Sandberg on Sosa

Whether a baseball player whose exceptional career was tainted by scandal deserves to be in the Hall of Fame is a question that spawns lengthy (preferably beer-fueled) debate. The perceived justice or injustice of Pete Rose's banishment from the game -- hence from Hall of Fame consideration -- for betting on baseball (and then lying about it before admitting it) sparks animated argument between those who believe he deserves recognition for his on-field achievements regardless of his off-field failings and those who view him as undeserving because his gambling jeopardized the game's integrity.

More recent controversies involve players who admittedly or allegedly used performance-enhancing drugs, a rules violation that is more likely than Rose's compulsive betting to affect the outcome of games. Ryne Sandberg recently contributed to the drama by opining that Sammy Sosa, his former teammate, shouldn't join him in the Hall of Fame.

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Sandberg said he believed that punishment for using performance-enhancing drugs should include a ban from induction to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. "It's something that's against the law and against society," Sandberg said. "It was cheating in the sport.

"I think it has to be spoken very loud and clear on the stance, and baseball needs to stand as they have. I'm very, very satisfied with the testing program they have in place now. For a guy who's tested positive today under what happens now, like Manny Ramirez, it almost takes an idiot to participate in that. For the society, for the up-and-coming players and youth out there, I don't think those guys should be recognized at all."

Whether it is against the law to take performance-enhancing drugs depends on the drug and when it was taken. Sosa and Alex Rodriguez, along with 102 other Major League players, tested positive for steroids, according to drug test results that should have been destroyed. Federal agents seized the computerized records of a drug testing company that failed to honor the agreement to destroy the test results, and according to an unidentified "leak," Sosa's steroid tests were positive.

In a written submission to a Congressional committee, Sosa denied ever taking "illegal performance-enhancing drugs." As this writer explains, it may be difficult to prove that Sosa committed perjury if the Justice Department were to pursue that charge. On the other hand, the writers who fill out Hall of Fame ballots don't need proof beyond a reasonable doubt before deciding that Sosa broke the rules. Sosa's dramatic gains in bulk and strength are difficult to explain in the absence of steroid use. It's difficult to believe Sandberg was serious when he said "I figured he was working out hard in the offseason to get bigger."

Sandberg's argument that Sosa "was cheating in the sport" is a little sanctimonious given baseball's tolerance of cheating. Corked bats, scuffed up baseballs, and signal stealing have long been a part of the game.

Still, steroid use is cheating of a different magnitude. Opinions reasonably differ as to whether Rose (who admitted betting on the Reds but said he never bet against them) engaged in behavior so destructive to baseball's integrity that he forfeited any right to be honored for his remarkable contributions to the sport. Players who used drugs to shatter records more obviously rob the game of some of its tradition. For that reason, I tend to agree with Sandberg: if Sosa and Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez achieved new heights not just because they worked hard to refine their natural talent but because they used steroids, they don't deserve the same recognition as Hall of Fame players who got there without chemical help.

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    Well, Sammy also did the corked bat (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:23:03 PM EST
    thing.  And don't you consider a player/manager betting on baseball destructive to the integrity of the game?

    He ain't in the Hall but he haunts (none / 0) (#15)
    by oculus on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 09:53:46 PM EST
    the place, at least the weekend Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken were inducted.  Pete was ensconced in the back of a sporting goods store surrounded by security and charging big bucks for autographs.

    Betting (none / 0) (#16)
    by CoralGables on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 10:10:31 PM EST
    on his own team is not damaging at all. Betting against his team would be damaging.

    The Hall would be pretty damned empty if (none / 0) (#30)
    by allimom99 on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 10:53:38 AM EST
    'disreputable character' is a cause for elimination. Pete Rose should not have signed off on the ban. All these years later, I don't see that his actions have done any damage to the game. The dopers are a different story - they are distorting actual accomplishments. If we want a level playing field, either everyone or no one must dope. Far more damaging, IMO.

    No one can deny Pete's contributions to the game. Unfortunately, his somewhat abrasive personality made it easier to justify punishing him for life. I still think he deserves to be in the Hall.


