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Steroids Should Have Been Put Aside on Cooperstown Sunday

Sunday was arguably the pinnacle of Tony La Russa’s fifty years in professional baseball – his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Unfortunately, some tried to mar the proceedings by questioning La Russa’s worthiness for Cooperstown due to his years managing the Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals during the heyday of steroids-fueled sluggers Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.

The criticism seemed ill-timed as this subject has been discussed and debated before – and it will continue to be long in the future. However, the Hall decision had already been made and would not be reversed no matter how much mud was thrown around.

Extreme behavior sometimes generates comparable action in response. Such was the case when at least one La Russa defender tried to draw the parallel of fellow inductee Joe Torre having managed Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez.

That line seems way off-base to me. While the three players were all connected with steroids, they did not establish the identity of Torre’s Yankees clubs as did the Bash Brothers for La Russa’s A’s. Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter were the face of those New York clubs – men whose reputations have been beyond reproach.

Clemens and A-Rod played the majority of their MLB years elsewhere and Pettitte’s one incident with steroids is akin to Rick Ankiel’s, in my opinion – a minor blip in an otherwise admirable career.

In my view, several of the personality traits that helped make La Russa so successful worked against him on the steroids issue. His unwavering loyalty to his players included defending McGwire, often angrily, against his accusers for several decades. Long past the point it seemed appropriate, the defense continued – even after Big Mac’s own brother confirmed the story and up until McGwire finally came clean.

The specifics surrounding McGwire seemed to paint La Russa as being in general denial about a widespread problem in baseball that seemed to become obvious to most everyone else long before.

I don’t recall the public posture taken by Torre, or Bobby Cox, for that matter, being comparable.

A far more interesting question, in my view, is if there should be greater consistency in Hall qualification for players versus managers active during that time. Philosophically, I suspect so, but as with most challenging issues, the devil would be in the details.

The steroids era will continue to be debated for years into the future as will the role of those involved, but it should have been set aside on La Russa’s big day.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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6 Responses to “Steroids Should Have Been Put Aside on Cooperstown Sunday”

  1. Bw52 says:

    So you give Arod and Clemens a pass? Wow.Does that mean Whitey Ford is not to be faulted even after Ellie Howard admits he cheated while catching Ford by cutting the ball on his shins guards then tossing it to Ford? Because a half-ass sports commentator (Gumbe) spews forth his drivel people have to try and mar the ceremony.I liked Joe Torre as a player but how many championships did he win without having the biggest payroll and resources in the sport? Bobby Cox gets great credit for winning 14 division titles in a row but how many WS champs did he manage to win with one of the best pitching staffs of that era?So ripping TLR about steroids while not ripping Torre or Cox (david Justice?)seems like stir the pot BS by Gumbel.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Please explain how you interpreted that A-Rod and Clemens are being given a pass. I simply feel that their problems are not a significant tarnish on Torre’s record. The story is about the managers and the Hall of Fame and TLR specifically.

      Gumbel was one prominent TLR critic, but far from the only one. I don’t think it can be entirely written off, but the timing was inappropriate, in my opinion.

      • blingboy says:

        I’m not sure I buy in to the premise. With players, how much they accomplished does not bear on the issue of culpability. A guy who used and hit 50 homers is no less culpable than a guy who used and hit 500. Along those lines, how central the users were to the manager’s team doesn’t seem like it should have anything to do with it. Either the manager was an enabler or he wasn’t.

        In a world without roids maybe Torre’s record is less different than Tony’s. It’s kind of sad if that matters.

  2. Bw52 says:

    Since we will never know who was completely natural and who wasn`t then there is no way to judge accomplishments one way or the other.As much as I detest Bobby Bonds he still had to hit the ball and he has the records.By the way there are more Yankees in the Mitchell report than any other team.

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    The Padres are the worst in baseball, in terms of OPS. They are not a good hitting team. Tonite should be another low scoring event.

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    While Motte has always given up HRs, 7 in just 21 innings is ungood. Why Matheny would use Motte in a close game is anybody’s guess.

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