink and nod may also be acknowledging an additional reality. Baseball tolerated PED use for a long time, and may even have tacitly encouraged it, until public outcry, and Congressional attention, made it anathema. If Mark McGwire was sticking a needle in his butt in 1990, he wasn't breaking any MLB rules. And if he was doing it in 2000, after his epic battle with Sammy Sosa, and the year before Bonds' 73 shattered his record, while there were wrist-slapping penalties, he still wasn't being tested for it. Both he and the owners and every other artificially enhanced slugger of the time knew that all those dingers put fannies in seats. The big man with the bulging biceps became part of pop culture; he was even on a Wheaties Box, and there's a very funny (and somewhat ironic) 1999 ad with the string-bean pitchers Greg Maddox and Tom Glavine bemoaning "Chicks Dig The Longball." Manly owners with cigars clenched in their jaws dug it as well--and so did much of the press.
Read more at http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2018/01/baseball-and-politics-politics-and-baseball.html