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Ryne Sandberg opines on baseball’s steroid era

May 17, 2013, 10:25 PM EDT

Ryne Sandberg AP

Phillies third base coach Ryne Sandberg is expected to be the next Phillies manager if and when the Charlie Manuel era ends. Sandberg started his playing career with the Phillies but went to the Cubs in the infamous Ivan de Jesus trade in 1982, arguably one of the worst trades in baseball history. With the Cubs, Sandberg would become one of the best second basemen ever to play the game. In recent years, he has worked his way up through the Minor Leagues as a coach.’s Barry M. Bloom peppered Sandberg with questions about his past when he managed in the Minor Leagues, what he expects in the future, and got Sandberg to opine on how the Hall of Fame should handle players from the steroid era.

Sandberg: I’m not a sportswriter. I don’t get to vote. I don’t get the ballot in the mail, so it’s out of my hands either way. I can say that in the history of the Hall of Fame, there are no suspicions about guys who are in the Hall of Fame. It’s an elite group. And once you’re in the Hall, you’re in the Hall. Up until now, I think the voting system has handled things very well. And like I said before, there are no suspicions in the Hall of Fame. But in your speech, you did say that Andre Dawson should be in. You said, “He did it the right way, the natural way.” So you have voiced your opinion, even though you don’t have a vote.

Sandberg: But that wasn’t about drugs. That was about a player whose numbers, I thought, were being dwarfed by those put up in that era. I played with the guy and against him for most of my career. I saw most of his career. For a number of years, he was overshadowed by the guys who hit 60 or 70 home runs. Those numbers were astronomical and were numbers I could not relate to. I thought he was a Hall of Famer and had had a Hall of Fame career. That’s why I voiced my opinion on that, and I was very happy to see him go in.

Sandberg isn’t 100% right about there being “no suspicions in the Hall of Fame”. The Hall is rife with bat-corkers, ball-scuffers, spitballers, players who have taken amphetamines (e.g. Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mike Schmidt), and so forth. Not to mention the otherwise unsavory characters like Ty Cobb.

Older eras of baseball were just as impure as the steroid era has been purported to be. You see this a lot when older people talk about the younger generations. Take TIME Magazine’s latest cover, for instance, titled “The ME ME ME Generation”. Or their 1990 cover titled “twentysomething”, asking if the generation is “laid back, late blooming, or just lost?” People tend to romanticize the generation in which they were brought up and demonize ensuing generations. It seems like that’s what Sandberg is doing here, willfully glossing over his own generation’s seedy history to complain about those damn kids with their loud music and their steroids.

  1. schmedley69 - May 17, 2013 at 10:35 PM

    To me, the bloggers from the 80’s were much better than the ones today.

  2. kcroyal - May 17, 2013 at 10:36 PM

    Dear god is that can’t possibly be a picture of Ryne! I feel so old.

    • Walk - May 17, 2013 at 11:08 PM

      I feel ya kc. I grew up watching the cubs in the day and the braves at night. Seeing dale murphy and ryno now makes me a bit sad and wistful. Those cubs teams I watched went from bad to mediocre but I never even realized, they were the only team and almost the only programming I could watch in the day time growing up. My brothers watched cartoons but I got the cubs and braves and became a lifetime fan, I got the better end of that deal. My apologies for going off topic, just seeing old ryno takes me back.

    • 18thstreet - May 18, 2013 at 9:08 AM

      Have you seen John Elway lately? I’m not even a football fan, but looking at HIM makes me feel about a million years old.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 18, 2013 at 9:29 AM

        Looking at John Elway reminds me that the Kentucky Derby just happened…

      • paperlions - May 18, 2013 at 12:09 PM

        Church, that is both really funny and really offensive to horses.

  3. royalsfaninfargo - May 17, 2013 at 10:56 PM

    One of the worst trades in baseball history for the Phills. I’m sure the Cubs would do it again in a heart beat.

    • dstark9 - May 18, 2013 at 2:35 AM

      The Phillies really didn’t want to make the trade after Green insisted Sandberg be part of the deal. It was almost a broke deal. I can’t recall what happened but from I recall it is sort of interesting on why that deal finally went through.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - May 18, 2013 at 8:10 AM

        As I recall, the Cubs actually wanted Luis Auayo, and the Phillies offered Sandberg.

