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What if Cal Ripken came clean?

Jan 18, 2010, 11:30 AM EDT

No one’s accusing him, but Dan LeBatard is wondering what would happen if Cal Ripken was found to have used steroids and had a press conference of his own, and quotes at length from Ripken’s imagined speech.  It’s long and worth a full read so I won’t block quote it here. Go read it. I’ll wait.

Did you read it?  Good. Of course you now realize that the article
really is LeBatard using the construct of a ‘roiding Ripken to argue
that steroid use is not a black and white issue and that there are many
logical arguments out there in favor of their use. That the people who
did it aren’t the monsters they’re made out to be.  He does a great job
of it actually. Makes many, many good points.

He ends it by asking “what if Ripken or someone like him did it that way? How would that go over?”

Reason, sense and all of that aside:  cities would be burning and
“baseball writer” would rocket past lawyer, physicians and professional
wrestlers on the list of professions with the highest suicide rates.

  1. Old Gator - Jan 18, 2010 at 11:50 AM

    You should read Dan LeBatard’s apologia for getting busted for disorderly conduct and led out of a Johnny Rocket’s in Coconut Grove in handcuffs a few years back. It was all the cops’ fault. I’m sure I could dig it out of the Miami Herald’s archives somewhere if I were stupid enough to lay out the annual access fee. What I want to know is, what the hell was he drinking at Johnny Rocket’s, for pity’s sake? No wonder he wants to go easy on Ripken – the guy has been slurping milk like a cetacean calf for the past fifteen years.

  2. pujoles beats the babe - Jan 18, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    Personally, I think the problem with the game is that we don’t have enough steroids in it. I say we should shoot Pujols up with so much juice that he hits .450 with 85 homers and 215 RBI. Then there would be no doubt that he’s the greatest ever. Why not? I can’t think of a single good reason not to.

  3. DiamondDuq - Jan 18, 2010 at 12:46 PM

    Ordinarily I think Lebatard is a moron, whenever he’s on ESPN, but the article was a refreshingly different perspective.

  4. talex - Jan 18, 2010 at 1:41 PM

    Steriods aren’t that big of a deal … aside that it is illegal to take them, it’s cheating, and its creating the illusion of being naturally born better than you actually are, and it is creating records that are a sham. Other than that it’s just fine! What a stupid article by both you and Dan.

  5. APBA Guy - Jan 18, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    I ignore LeBatard like I do all the rest of the ESPN shouters, especially Rick Bayless’ brother, but keep in mind that Ripken, man of iron, didn’t need steroids. He was hardcore WD-40.
    Rust, bane of his existence.

  6. Mongo9459 - Jan 18, 2010 at 1:57 PM

    Ok Craig,
    Let’s take this discussion to its inevitable conclusion. We all decide that this current crop of chemically enhanced players should be judged on the same level at those who came before. We are willing to accept this somehow as an improvement to the sport. 10 years from now, a team of scientists invent a robot who is the complete baseball machine. It can process data 7 billion times faster then any human. With its superior vision, it can examine the spin of a pitch within inches of leaving the pitchers hand, calculate the trajectory of the pitch based on the rotation, wind speed and direction, and determine to within 1/1000 of an inch the exact location of the pitch when it crosses the plate. With its mechanical and hydraulic thrust, it can then hit the baseball an average of 830 feet in any direction. (Naturally, the Yankees buy 9 of these!) My question to you is this, 5 years after they wear out should they be elected to the Hall of Fame?

  7. Russ - Jan 18, 2010 at 2:51 PM

    I know this article is not implying Ripkin used steriods, but shame on both of these writers for bringing up a classy guy like Cal into this crap filled debacle dubbed “Steriods in Baseball”.

  8. Mike - Jan 18, 2010 at 3:19 PM

    I strongly agree…and have two more points to add.
    a) what about those who were on the bubble of a major league career and chose not to cheat…and lost their roster spot to someone who did.
    b) if steroids were widely used and it was widely known amongst prospects and/or those on the bubble…doesn’t that put those folks in to a terrible position of having to choose risky drugs or probably lose their chance at reaching or staying in the major leagues?

