Should baseball erase stats obtained by players proven to have cheated?

8 May

While fans have grown completely sick of hearing about players cheating to gain a leg up on the competition and gun for huge contracts, the idea of erasing their names from the record books turns up in nearly every conversation on the subject. Is that the proper approach or is it just anger talking? Is it even possible to do such a thing? While pure emotion says that is the way to go, all logic says it is just going to make things worse.

One of the first thing that has to be examined is who cheated? We know of some of the players, but there are still at least 103 we have no idea about just off the first test which spawned the names of Barry Bonds, Alex, Rodriguez, Andy Pettite, and Roger Clemens. Is the MLB going to make that anonymous no consequences list public? If we are going to talk about removing one player then all of those players need to be released. That isn’t likely. Baseball doesn’t want to do that not only because of the embarrassment factor, but because to do so is illegal and it is a breach of contract.

Consider that a second. The deal signed with the Players Union was explicit in that the first test which began all this mess was to be anonymous and bear no consequences. That point has to be driven home in everyone’s head. Removing just one player means there is a consequence and that all players are known violating both sub-sections of that agreement. The MLB is then open to legal action and the payout those players received would be huge. In some cases more than a few would have made in an entire career. The MLB is a business and they know better than to intentionally shoot them self in the wallet.

The next consideration is what will be done about the players we are almost certain were dirty but have no test results on? Fans have accepted that certain players cheated but there is not one shred of hard evidence that they did, in part due to retiring or discontinuing the use of banned substances before the first wave of testing. How will they be dealt with? Will it be assumed they are guilty until proved innocent with no ability to prove their innocence? That certainly isn’t fair. Somewhere along the line an innocent player will get caught in the crossfire and be unjustly convicted in the court of baseball.

Next we then have to examine all eras of baseball. Cheating didn’t just start in the mid 1980′ s with steroids, it has gone back basically to the first year of baseball in some form. Prior to steroids players used “greenies” or amphetamines to keep their energy up through the course of a full season. Their use was illegal under U.S. law even if baseball turned a blind eye, just like with steroids. So will players already in the Hall of Fame and holding major baseball records and milestones be removed for using those substances? Will their awards be stripped from them?

Now we have to extend it even further. What cheating is okay and what cheating is bad? Is it just going to be cheating with banned/illegal substances players ingest or will it reach cheating on the field? It’s no secret players like Pete Runnels and Craig Nettles used corked bats on their way to a batting and home run crown respectively. Gaylord Perry was considered the master cheater on the mound, never actually caught but always known. Whitey Ford admits even now he used his wedding ring to scuff baseballs most of the second half of his Hall of Fame career. Dodger pitchers got an edge because Maury Wills hid a razor blade in his glove to cut baseballs, even Koufax and Drysdale enjoyed the benefits of that.

Cheating has always been a part of baseball. Players look for any edge they can get. In this era the edge has come from chemicals to increase strength and at least in the short term reduce the risk of injury. In past era’s it was chemicals to keep them perky and doctoring the equipment used on the field. Prior to that who knows what went on for sure? The thing is their will always be some form of cheating. Fans will grumble, but they will keep watching and cheering until someone is caught and then get indignant about it. It is the same pattern every time and this time will be no different.

Rewriting history is not the answer to changing the future. It is nothing but throwing a blanket over what happened. We are the fans that drove to the stadiums and purchased the merchandise in record numbers during the era so we have no room to complain now. We contributed to the problem by not just condoning it, but encouraging it with our dollars. If something must be done to demarcate the era, stick a note in the record book which reads” “Some statistics during the era of 1985 to 2005 may have been skewed upward do the the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs by a portion of players.” That should be more than sufficient.

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