        But lets not forget – this trade was Larry Bowa for DeJesus. Since Bowa was older, the cubs wanted a prospect thrown in.

        The Phillies had Sandberg, Julio Franco and Juan Samuel. It made no sense to keep all three. They kept the wrong one, but those things happen. I have no problem that they traded Sandebrg and Franco, the real crime was what they got in return (I still say the Franco trade was worse)

  4. yahmule - May 17, 2013 at 11:11 PM

    Actually, what you see with far greater frequency than older people romanticizing previous eras are people in the current day proclaiming how much better things are now. What people don’t understand is that everybody who ever lived is living at the cutting edge of technology, whether they’re living now or two thousand years ago.

    • paperlions - May 18, 2013 at 12:16 PM

      A favorite of mine is the claim by older people (and I am getting closer to that age group) that young people are the ones ruining the country…completely ignoring the fact that in general people 50 yrs and older are those responsible for pretty much any economic or political problem we have…because they are the people in charge of states, countries, government agencies and politics.

  5. irishdodger - May 17, 2013 at 11:24 PM

    Ty Cobb may not have been politically correct, but can you really argue about his play on the field? I don’t recall allegations of cheating, illegal drug use or other faults that would have adversely affected the game. Now if you don’t care for him personally, that’s fine…but he’s a HoFer. OJ Simpson decapitated his wife & boyfriend….off the field…after he left the game. As evil an act as that was…he was stilll a HoF football player. Cut Cobb some slack when it comes to his play regardless of his personal character.

    • bigharold - May 18, 2013 at 12:35 AM

      Cobb zoomed past politically incorrect at light speed.

      If there had been PEDs in his time I’ve no doubt that he’d been all over them.

    • pcoffey49 - May 18, 2013 at 1:18 AM

      Ty Cobb was a flaming asshole! This guy would sharpen his spikes-ever see the pictures of him stealing second base/ Spikes about two feet up in the air. No wonder why he was the stolen base leader for so many years. Not many 2nd base or ss wanted to get ripped opened. And did I mention that he was a asshole racist too?

      • dstark9 - May 18, 2013 at 2:04 AM

        Shows that you do not know the life of Ty Cobb. Ty Cobb built a hospital at his later years and insisted that the first doctor be a black doctor. Like a lot of southerners back then he was raised a certain way. He actually became a very strong and good person after his playing days. He was the first self made millionaire in baseball. He helped several of his teammates and rival teammates that were financially burdened after they retired. If you want to call him a racist for his early days and because you don’t have the knowledge of who Ty Cobb was, well then I would tend to think you are ignorant and worse than what you think of Ty Cobb.

      • yahmule - May 18, 2013 at 10:40 AM

        Cobb was an arrogant man with an extremely violent temper. Al Stump accentuated and exaggerated these traits to absurd levels (and also robbed Cobb blind as he lay dying). Now people want to make up for that by giving Cobb’s image a shine job by finding excuses for everything Cobb ever did. Guess what, being slightly less of a racist than Cap Anson isn’t a positive accomplishment. The whole “well everyone’s grandfather was a racist” argument is pretty pathetic if you really think about it.

      • bigharold - May 18, 2013 at 1:29 PM

        D Stark,

        The guy was a damn site more than a run of the mill SOB. Did you read the link provided? The story about him beating up a guy with no hands is true. He was clearly a racist and the fact that he changed later in life, assuming it was true and accurate, doesn’t change the way he was earlier. And, the stories about him sharpening his spikes to do injury are not only true but is you go to the link provided it actually shows him “sliding” into home. Except that he’s in the air and looks like he’s throwing a flying kick. Throw in game fixing, .. and yeah he’s a fair bit more than politically incorrect.

        We are all responsible for our actions in life, .. even when we are young. He was clearly a racist, over baring, pugnacious and belligerent on a monumental basis. Assuming that he changed as he got older doesn’t change the fact that he was a world class asshole as a young man.

    • dstark9 - May 18, 2013 at 2:08 AM

      Ty Cobb was almost banned from baseball for being associated with throwing ballgames around 1916 or so. From what I know Judge Kennesaw Landis sort of shut his eye on it. Gambling and throwing games back them were very rampant. The 1918 World Series was supposedly fixed as well when the Cubs lost that series. Hence why Landis was extremely hard on the 1919 Whitesox for their involvement with gambling.