    His astounding record of # of hits is (none / 0) (#31)
    by oculus on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 11:19:23 AM EST
    prominently displayed in the HOF.

    Austin Wood's (none / 0) (#36)
    by CoralGables on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 12:28:31 PM EST
    hat is in the HOF too. I don't think that's what we are referring to here.

    Being in Cooperstown is the plaque. If we are going to use the "integrity clause" as a basis, let's start with removing Grover Cleveland Alexander (drunk), Paul Molitor (cocaine), Ty Cobb (racist), Hank Aaron (amphetamines). We could probably go one by one and remove nearly all of them.

    My guess is with a little research we could probably toss out 90% if we want to base HOF membership on integrity rather than accomplishments.

    Indeed, if we are to ban anyone that was an enabler to drug use in baseball, we should ban Bowie Kuhn, Peter Ueberroth, Fay Vincent and Bud Selig. I'd say Bart Giamatti but there are probably many Pete Rose fans that might suggest he has already paid the ultimate price for his Pete Rose vendetta.


    The most interesting factoid to me is (none / 0) (#38)
    by oculus on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 12:43:24 PM EST
    a the Hall of Fame is in private ownership, not owned/controlled by MLB ownership and/or players.  

    Very True (none / 0) (#41)
    by CoralGables on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 01:10:18 PM EST
    and they can change their rules for induction anytime they want. Maybe they'll leave it up to you and me :)

    Modelled on All Star on line (none / 0) (#42)
    by oculus on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 01:18:50 PM EST
    voting early and often?

    When they give me a vote (none / 0) (#43)
    by CoralGables on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 01:30:01 PM EST
    I'll put in my one vote this year for Roger Maris.

    he signed off on the ban (none / 0) (#44)
    by sancho on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 01:30:59 PM EST
    because he believed giamatti when he told rose the ban would be secret and likely rescinded later. rose was not familiar with the way university higher-ups get rid of tenure track faculty by forcing them to sign off on their own demise on their annual reports or he owuld nto ahve signed it. giamatti did not get to be the head of major university by playing nice.

    its a sobering experience (none / 0) (#51)
    by sancho on Sun Jun 28, 2009 at 12:50:03 AM EST
    to get on the wrong side of a university administrator, trust me, and they are very good at rigging rules against people they want to indict. giamatti no doubt was at the top of his field. (woodrow wilson was president or chancellor of princeton well before reneging on campaign promises not to take the US to war. he was well qualified for the renege, i'd argue.) unfortunately for rose, giamatti's untimely death (and the sentimental valorization of his brief time as commissioner) calcified the process of what might have been a gradual reinstatement for rose after due penance.

    rose said he thought that giamatti was going to keep their arrangement quiet. i dont think rose was lying on that point and i'd bet giamatti was happy to let him think that. tighten the noose. he knew whose side the media would take.

    no way to know of course. but i'm certain giamatti knew how to rig the system for maximum damage to rose (an easy mark for giamatti, whatever his sins) and that he did so.

    of course rose's gambling was bad for the game--but so has been rose's banishment. giamatti lacked the vision to balance the two concerns and thus threads like this one and excessive (in my view) punishment of rose.

    hey--this is a defense site!      

    fwiw--the dowd report is not a court of law and rose never received a good defense. no evidence that he threw games, though.

    consider nolan ryan's testimony--whose first act as a hall of famer was to say that rose should be in too.


    The real question, I think... (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jerrymcl89 on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:30:16 PM EST
    ... is can you really have a credible Hall of Fame is you exclude an entire decade of the game's history almost completely? Thanks to Bud Selig and Donald Fehr, this is not just a question of turning down a few bad apples. A majority of the top players of the 1994-2004 era are implicated or at least suspected. It would be like trying to exclude everyone who drank during Prohibitiion. Now, of course, there is nothing sportswriters like more than an opportunity to get sanctimonius about players they previously gushed about, and sometimes (like Mike Lupica) profitted from writing books about, so I'm sure they'll stake out the moral high ground. But I'm not sure that's really a viable position in the long run.

