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. Dodgers agree to minor league deal with Freddy Garcia

    Mar 30, 2015, 11:34 PM EDT

    Freddy Garcia AP AP

    Garcia, 38, last pitched in the majors in 2013 as a member of the Orioles and Braves.

  2. Red Sox won’t rush prospect Blake Swihart to the majors despite Christian Vazquez injury

    Mar 30, 2015, 11:25 PM EDT

    Blake Swihart AP AP

    Ryan Hanigan and Sandy Leon figure to handle catching duties for the Red Sox in the early part of the season.

  3. Phil Coke wins spot on Cubs’ Opening Day roster

    Mar 30, 2015, 10:10 PM EDT

    phil coke getty Getty Images

    This day has mostly been about who will not be on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster, but it was announced this evening that reliever Phil Coke has earned a spot on the team.

  4. Cardinals officially name Carlos Martinez as fifth starter

    Mar 30, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    Carlos Martinez AP AP

    In a decision that was all but inevitable after news of Jaime Garcia’s renewed shoulder issues, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny confirmed today that right-hander Carlos Martinez has won the fifth spot in the starting rotation.

  5. Trevor Cahill, Chase Anderson win rotation spots with D-Backs; Daniel Hudson to bullpen

    Mar 30, 2015, 8:05 PM EDT

    diamondbacks logo alternate

    The Diamondbacks will go into the season with a starting rotation of Josh Collmenter, Jeremy Hellickson, Rubby De La Rosa, Trevor Cahill, and Chase Anderson.

  6. Report: The Pirates and Gregory Polanco have reopened extension talks

    Mar 30, 2015, 7:09 PM EDT

    Gregory Polanco AP

    The two sides first discussed the possibility prior to Polanco’s promotion to the majors last year.

  7. Anthony Rendon sees Dr. James Andrews for second opinion on ailing knee

    Mar 30, 2015, 6:19 PM EDT

    at Space Coast Stadium on March 9, 2015 in Viera, Florida. Getty Images

    Rendon suffered what was termed as a minor MCL sprain in his left knee on March 9 and continues to feel discomfort.

  8. UPDATE: Drew Storen leaves game with blister on foot

    Mar 30, 2015, 6:02 PM EDT

    Drew Storen Getty Images

    That Nationals don’t need another injury. But they may have one.

  9. The MLBPA releases a statement on Kris Bryant, mentions possible litigation

    Mar 30, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT

    Tony Clark AP

    I’d still be surprised if they went down that road — and I think it’s a bad road to go down — but Tony Clark is leaving the option on the table.

  10. Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy will begin the season on the disabled list

    Mar 30, 2015, 5:10 PM EDT

    St. Louis Cardinals v Baltimore Orioles Getty Images

    Everth Cabrera, who was the Padres’ starting shortstop for most of the past three seasons, looks likely to fill in for Hardy.

  11. Indians release left-hander Scott Downs

    Mar 30, 2015, 4:47 PM EDT

    Scott Downs Getty Getty Images

    Downs signed a minor-league deal in mid-December.

  12. In the wake of the Kris Bryant demotion, Scott Boras’ vocabulary has gone to 11

    Mar 30, 2015, 4:32 PM EDT

    Spinal Tap But it goes to eleven

    The Cubs are playing ersatz baseball, you see. And this is the, um, apogee of something.

  13. White Sox send top prospect Carlos Rodon to Triple-A

    Mar 30, 2015, 3:36 PM EDT

    carlos rodon ap AP

    Rodon ranked as a consensus top-20 prospect and has top-of-the-rotation upside, so expect to see him in Chicago by the All-Star break.

  14. Kevin Correia released by the Mariners

    Mar 30, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT

    Kevin Correia AP

    He just signed on March 9, but after three awful appearances, the M’s have cut bait.

  15. Cardinals shut down Jaime Garcia with more shoulder problems

    Mar 30, 2015, 1:49 PM EDT

    jaime garcia getty Getty Images

    Carlos Martinez time in the Cardinals’ rotation?

  16. Mets find a lefty, acquire reliever Alex Torres from Padres

    Mar 30, 2015, 1:20 PM EDT

    San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants Getty Images

    He posted a 3.33 ERA in 70 appearances for the Padres in a limited role, logging a total of just 54 innings with a 51/33 K/BB ratio.

  17. The Cubs assign Kris Bryant and Addison Russell to the minors, option Javier Baez as well

    Mar 30, 2015, 1:07 PM EDT

    Kris Bryant Getty Images

    Service time manipulation, the depth chart and hacktastic tendencies mean that the future is not quite here for three of the Cubs’ top prospects.

  18. Reds release left-hander Paul Maholm

    Mar 30, 2015, 12:46 PM EDT

    paul maholm getty Getty Images

    Maholm has indicated that he wants to continue starting, which likely sealed his fate in Cincinnati and limits his options going forward.

  19. It’s OK for ballplayers to be friendly with one another. Really.

    Mar 30, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.11.07 PM AP

    Baseball technically has a rule against “fraternization.” It’s a dumb rule.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. J. Fernandez (4530)
  2. C. Rodon (3942)
  3. Y. Tomas (3829)
  4. S. Doolittle (3813)
  5. K. Bryant (3796)
  1. A. Cobb (3579)
  2. T. Walker (3535)
  3. K. Jansen (3534)
  4. G. Richards (3453)
  5. C. Davis (3442)