      • malbrecht4 - May 18, 2013 at 1:37 PM

        @dstark9 From what I know Judge Kennesaw Landis sort of shut his eye on it.

        You don’t know much. Landis became the 1st commissioner of baseball in 1920, because of the black sox scandal. Learn some history before you spout off.

    • 18thstreet - May 18, 2013 at 9:28 AM

      I basically agree with Dodger. As a ballplayer, he didn’t cheat (as far as I know). He played at the edges of the rules, though. I’m not sure the rulebook has anything to say about sharpening spikes. That level of aggression on the ballfield is certainly playing at the edges of sportsmanship. And given that the Hall’s criteria includes those character clauses, one could (note: I WOULD NOT!) make the case that his poor sportsmanship should exclude him from induction.

      Where I have a bigger issue, for the old-timers, is this: they were only chemically pure because they didn’t have the chance to cheat. In the 60s and 70s, almost all of them used speed. If you have given them the chance to use steroids or HGH, they would have used that, too.

      Let me be very clear about this: Mickey Mantle would have used steroids in a heartbeat to help his knee feel better. He just couldn’t, because he couldn’t get his hands on them. He put all sorts of crap into his body in an attempt to have the same effect. Do we reward him because they failed, because he saw quack doctors? I say, no. I say what Mickey Mantle tried to do was exactly the same as what Barry Bonds tried to do. Bonds was successful because the science was better in 2000 than 1960.

      Andre Dawson was a great player. But he doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. Naturally or not, a career .323 on-base percentage is distinctly unimpressive. If you’re giving credit for the player he should have been if not for the injuries, then induct Tony Conigliaro and Don Mattingly. But given what he actually accomplished? No. No, no, no. And certainly not before Tim Raines.

    • mpzz - May 19, 2013 at 1:36 PM

      “may not have been politically correct”? What does politics have to do with it? He was a evil, ugly racist, not to mention his vile acts on the baseball field. Also, OJ Simpson did not “decapitate” anyone. Try injecting a few facts in your posts.

  6. scotttheskeptic - May 18, 2013 at 12:51 AM

    He was actually a “throw in” on the Larry Bowa trade (the manner in which I prefer to think of it).

    While I cannot purport to speak for, nor interpret, Ryne Sandberg, I believe his over-arching point is that is a Hall of Fame, not a Hall of Statistics. “Fame” has connotation, while statistics do not. His statements regarding Dawson should be taken as the measurement of an opponent, then teammate of the man. If that isn’t a qualified measurement, then I do not know what is.

    • bobwill44 - May 18, 2013 at 1:16 AM

      Are not most players in the HOF for their stats?

      • bobwill44 - May 18, 2013 at 1:22 AM

        Why is Babe Ruth in the HOF? Because he was an upstanding moral person and a loving husband? Or because he could hit the shiznet out of a baseball?

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 18, 2013 at 9:35 AM

      “Fame” has connotation

      Canseco is probably the most (in)famous player of our generation. Does that mean he deserves to go into the HoF?

      • scotttheskeptic - May 18, 2013 at 6:10 PM

        No. Infamy is quite the opposite of fame. My point being, particularly with the skewed career numbers that have come from the late-80’s to early-2000’s, there should be no automatic thresholds (e.g. 500 home runs) for inclusion. There will, and should, always be a subjective component to election to the Hall of Fame.

  7. bobwill44 - May 18, 2013 at 1:18 AM

    I’m a great person, but I’m not in consideration for the HOF1

    • badintent - May 18, 2013 at 1:52 AM

      oh yes you are ! PBT HOF FIRST BALLOT ! I’LL INTRO YOU. “NEVER HAVE SO MUCH BE DONE BY SO FEW…………………………………………………….”

  8. vallewho - May 18, 2013 at 1:32 AM

    Ryne is 100% wrong. And over rated too.

  9. dstark9 - May 18, 2013 at 1:57 AM

    Appears the writer of this story dislikes Sandberg a lot. Put’s up a photo that is very odd and sort of berates Sandberg throughout the article with little snide remarks……Kind of a horrible article if you ask me. Sandberg was a great player and I think will be a very successful manager.

    • 18thstreet - May 18, 2013 at 9:32 AM

      Appears the writer of this comment likes Sandberg a lot.