    Pleaze.. (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by SWERN on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 07:05:22 PM EST
    Rampant cheating is no reason for the cheaters to be in the same exclusive club as the non-cheaters.  If they are allowed into the Hall of Fame then they will suffer zero consequences.  I would argue that the reason it became so rampant is because other players were trying to compete with the chemically enhanced players making the original abusers even more liable for the systemic abuse.

    I think it disgusting that they are permitted to keep their ill gotten records, these guys should be shunned, like Rose, not celebrated.

    Bud Selig should forever be the man that ruined the baseball my father loved for profits, including his own, ahead of integrity of the game.  His family should be forced out of the game, not continuing to shape policy.

    Realistically, they will let them in because it good for business and the era of the game has passed and now the era of profits, which has far more influence.


    There are no innocent players, IMO (none / 0) (#8)
    by Jerrymcl89 on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 07:21:09 PM EST
    They didn't all do it, of course. But even the extremely outspoken ones, like Curt Schilling, didn't see fit to say a word when teammates like Lenny Dykstra gained thirty pounds of muscle in one offseason, if it improved their chances of getting to the World Series.

    and the old-timers conveniently forget (none / 0) (#11)
    by of1000Kings on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 08:19:39 PM EST
    the "greenie era' when a large amount of players were taking a different kind of performance-enhancing drugs (uppers/amphetamines)...

    or players in the 70's and 80's who used cocaine as a performance enhancer (which it is)...

    the more things change the more things stay the same, right...it's just that nostalgia can sometimes distort the view of the 'pristine' past...


    Even (none / 0) (#17)
    by CoralGables on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 10:12:09 PM EST
    Hammerin' Hank has admitted to using Amphetamines "at least once".

    Name a Twin (none / 0) (#20)
    by eric on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 10:51:08 PM EST
    and I'll agree with you.

    Current (none / 0) (#21)
    by CoralGables on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 10:57:23 PM EST
    or past?

    Very well said... (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by kdog on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 11:46:25 AM EST
    thats alsway been my rationale for saying Charlie Hustle has to be in the Hall of Fame...his abscence makes a mockery of the Hall.  Forget Rose and his mistakes for a minute and think of the integrity of the Hall.  Do we want a white-washed fantasy version of the Hall or do we want an accurate reflection of the history of our beautiful game and its all-time greats?

    If none of the players from the 'roid era will be allowed in, either because they roided up or were merely suspected of roiding up...the Hall becomes more of a mockery.  And as a baseball fan, I'd like a Hall of Fame that accurately reflects the game's history and displays the busts of all the game's great achievers.  I think baseball fans are savvy enough to add their own asterisks to the busts of the roid-heads. Also, banishing them  kinda obsolves the commissioner and the game of their wrong-doing. Baseball made the bed with steroids stashed under the pillow, I say they should sleep in it.

    Everybody with half a brain knew McGwire and Sosa, and later Bonds, were hopped up on something when they hit all them dingers..and we enjoyed the show.  Now we wanna get all high and mighty?  Please.


    I agree. Failure of proof is a (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:34:41 PM EST
    huge problem.  For example, will Barry Bonds get into the Hall but not Sammy and McGuire?

    Degrees of proof are a problem... (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jerrymcl89 on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:40:15 PM EST
    There are guys who've actually tested positive or admitted it in court (Sosa, ARod, Bonds, etc), other guys against whom there's an extremely compelling circumstantial case (McGwire, Clemens), and guys who are suspected but against whom there's no concrete evidence, like Mike Piazza. It's very hard to construct a genuinely fair way of dealing with it.

    I was recently in St. Louis at Busch Stadium (none / 0) (#6)
    by oculus on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:42:29 PM EST
    where my niece celebrated her birthday at a Royals/Cards game in the McGuire party box!   His image remains untarnished in St. Louis.

    the history of the game does not (none / 0) (#10)
    by sancho on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 07:48:11 PM EST
    inhere in a building or on a list of "approved" players compiled by self-righteous sportswriters. it is what happened on the field. increasingly, the hall of fame seems to me a kind of imaginary place--a la la land for sportswriters and nice a place to visit if you are a baseball fan. but "immortality" exists in those whose feats are sung whether they are in the hall or not. once rose was excluded, it was clear that the hall was also about a "character" judgement and not what you did on the field. spare me.

    i do wish sportswriters who get upset over "cheating" could be given beats covering congress and big business and the white house. then their oppositional stance might be worth something more than stale peanuts.


