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 EST

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. Padres expected to host 2016 All-Star Game at Petco Park

    Dec 19, 2014, 10:25 PM EST

    Petco Park

    Everything’s coming up Padres lately.

  2. Dodgers release Brian Wilson

    Dec 19, 2014, 9:31 PM EST

    Brian Wilson Getty Getty Images

    Brian Wilson and his beard are back on the free agent market after the Dodgers released him on Friday.

  3. Red Sox sign Craig Breslow to $2 million deal

    Dec 19, 2014, 9:20 PM EST

    Craig Breslow Getty Getty Images

    The Red Sox have brought back lefty Craig Breslow on a one-year deal for $2 million.

  4. Wil Myers could play center field for the Padres

    Dec 19, 2014, 8:15 PM EST

    wil myers getty Getty Images

    The Padres’ outfield should hit a lot of homers in 2015, but they may give back a lot of those runs on defense.

  5. Orioles hire hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh

    Dec 19, 2014, 7:10 PM EST

    orioles logo

    The Orioles have settled on a new hitting coach: Scott Coolbaugh.

  6. Giants acquire Casey McGehee from the Marlins

    Dec 19, 2014, 6:05 PM EST

    casey mcgehee getty Getty Images

    The Giants are looking to solve their third base dilemma with Casey McGehee.

  7. Report: David Ross to sign with the Cubs

    Dec 19, 2014, 5:18 PM EST

    David Ross Getty Images

    Jon Lester now has a personal catcher.

  8. More from the underbelly of the A-Rod Conspiracy Industrial Complex

    Dec 19, 2014, 4:47 PM EST

    Alex Rodriguez Getty Getty Images

    All baseball moves the Yankees make must be construed as pro-A-Rod or anti-A-Rod. There are literally no other reasons the Yankees make baseball moves.

  9. Baseball will lobby to have Congress exempt minor leaguers from the Fair Labor Standards Act

    Dec 19, 2014, 3:25 PM EST

    Minor League baseball

    Minor League Baseball’s top lobbyist wants minor leaguers classified as if they were babysitters and seasonal farm workers.

  10. A’s release Nick Punto, eat $2.75 million

    Dec 19, 2014, 3:10 PM EST

    Nick Punto AP

    He’s owed $2.75 million for 2015.

  11. If you ever wanted to make “Darryl Strawberry money” now you can. Quite literally.

    Dec 19, 2014, 2:30 PM EST

    New York Mets Getty Images

    It’s complicated. But you can bid on his deferred compensation, payable by the Mets.

  12. Pirates sign Corey Hart

    Dec 19, 2014, 2:14 PM EST

    Corey Hart Getty Getty Images

    Hart was one of the best right-handed power hitters in baseball for the Brewers from 2010-2012.

  13. The Padres have given their fans something to talk about. Which is badly needed in San Diego.

    Dec 19, 2014, 1:30 PM EST

    A.J. Preller AP

    The Padres have made a flurry of moves in the past few days. It may help them win some more baseball games. But it will undeniably fire up a fan base that has had nothing to get excited about for years.

  14. Phillies “kicking the tires” on Rafael Furcal

    Dec 19, 2014, 1:13 PM EST

    Rafael Furcal Rafael Furcal

    Furcal is actually a year older than Jimmy Rollins at 37 and hasn’t been healthy since 2012

  15. Bud Selig to be named “Commissioner Emeritus”

    Dec 19, 2014, 1:00 PM EST

    Bud Selig AP

    Bud is still going to be CCd on all the imporant emails, it seems.

  16. Done deal: Phillies trade Jimmy Rollins to Dodgers

    Dec 19, 2014, 12:12 PM EST

    Miami Marlins v Philadelphia Phillies Getty Images

    Rollins waived his no-trade rights to facilitate a move after 15 seasons in Philadelphia.

  17. So, Cole Hamels is next for the Padres, right?

    Dec 19, 2014, 11:31 AM EST

    Cole+Hamels+Atlanta+Braves+v+Philadelphia+64GYsPWwfRzl Getty Images

    File this under “wild speculation” but it makes all kinds of sense.

Featured video

Cubs shore up rotation with Jon Lester
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. W. Myers (4363)
  2. M. Kemp (3808)
  3. M. Cabrera (3433)
  4. M. Morse (2645)
  5. J. Upton (2600)
  1. J. Kang (2421)
  2. J. Lester (2378)
  3. C. Headley (2277)
  4. A. Rios (2093)
  5. M. Scherzer (1963)