Baseball HOF = Sanctimonious Hypocrisy

January 12, 2014

The front entrance to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, NY, July 15, 2012. (Beyond My Ken via Wikipedia). Released to public domain via Creative Commons 3.0.

The front entrance to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, NY, July 15, 2012. (Beyond My Ken via Wikipedia). Released to public domain via Creative Commons 3.0.

Major League Baseball has made a couple of headlines in the past few days to remind us of the Whiteness that goes beyond its four-seamed ball. Between Alex Rodriguez’s deserved second-suspension and the constant weirdness of the Baseball Writers Association of America’s Hall of Fame voting, the sport’s continuing sense of self-importance and piled-high-and-deep hypocrisy knows no bounds.

I stopped watching baseball nearly twenty years ago, and lost interest in the sport right around the time Barry Bonds won the second of his seven (7) MVP awards, that one with the Pittsburgh Pirates in ’92. But lack of interest never compelled me to completely ignore baseball news. And with the ongoing attempt of MLB and the BBWAA to forget about a sixteen-year period in which both ignored the prominence of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) has come a shunning of potential HOF players (Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire excepted) year after year.

Dung heap mixed with farmyard straw, near Granborough, England, UK, May 12, 2007. (David Hawgood via Wikipedia). Released to public domain via Creative Commons 2.0.

Dung heap mixed with farmyard straw, near Granborough, England, UK, May 12, 2007. (David Hawgood via Wikipedia). Released to public domain via Creative Commons 2.0.

My rule would be simple for the simpleton set of baseball writers who worship at the altar of the holier-than-thou, folks whose mindset is best represented by mouthpieces like Mike Lupica and Bob Costas. If you turned a nearly blind eye to the falling of baseball records to the likes of Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, et al. between ’88 and ’03, then you should vote most — if not all — of the folks with HOF numbers into Cooperstown. Otherwise, you’re hypocrites, and your stances now are ones that reek of bullshit.

Your group, your sport and your HOF continues to be the most hypocritical of all the major American sports. You excluded Black and duskier-Latino players from baseball throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Yet you worship the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, uber-racist Ty Cobb and Cy Young as the all-time platinum-gold standards of the sport, knowing that this can’t be really true. You excluded generations of players from your sport, only voting them into your HOF once they were gray, hobbled and/or in the grave. If this isn’t hypocrisy at its highest, then Richard Nixon should’ve never resigned from office in ’74!

I’ve got another rule for the sanctimonious HOF voters to think about. Until you reconsider the HOF and asterisk the sacrosanct records of the game prior to April 15, 1947, don’t talk to me and the public about PED users as the scourge of the sport. You didn’t seriously complain about it in your reports and columns before ’01, so stop sitting on your guilt-ridden hands now.


On Baseball & Hyprocrisy

April 2, 2011

Fenway From Legend's Box, Fenway Park, Boston, June 21, 2008. Jared Vincent via Flickr http://flickr.com/photos/23999911@N00/2607333633 - Permission granted under the terms of the cc-by-2.0 license.

A new baseball season has arrived for this estranged ex-fan of the game. Millions of people celebrate as if this is a rite of spring, like a cherry-blossom festival or an opportunity to spend more time outside. When I see the start of baseball, it merely reminds me to up my dosage of Zyrtec and Rhinocort.

 

But that’s not quite true. It also hits me in the brain and gut with the common mythologies and hypocrisies of America the Beautiful. Especially this spring, with Barry Bonds on trial for perjury — and indirectly, for using steroids, sullying the game, not to mention his Hall-of-Fame record prior to ’99. The guardians of the game — baseball purists like George Will and numerous others, and sports reporters like Pope Lupica and Bob Ryan — supply us with the myths and legends of Babe Ruth, Joe Di Maggio, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Mickey Mantle and Cy Young. Along with their records, those precious records. Of home runs, total hits, hitting streaks, RBIs, strikeouts, wins, stolen bases, games played, batting averages, slugging percentages. The stuff that makes baseball America’s pastime (which should always be written as past-time, or past-its-time), different from all the other major sports.