    We didn't have proof on A-Rod until (none / 0) (#13)
    by nycstray on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 09:38:47 PM EST
    recently right? (I get confused between rumor and proof, hard to keep straight some days!) When he first came to NY the chant was A-Roid. (who just moved of Reggie on the HR list as I type). If we didn't have proof, he and others like him can just ride out their careers. I agree with ya, hard to figure out the "fair" way to deal. My friends and I have chosen innocent until guilty. We may bust on them if they are on opposing teams etc, (or our team but sucking at the plate, lol!~), but when all is said and done, you can either just give up or enjoy it for what it is and hope they can change things going forward.

    i dont think that we (none / 0) (#22)
    by sancho on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 12:34:25 AM EST
    have a credible hall of fame at this point. the games count in the standings. the hits and ks were cheered.  world series pennants went up for the winners. checks were cashed. the "hall" is the only form of punishment left. clemens cares but i doubt a-rod does. as a fan, i dont care about the hall at all anymore. i'm just sorry players were willing to shorten or risk their lives to hit more home runs and get more strikeouts. but cheating has always been part of the game. how players cheat changes with the technology of the times.

    The old saying... (none / 0) (#4)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 06:37:05 PM EST
    ..."if you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'" comes to mind.  Steroids, corked bats, spit balls, spiking, head hunting--all done in an attempt to gain an advantage over your opponent.  It comes down to orders of degree.  Are steroids worse than other enhancements of performance?  

    Doc Ellis was said to have pitched, and pitched well, while tripping.  LSD is a drug, should be banned from baseball?  How many players have played while wired on speed?  Anyone believe that Bill "Spaceman" Lee wasn't high as kite most times he took the mound?  

    Baseball has only been very consistant when it comes to gambling--Charlie Hustle got pretty much the same treatment as the Black Sox.  It will be interesting to see how they treat this latest threat to the integrity of the game.

    /Dump the DH!!!

    Doc Ellis... (none / 0) (#33)
    by kdog on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 11:53:14 AM EST
    actually threw a no-hitter while trippin' balls...might be the game's greatest single game achievement, as anyone who has travelled that journey can attest.

    Maybe they could have special (none / 0) (#9)
    by Anne on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 07:37:16 PM EST
    "Cheaters Induction Days" for the HOF, so that the non-cheaters wouldn't have to share the stage with the cheaters.

    Too bad we won't ever know for sure who didn't cheat, which is part of the problem with cheating: it not only diminishes the accomplishments of the cheater, but it diminishes just by the now-natural suspicion factor, and inability to prove a negative, the accomplishments of those who didn't.

    Shoeless Joe would likely (none / 0) (#18)
    by CoralGables on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 10:43:58 PM EST
    agree with TChris on this one. Joe Jackson also didn't think he did anything to deserve being banned, and looking at his stats I would probably agree with Shoeless Joe that he belongs.

    Better start campaigning to get... (none / 0) (#34)
    by kdog on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 12:09:36 PM EST
    Ty Cobb out of the hall...how much character and integrity could a man who went in the stands to lump up a one-armed heckler have?

    It's not the Character and Integrity Hall of Fame, or the Baseball Hall of Character and Integrity...it should be about ability in hitting, pitching, and catching a baseball at the major league level, and that is it.  Otherwise its a mockery.


    I always thought (none / 0) (#37)
    by CoralGables on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 12:40:36 PM EST
    he went into the stands to pummel a heckler with no hands. So he was only a one handed heckler? The Georgia Peach was more upstanding than I gave him credit for. He was suspended indefinitely for that move but I'm guessing that doesn't count as an integrity issue.

    Here's the Wiki version: (none / 0) (#39)
    by oculus on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 12:49:31 PM EST
    Finally, at the end of the sixth inning, and after being challenged by teammates Sam Crawford and Jim Delahanty to do something about it, Cobb climbed into the stands and attacked the handicapped Lueker, who due to an industrial accident had lost all of one hand and three fingers on his other hand. When onlookers shouted at Cobb to stop because the man had no hands, Cobb reportedly replied, "I don't care if he has no feet!"[42]

    The attackee apparently had one hand!