  9. Jack Marshall - Jan 18, 2010 at 3:23 PM

    Wow, Craig, you really did tear up that law license. How is anything in that speech a legitimate justification for surreptitiously breaking the law and the rules? “You would have done it too?” “I was doing it for the team and the fans.” Really? That’s persuasive to you—pure, classic rationalizations for wrongdoing? Calling up show business—in the same class with Columbia drug dealing and politics for an ethics-free culture—as a justification?
    I don’t think steroid users are monsters. They are cheaters, that’s all—people who take unfair advantage of competitors, employers and their industry for personal gain. Cheaters do not deserve the same credit and rewards as those who seek and attain those objectives openly, fairly, legally, and within the rules. That makes me a “scold” according to Rob Neyer. Well, he’s wrong. And if you really think this piece articulates anything approaching an argument for excusing steroid cheats, you’re wrong too.

  10. Craig Calcaterra - Jan 18, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    Jack — That something is against the rules doesn’t foreclose the possibility that there are many understandable reasons why someone does such a thing. LeBatard’s hypothetical statement is aimed at a crowd of media who insists that anyone who takes steroids is a vile cheater with an intent to defraud a sport and and its fan base. Disputing that overly simplistic construct is not the same thing as excusing someone of breaking rules.
    I think Mark McGwire broke rules. I think Barry Bonds broke rules. I think all of the guys who have taken steroids broke rules. If there were punishments in place for their conduct at the time (or if current punishment applies to current players) I’m fine with them receiving it. But that does not prevent me from understanding that they may have perfectly understandable motives.

  11. JohnQ - Jan 18, 2010 at 3:44 PM

    OK, if only things had been different when I was growing up. If I had started taking HGH and steroids maybe I would have had a shot at making the bigs. Maybe a lot of non users would have played a lot better. If all the players took PEDS 80 homers a year might be the norm. Yes, the players that took PEDS had a reason. They had a motive. Anyone with half a brain knows what their motive was and it doesn’t have to be explained.

  12. Simon DelMonte - Jan 18, 2010 at 3:49 PM

    I find LeBatard – whose name, I think, actually translates to what you might expect it to – to be one of the few true contrarians in sportswriting. He’s sometimes a bit too provocative, as opposed to thoughtful in that JoePo way many of us love. But I think his approach to the steroids issue is refreshing.
    I also give him points for being one of maybe three people not in the employ of Barry Bonds who defends Barry Bonds.

  13. t. prez - Jan 18, 2010 at 4:00 PM

    Because something has “understandable” motives doesn’t really seem relevant in this case. I mean, only those who are suffering from some form of psychosis don’t have “understandable” motives behind their actions, from the guy who cheats on his wife because he found someone he likes more to the drug dealer who guns down an opponent that is encroaching on his turf. That there is a logic to the behavior doesn’t make any real difference in terms of moral equivalency.
    I think what you’re really talking about is determining the correct level of penalties that should be applied to steroid users. You seem to believe that because steroid use was common and not penalized then, it deserves no real penalty now, either among HOF voters or in the court of public opinion. But just because you can get away with something and have “understandable” motives for doing it doesn’t mean you should. For whatever reason (fear? pride?), the players who were on the bubble chose not to do steroids and watched those who did zoom past them. Barry Bonds chose not to drift off into the history books as one of the greatest players ever; he wanted to be THE GREATEST. Perfectly understandable. But I don’t think he deserves to be rewarded for cheating to do that.

  14. Craig Calcaterra - Jan 18, 2010 at 4:58 PM

    Yeah, but all of this is coming in the context of an apology. McGwire apologized and people don’t seem to want to accept it for whatever reasons. So LeBatard pens one that might do better. The question in my mind isn’t whether that justifies anything that happened. It’s whether we’d be willing to accept that statement for what it is, be it apology or explanation. Penalize as you must, be it in terms of HoF or whatever. The interesting question to me here is whether anything anyone says about it post hoc passes muster with the those who are more critical than I am.
    If that doesn’t get the job done, is the answer that taking PEDs is a transgression for which no explanation or apology is accepted? I can’t fathom that it’s as severe as all of that.