    • paperlions - May 18, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      I think you are confusing the writer’s opinion about Sandberg’s comments with the writer’s opinion of the man himself. What Sandberg said is 100% wrong and smacks of willful ignorance of the facts.

  10. texas1994 - May 18, 2013 at 2:07 AM

    Never did like the spread of misinformation. Show me one credible source of Mays, Aaron or Schmidt taking amphetamines. And who the hell is Bill Baer?! Stick to the facts, sonny. Nobody has time for bush league journalism.

    • dstark9 - May 18, 2013 at 2:17 AM

      Well Aaron and Mays admitted they took amphetamines. You can pretty much google that. Schmidt openly admitted that if steroids were as rampant as they were in the 1990’s and early 2000’s he probaly would have taken them as well. He basically stated he didn’t blame those players for taking steroids.

      • cktai - May 18, 2013 at 8:28 AM

        Yes, but how credible are Aaron and Mays as sources? Their drug abuse may have altered their memory.

  11. coryfor3 - May 18, 2013 at 3:17 AM

    Another blogger that is ok with steroids. Are you letting Craig write for you?

    • paperlions - May 18, 2013 at 12:27 PM

      You are confusing being okay with steroids for the argument that steroids = bad and we should ignore everything else. If people think PEDs are bad, then the opinion should be the same for all PEDs that are shown to have negative health consequences and to affect on-field performance. To date, there is far more evidence that amphetamines help on-field performance than do steroids, there is evidence that amphetamine use was far more common, there is evidence that steroids were used by baseball players commonly starting in the 1960s, and amphetamines are far worse for your health than are steroids.

      What the writer is doing is taking an informed position, rather than choosing to demonize steroids without the facts.

      • malbrecht4 - May 18, 2013 at 1:47 PM

        I just had my second cup of coffee, I feel really good now that I’m on amphetamines.

      • yahmule - May 18, 2013 at 4:42 PM

        The only evidence that amphetamines aid performance more than steroids do exists within the minds of steroid apologists like yourself. Otherwise you wouldn’t bother trying to bolster that flawed assertion with your backup argument that the baseballs were juiced during the steroid era. Which explains Gagne and Clemens, right? And in turn, you’ll claim steroids helped pitchers more than hitters, in a direct refutation of the empirical evidence provided by the explosion of offensive numbers in that era.

        The bottom line is Craig and his disciples like a moving target when it comes to their arguments about steroids. Makes the month long Hall of Fame hissy fits on this board a tedium, but what are you gonna do?

  12. mungman69 - May 18, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    I would take anything that I could to gain an edge.

  13. Kevin Gillman - May 18, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    The Cubs did give up a steal on Ryne Sandberg, but they did give the Indians Joe Carter and Mell Hell for Rick Sutcliffe. Joe was my favorite player growing up.

  14. louhudson23 - May 18, 2013 at 2:48 PM

    Steroids are not reasonably equated with greenies,or scuffed balls……legalities,rules and moral questions aside,the record book was shredded,and how the game was played was altered greatly during the steroids era ….with no evidence of any remotely comparable success or effect via any other systematic form of cheating…..And now we have a return to pitching and defense as real factors in recent testing times….small parks and hard baseballs be damned…

  15. genericcommenter - May 18, 2013 at 7:29 PM

    I’m still trying to figure out how this guy was a sure-fire HOFer who went 49.2%, 61.1%, and then in on 3rd ballot at 76.2%. Yet Lou Whitaker got 2.9% one-and-done.

    Or, even compare Bobby Grich and his 2.6%. Did those guys use roids?

  16. mpzz - May 19, 2013 at 1:40 PM

    Comparing amphetamines to steroids is not only ridiculous, but ignorant. Long-term use of amphetamines would undermine a baseball player’s ability, whereas long-term use of steroids (and HGH, and whatever else the era’s players used) turned them into super-human baseball-playing machines. Sandberg is absolutely correct in his opinion that the steroid monsters do not deserve a place in the Hall of Fame.

  17. hijackthemic - Jun 5, 2013 at 11:13 PM

    Thank God the steroid apologists have completely lost the war. They still think they’re not on the fringe, even as the Hall of Fame voters clearly show the logic-possessing majority reject absolutely these juicing cheats, based on an ability to understand what anabolic steroids can do.

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