    Sosa was a fraud (none / 0) (#19)
    by eric on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 10:48:34 PM EST
    If you look at his numbers, all the good years were juiced up.  He is probably the worst.

    If you were juiced, you are banned, from the game and from the Hall.

    BTW, Win Twins!

    i never understood (none / 0) (#23)
    by sancho on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 12:38:49 AM EST
    that the purpose of cooperstown was to identify gambling addicts and then shun them. but if that is the purpose of cooperstown, then it is clear rose should be excommunicated from the hall.

    btw, rose got more hits than ty cobb. too bad cobb didnt have any vices suitable for cooperstown shunning.

    He had a penchant for assault... (none / 0) (#35)
    by kdog on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 12:11:51 PM EST
    old Ty, and racist attitudes.  May have even killed a man.  Its a tangled web when it becomes about more than baseball ability and achievement, isn't it?

    He attributed his personality to (none / 0) (#40)
    by oculus on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 12:50:24 PM EST
    his mom shooting his dad to death and hazing by older players.  Tough life.

    there is creditable evidence (none / 0) (#45)
    by sancho on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 01:40:30 PM EST
    too that cobb and tris speaker, another great, once threw a game. shhhh. the hall of fame is a tourist attraction and money-maker (promotes the image of the game) for MLB. it's become a marketing tool and shrine for sportswriter self-importance--not a lofty place or some new valhalla. people who follow the game know who was "great" and they know who "fell" too. it's all part of the same story.

    wish i'd seen josh gibson hit. how long was it before the hall acknowledged his greatness and can the hall ever be equal to what it missed?

    did babe ruth onthe record get to play against all the great players he might have faced as a pitcher or hitter? no--not his fault--but no. does that damage his greatness? yes.

    was he still a great player? yes. but how great we cant say. what if we threw out the pre-jackie robinson-era records as being invalid? is the steroids era worse than the jim crow era?

    where's the moral compass to measure that, everybody?

    rose is in the "hall." he's just not an official exhibit.  same with joe jackson.  


    Maybe (none / 0) (#24)
    by CoralGables on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 02:24:49 AM EST
    Sandberg is just trying to pull the self righteous bait and switch to keep any attention off the year he hit 40 dingers, while averaging less than 20 a year for his career,

    In 1984, (none / 0) (#26)
    by TChris on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 03:07:46 AM EST
    when Sandberg was MVP and the Cubs won their division ("how 'bout dem Cubbies?"), I saw Sandberg at a Chicago blues club late in the regular season, drinking beer and having a good old time at about 3 a.m.  I think the Cubs were up several games at that point, so maybe Sandberg didn't care about the next day's game, or maybe the Cubs had no player curfew, but it left me with the impression that Sandberg wasn't a stickler for the rules.

    I do think Sandberg is clean. (none / 0) (#52)
    by Jerrymcl89 on Sun Jun 28, 2009 at 08:30:38 PM EST
    Cubbies often have freakish home run seasons because of the wind in Wrigley. His 40 home run season shouldn't really be viewed as entirely legitimate, but it's also not the result of cheating.

    I'm not convinced. (none / 0) (#25)
    by TChris on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 02:48:35 AM EST
    The Dowd report presents convincing evidence that Rose bet on baseball and on Reds games, but look at footnote 3:

    No evidence was discovered that Rose bet against the Cincinnati Reds.

    Betting against your own team would indisputably impair the game's integrity. Betting on your own team and then trying to win the game doesn't seem all that harmful to me. Sure, he left himself open to being blackmailed and whatever, but in the absence of evidence that Rose ever did anything on the field except try to win, I don't see Rose's sins as having the same impact on the game as the use of drugs that are likely to change the game's outcome.

    Pete Rose... (none / 0) (#50)
    by Jerrymcl89 on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 10:53:25 PM EST
    ... mananged every game as though he had money on it, running most of his relief pitchers into the ground. I certainly think when he bet on his team to win and when he didn't could potentially impact how he chose to do that.