  15. t. prez - Jan 18, 2010 at 5:39 PM

    I guess I’m just not sure what constitutes “accepting” an apology in this case. I’m more than willing to accept that McGwire is coming clean and admitting his mistakes. Good for him. But it doesn’t really change anything in my mind about what he did or how history should remember it. If you apologize for cheating on your taxes, you still go to jail and are known as a tax cheat for the rest of your life.
    What determines whether someone fully “accepts” McGwire’s apology? Does it mean the person has to say, “Well, ok, since you apologized, it’s no big deal. Now go collect your HOF plaque”? I don’t think he’s a terrible person for what he did; I’m just not ready to celebrate him for it yet.

  16. lessick - Jan 18, 2010 at 5:56 PM


    I think that’s it’s oversimplistic to make it black or white when there are so many shades of gray.

    I live in Baltimore. I’ve used the “what if Cal did it?” on people many times and I’ve gotten some pretty strong reactions. I don’t know whether he did or didn’t. I know that he got bigger during his career. I think it’s funny that people assume he’s clean because he’s one of the “good guys.” Perhaps he is. I don’t know. I also remember when Ken Rosenthal was a local columnist and readers jumped all over him every time he wrote something remotely negative (and tame) regarding Ripken. People just didn’t want to hear it (or read about it).

    I’m glad Dan LeBatard made that very hypothetical argument on a national level. I think that reactions to steroid use have been very different for Pettitte, McGwire, Bonds and Canseco.It’s often predetermined by whether or not people like the guy.

    Back to my original point though — it’s not as simple as to forgive or not to forgive. I was glad McGwire came clean when he released the statement, but, as you probably remember, I jumped all over him during the interview with Costas. That doesn’t mean I’m not glad he admitted it. That was a good move–it’s time to move on. However, the delusional nature of his interview rubbed me the wrong way.

    I think it’s possible, in my mind, to get over the fact that McGwire juiced but to still be annoyed by his interview. Your argument that all great athletes carry delusion makes some sense and that’s something I’ll think about when analyzing things.

    Still, I would have preferred it if McGwire had simply issued a statement a la Pettitte and hypothetical Ripken and not done the interview. Just being honest.

  17. Craig Calcaterra - Jan 18, 2010 at 6:09 PM

    I guess I’d settle for people not attacking the guy for his effort at an apology. “Thanks, Mark,” sincere or otherwise, and then go on their way and let him be a hitting coach. I agree this would be a different conversation if this was a concerted effort by McGwire to sway Hall of Fame voters, but I don’t see it that way. He just wants a job, and he’s been told that all reasonable people (including people like me) expect him to talk about the past before he takes it.
    No one can force someone to think one way or another about something, but I think it’s reasonable to expect (a) consistency; and (b) letting things lie at some point.

  18. Brian - Jan 18, 2010 at 8:29 PM

    What if you had something better to do with your time and energy?
    What if you actually had a REAL story to cover?
    What if you got slapped upside the head for being such an imbicile?
    WHAT IF?
    WHAT IF?
    WHAT IF?
    What if you get a life?

  19. Joel Friedman - Jan 18, 2010 at 9:40 PM

    What is Dan Le Retard thinking when he writes a column like this? Ignorant morons like him will think this is for real and will believe that Ripken is a cheater. How could anyone think this is a good idea. Ripken should look him up and kick his butt. I would like to look him up and kick his butt.
    I realize he has the right to writeanything he wants in his column, but he must expect there to be consequences. People should stop buying the papers his junk appears in for a while and maybe he will lose his job and have to find out what real life is like.

  20. Jack Marshall - Jan 19, 2010 at 12:17 AM

    Ok, they have understandable motives. Was this ever in question? I presume someone doesn’t break the rules of their profession and lie about it for the hell of it. Not to be flip, but so what? Bill Lerach, the stockholder class action king, paid plaintiffs to nail the bad guys AND to collect monster fees. In the law’s eyes, he’s still a crook, and got disbarred. Do you sympathize with him? I sure don’t. David Letterman broke ever sexual harassment law in the books. Why? It was fun, he got some young nookie, and he knew he could get away with it. Those are motivations.
    There’s a big difference between understanding why someone breaks rules and laws and excusing it. I like Mark McGwire in many ways, and millions of dollars and lots of fame leads good people in fact and fiction to sell their souls. But still, it’s an explanation, not an excuse. And too many commentators don’t know the difference. I’m assuming you do, and if you do, the Ripken article should start the alarms ringing.

  21. btone - Jan 19, 2010 at 10:10 AM

    You might be the only person who doesn’t believe Pujols is juicing already.

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