The hypocrisy comes from this ridiculous notion of keeping the game separate and holy, like the sabbath for orthodox Jews and for the most devout of Christians and Muslims. Except that this game, this most American of games, is about as pure as New York City snow two minutes after hitting the ground. The biggest, most disgusting hypocrisy of all is how most baseball purists will celebrate Babe Ruth’s greatness any day over a Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, Reggie Jackson, or Josh Gibson. Or Walter Johnson over Satchel Paige. That sixty-four years since Jackie Robinson broke the color line in major league baseball, there’s still a color line in baseball’s precious records, as well as among the people who hold them. That alone is a stomach-churning, blood-pressure-raising shame.

But this issue of who should and shouldn’t be in Cooperstown because of the Steroids Era in baseball, well, it presupposes a false dichotomy. That there was a time before, say ’88, where baseball wasn’t dirty, and that with anabolic steroids and HGH, baseball became dirty. But since ’03, baseball’s become clean and transparent again. This is beyond ridiculous. Baseball’s been as dirty as any sport in American history, in fact dirtier, than the other sports put together. Between amphetamines and illegal drugs, pine tar and Vaseline balls, sharpened cleats and headhunting and the exclusion of Blacks, the sport and the individuals involved in it have been seeking and finding competitive advantages for as long as baseball has been a professional endeavor.

Still, the biggest myth and hypocrisy in baseball remains its insistence that its records are sacred, above critical scrutiny and reproach. I have a problem with this, and not just because of the racism that’s built into any records achieved prior to 1947. But because baseball’s sanctimonious bigotry infects any record that’s been achieved in the sixty-four years since. Whether it was Roger Maris in ’61, Hank Aaron in ’74, or Barry Bonds before ’99, much less after.

As long as the guardians of the game remain White, male and overly connected to baseball as patriotic and its records as sacrosanct, baseball’s hypocrisy will know no bounds. “It’s a shame and a pitiful,” as my father would say. And it’s also a reason I hope my son never plays this wretched game.


In Memoriam – “Dr. K”

November 16, 2010

 

Dwight Gooden on SI Cover (September 2, 1985), November 16, 2010. Source: http://www.inewscatcher.com/2010/03/dwight-gooden.html. Though this image is subject to copyright, its use is covered by the U.S. fair use laws because of the historical significance of the person and the cover, the subject of this blog post.

Before there was Stephen Strasburg, Kerry Wood or Mark Prior, he had come and gone. Before folks like Tim McCarver and Joe Buck drooled over Roger Clemens, David Cone and Greg Maddox, he was the headliner that caused spittle to fly out of commentators’ mouths. A full quarter-century ago, he was the king of MLB pitching. Who am I talking about? What baseball player could I possibly be referring to? The former Boy Wonder, ’84 NL Rookie of the Year, and ’85 NL Cy Young Winner “Dr. K.,” Dwight Gooden.

He turns forty-six (he’s officially middle-aged — can you believe that? — can I believe that?) years old today. I don’t watch baseball anymore, but twenty-five years ago, Gooden was the reason I watched. Between a great fastball, sweeping curve and more than average change-up, the nineteen and twenty-year-old Gooden was impossible for most major-leaguers to hit for three years — when’s the last time a pitcher threw for 276 innings but had an ERA of 1.53? — and hard to hit for six of his first seven years. All while on his way to 194 total wins in his career.

But no one talks about what could’ve been with Gooden anymore. The mistakes made with his arm not worth mentioning when describing the lessons unlearned with Kerry Wood, Mark Prior or Stephen Strasburg. I guess wearing out a twenty-year-old arm isn’t comparable to, well, wearing out a twenty-year-old arm. Especially when one arm is Black and the other one White.

No one mentions Gooden in the same breath with Clemens or Maddox or Cone or any other dominant pitcher of the ’80s or even early ’90s. I guess winning 100 games in just over five years as a major-league pitcher made someone like Gooden about as dominant a pitcher as a piƱata about to be beaten by a White lynch mob.

This is the major reason why I don’t watch MLB baseball anymore. For all of his substance abuse and psychological problems, the man was as dominant a pitcher as any in the history of the game for his first seven years, and was a serviceable shell of himself for another seven of eight years. Yeah, a shell of himself while pitching a no-hitter for the Yankees in ’96.

And yes, he wrecked his career and life — with a lot of help from teammates and coaches. It’s not like he died after killing everyone at a Hall-of-Fame game. But to not discuss Gooden at all shows that, like the ball, only the mindset is White.


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