The Hall of Fame, McGwire, dick Pound and WADA: an update to: A brief history of Steroids…

The recent elections to the Baseball Hall of Fame holds a particular interest to me. As some know, I both played baseball and worked in both the major and minor leagues.

In addition, this past Sunday’s New York TImes Magazine had a rather negative article about dick Pound, head of WADA (World AntiDoping Agency).

McGwire, as most know, not only did not get elected to the hall of fame, but did not come close. In fact he was closer to not qualifying to be back on the ballot next year than to being elected.

Let’s examine the issue a little more closely.

McGwire really made his name in St. Louis. A very knowledgeable baseball town with a storied history (the gashouse gang, Stan the Man, etc). Second only to the Yankees in terms of championships won. At the same time however, they are know to be very forgiving of their heroes. Rather than boo under performers they will cheer in order to promote better performance.

McGwire became a media darling because of a confluence of circumstances. He came from Oakland, but when he had a chance to leave St. Louis he took less money to stay. A single dad, he wanted to be closer to his son. In fact, he made child abuse, his charity of choice and was vocal in his support of it.

In addition, in his chase of Roger Maris’ record (a truly under appreciated player) he showed real class. He invited Maris’ wife and kids to his games and he even broke down crying the night he broke the record as he touched Maris’ bat. Who could help love the guy.

The press happily ignored the almost mythological changes in McGwire’s body. He had always been a prolific homerun hitter, hitting 49 as a rookie but his output doubled in the second half of his career. What no one noticed was just how almost comically big he had become. This can really be seen the night he hit the 62nd homerun as he was swarmed by his team, he dwarfed even them.

Those of us that had even a basic knowledge of the “real” world of sports knew what was going on. It was so known that it was not eve discussed. As I have written before, everyone was on, so what was the big deal?

Of course, it was only later revealed, largely through the Bond’s case, and McGwire’s former teammate Jose Canseco – who wrote a tell all book – which is pretty good other than Jose taking credit himself for introducing steroids to baseball- They were widely used LONG before Canseco and McGwire–that McGwire, and Sammy Sosa who was chasing Maris’ record with him, were “users”.

Surprise, surprise. So, the hall of fame vote came to be seen as a ballot on steroid users.

What is fascinating to me, is that until AFTER McGwire failed to be elected his actual qualifications as an alltime great began to be discussed. He is quite simply, a nice, Dave Kingman. For those that don’t know, Kingman was a well traveled homerun hitter of the ’70’s who many thought might break the season record.

For those that don’t know, Kingman’s career conveniently ended just before he hit his 500th homerun. He was blackballed because “baseball” simply did not want to deal with the issue of whether to elect someone who was a totally one dimensional player making the hall. 500 HR’s is considered one of the “locks” to get in. 3000 hits, 300 wins, etc.

McGwire was not viewed this way because until his testimony, or lack thereof in baseball’s Senate hearings, the press liked him, as did those in baseball, unlike Kingman who was considered a malcontent.

If you don’t believe me about the HR totals of Kingman, simply look at McGwire’s teammate Canseco. He mysteriously disappeared from baseball with a HR total amazingly similar to Kingman’s. He was hated inside baseball, but he was truly an all around player and no one wanted to deal with the issue of electing him to the hall of fame.

In fact, Canseco was on this years ballot as well. But he received so few votes that he will not reappear on the ballot. (under 5% and you don’t get on the ballot ever again). Canseco was unquestionably a more dangerous hitter than McGwire and early in his career could even play a little defense.

So, what I am saying is that this whole thing, like the steroid issue, is a SHAM. McGwire simply was not a good enough player to be elected.

What is hypocritical though, is the reason most gave, his failure to “come clean” in front of Congress. This was seen as a betrayal of his campaign for kids and destroyed his image. He was no longer a “good” guy, but a pariah.

Two points here. The first is that OVER 50% of the players that have tested positive for steroid use are PITCHERS. HMMM, I guess the writers, sportscasters and voters don’t want to address that sticky issue.

The second is that next few years, Rafael Palmeiro will be eligible for the Hall. Palmeiro is one of only three players in the history of the game, I repeat, one of only 3 players in baseball history with 3000 hits, 500 home runs and 500 stolen bases. Now, granted, he was never the dominant hitter of his day, nor did he even win an MVP award, but these #’s alone would indicate a first ballot election.

The sticky part is that Palmeiro had the balls to wave his finger at Congress and swear he was clean. Of course, he was caught the next year failing a drug test. He then tried to blame it on a vitamin B12 shot from a teammate, Miguel Tejada (also a user, by look). Interestingly, Canseco had named Palmeiro in his book. Palmeiro made excuses etc and finally tried to say he had JUST started using them but that when he testified before Congress he was telling the truth. Of course, the threat of perjury had something to do with that “admission”.

So, the question becomes, what are the voters going to do when Roger Clemons becomes eligible. Clemons -what do you mean? you ask. Well, look at Clemons in films from the 1986 World Series and look at him now. Amazing that a 43 year old continues to get bigger, throw harder, and be stronger than as a 25 year old.

So, quite simply, I am happy McGwire didn’t make it, but saddened by the hypocritical reason.

Which leads to dick Pound.

dick Pound is one of the truly accomplished men of our time. An Olympic 100 meter swimmer, he is the last Canadian to make the finals. He is an accomplished Tax attorney, a partner in one of the most prestigious firms in Canada. He also is chancellor of McGill University, the Harvard of Canada. Just for good measure he has also published 6 books and been on the IOC for over 20 years.

So, the article in the Times basically accuses him of making things up. About Carl Lewis, Lance Armstrong etc. What they simply fail to see is that Pound, as head of WADA, knows better than any, how absurd the excuses given by caught athletes are, how rampant the drug use REALLY is, and and how ignorant the press remains. SO, to me, he demonstrates incredible restraint.

I actually wish he would come out and say, “come on Lance, you took EPO in order to recover from Chemo, we know you were on it, you know you were on it, just admit it.” Or to Marion Jones “Marion, EVERY man you have relationship with has been banned for life, and not only didn’t know, you weren’t doing it – PLEASE!!!”

But to his credit, he goes about it in the best way he can.

I will leave you with another quote of his about Floyd Landis, and I invite you to go back and read about testing in the last installment.

In talking about Landis’ epitestosterone to testosterone levels (remember “normal” is 1:1) Pound said “I mean, it was 11 to 1! You’d think he’d be violating every virgin within 100 miles. How does he even get on his bicycle?!”

You can see the frustration on Pound’s that the press is even entertaining the idea that Landis may be innocent. In fact, these test results are SO absurd that I even entertained the idea that someone had poured pure testosterone into his urine sample. I have NEVER heard of a level that high!!

So, in summation, look at these athletes honestly. The press malarkey about an “even playing field” is crap. There is an even playing field. Every one is “on”. And it will never stop.

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