Skip to content

If you judge a players’ character, you have to acknowledge the forces which shaped his choices

Jan 8, 2013, 4:26 PM EDT

Ken Caminiti

Tom Verducci has a major piece on PEDs and baseball today, all of which serves as a preface to his Hall of Fame choices.

Obviously he and I disagree on the issue, but his take is cogent, well-reasoned and strong. Which makes sense given that Verducci was way, way ahead of all of his media brethren when it came to reporting on steroids and has thought about the matter more than just once a year when his Hall of Fame ballot shows up.  If you consider PED use to be a disqualifier for the Hall of Fame, you basically have to follow Verducci’s lead here: presume innocence, then act on actual information or evidence rather than playing parlor games.

But I do take issue with Verducci when he takes the exceptions to his position one-by-one.  He does an acceptable job explaining his differences with the “it wasn’t against the rules,” “everybody did it” and “the Hall of Fame already has bad apples” arguments.  Again, I disagree as a matter of opinion on some of these points, but I think his position is a coherent one based on the opinion he holds.

I think he errs, however, by portraying baseball players as having made the free, moral choice to either take drugs or not take drugs, consulting only their conscience and a syringe. That’s because steroids in baseball was never just about players’ choices, but the knowing acquiescence of clubs and the league as well, and that necessarily impacted players’ choices, no doubt forcing many of them to make bad choices.

Indeed, the Mitchell Report detailed instances of clubs being well-aware of players’ steroid use, but only caring about it insofar as the player going off the juice may hurt his production. Managers, coaches and front office players knew or should have known about it and did nothing. Well, they profited from them of course, but they never, to my knowledge, punished a single player for violating the rules Verducci so clearly explains everyone was well aware of.

I don’t offer this as just another excuse — “hey, no one else cared, so why should we?”  To the contrary, this is important specifically to those who do care. People like Verducci, in fact. Because if you take seriously the ethical and moral choices players made, you have to appreciate the context in which those choices were made. Yes, some players probably sat back and said “hell, I wanna hit more homers.” But many more likely felt the pressure to take steroids to save their jobs or solidify their careers with the full knowledge that their clubs would reward the performers and punish the non-performers, with no questions asked about the provenance of that performance whatsoever.

I don’t think we should be judging players’ character in the first place, but if you do judge one’s character, I don’t see how the prisoners’ dilemma into which many players were thrust can’t change the calculus for you to some degree.

Latest Posts
  1. Orioles acquire Alejandro De Aza from the White Sox

    Aug 30, 2014, 9:29 PM EDT

    Alejandro De Aza Alejandro De Aza

    The Orioles acquired outfielder Alejandro De Aza from the White Sox in exchange for a pair of low-level minor league pitchers on Saturday.

  2. Dustin Pedroia exits Saturday’s game with a head injury

    Aug 30, 2014, 9:10 PM EDT

    Dustin Pedroia Dustin Pedroia

    Dustin Pedroia took an elbow to the head in the second inning of Saturday’s game against the Rays, and had to leave the game.

  3. Daniel Hudson will return to the major leagues as a reliever

    Aug 30, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT

    daniel hudson getty Getty Images

    It’s been more than two years, but Daniel Hudson will return to the major leagues on Tuesday or Wednesday, pitching out of the Diamodnbacks’ bullpen.

  4. Hanley Ramirez a late addition to Dodgers’ lineup Saturday

    Aug 30, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT

    Hanley Ramirez Hanley Ramirez

    Hanley Ramirez worked out quickly in front of manager Don Mattingly and trainer Stan Conte, who deemed him fit to play on Saturday against the Padres.

  5. Rangers activate Derek Holland from the disabled list

    Aug 30, 2014, 6:25 PM EDT

    derek holland getty Getty Images

    Derek Holland will make his 2014 debut on Tuesday against the Royals, also helping the Rangers claim a major league record.

  6. Don Mattingly on Yasiel Puig: “It’s hard to be really emotional and play 162″

    Aug 30, 2014, 5:41 PM EDT

    Yasiel Puig Getty Getty Images

    Puig has really scuffled this month, hitting .218/.306/.241 with two extra-base hits (both doubles) over 24 games.

  7. Blue Jays throw one-hitter against Yankees

    Aug 30, 2014, 4:29 PM EDT

    94676dc1dc0beb29ee4c0171e07ca158 Getty Images

    Drew Hutchison and Aaron Sanchez shut down the Jacoby Ellsbury-less Yankees.

  8. Report: White Sox expected to target Victor Martinez this offseason

    Aug 30, 2014, 3:50 PM EDT

    Victor Martinez AP AP

    The White Sox are reportedly interested in signing Victor Martinez away from a division rival.

  9. Astros claim right-hander Samuel Deduno off waivers from the Twins

    Aug 30, 2014, 2:58 PM EDT

    Samuel Deduno Getty Getty Images

    Deduno has split this season between the starting rotation and the bullpen, putting up a 4.60 ERA and 74/41 K/BB ratio in 92 innings over eight starts and 22 relief appearances.

  10. Bryce Harper is 15th player in MLB history to reach 50 career homers before age-22 season

    Aug 30, 2014, 2:07 PM EDT

    Bryce Harper Getty Getty Images

    Bryce Harper hit one of six home runs for the Nationals last night in an 8-3 victory over the Mariners. In doing so, he joined some impressive company.

  11. The Dodgers took the shift to the extreme last night

    Aug 30, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT

    dodgers shift

    And wouldn’t you know it, it worked.

  12. UPDATE: Hot-hitting Jacoby Ellsbury out Saturday with ankle injury

    Aug 30, 2014, 11:01 AM EDT

    Jacoby Ellsbury AP AP

    Ellsbury injured his left ankle on a slide into home plate on Friday night.

  13. UPDATE: Steve Pearce considered day-to-day after MRI shows no tears in abdominal

    Aug 30, 2014, 10:36 AM EDT

    Steve Pearce AP AP

    Pearce owns a surprising .289/.354/.532 batting line with 16 home runs and 37 RBI over 85 games this season.

  14. Settling the Score: Friday’s results

    Aug 30, 2014, 8:57 AM EDT

    Albert Pujols AP AP

    A quick recap of a busy Friday around MLB, including an AL West showdown.

  15. Hyun-Jin Ryu set to return to Dodgers’ rotation on Sunday

    Aug 29, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT

    Hyun-Jin Ryu Hyun-Jin Ryu

    Hyun-Jin Ryu will return to the Dodgers’ rotation on Sunday after recovering from a strained glute.

  16. Video: Eric Campbell steals home against the Phillies

    Aug 29, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT

    Eric Campbell, Juan Lagares Eric Campbell, Juan Lagares

    Eric Campbell stole home against the Phillies, helping the Mets improve to 12-5 against their NL East rival this season.

  17. Rangers tie a major league record, use their 59th player of the season

    Aug 29, 2014, 9:42 PM EDT

    rangers logo

    The injury-ravaged Rangers managed to tie a major league record for all the wrong reasons when they called up Ryan Rua from Triple-A on Friday.

Featured video

Who are the favorites for Rookie of the Year?
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. J. Soler (3728)
  2. Y. Molina (3470)
  3. R. Castillo (3379)
  4. D. Wright (2329)
  5. D. Murphy (2234)
  1. B. Colon (2187)
  2. B. Posey (2176)
  3. S. Doolittle (2163)
  4. D. Ortiz (2120)
  5. T. Lincecum (2054)