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Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

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Friday, August 10, 2007


Important Information

Quick. Go here and look at the headline, before they change either the spelling error or the inanity:

Bonds will be remembered for record, controversey [sic]

I mean, that is some hard-hitting journalism. That is what we in the mainstream media call: a bold lede. Barry Bonds, the all-time home run king, and the linchpin of the biggest performance-enhancing drug investigation in the history of sports, will be remembered for (a) the all-time home run record and (b) the controversey [sic] surrounding the steroid scandal.

To help you write newspaper headlines in 2007, here is a handy list of some people, and the things they will be remembered for:

John F. Kennedy: President; being assassinated
Neil Armstrong: traveling to moon; walking on moon
Eddie Van Halen: guitar-playing; being in "Van Halen"
John Glenn: Orbiting earth; orbiting earth again
Jerry Seinfeld: TV show Seinfeld
Moon Monster: kidnapping Neil Armstrong; replacing with fake Neil Armstrong; programming fake Neil Armstrong's computer brain to laser-destroy world's salt supply

Also, there is the article, by Ian O'Connor, about Barry Bonds. Snippets:

Barry Bonds is...defined by the how, not the how many. He cheated on his way past Hank Aaron's 755, and he can't swat that 99-mph truth into McCovey Cove. I'd still put him in the Hall of Fame.

Right here, right now, I'd still include his name on my ballot.

I have said this before, but I have no problem with this. It's essentially a personal choice. If you believe that a message should be sent, and that using PEDs violates the nebulous "character" clause in the HOF voting, then vote "no" -- to Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Raffy, all of them. If you believe that it does not matter, vote "yes." If you believe that "innocent until proven guilty" applies not only to our country's judicial system, but to HOF voting as well, vote "yes."

For the record, however -- "innocent until proven guilty" was invented for court cases. It was not invented for baseball HOF voting. The people who use "innocent until proven guilty" to refer to things like baseball HOF voting are the same people who think they can talk dirty around their co-workers and are somehow protected by that "freedom of speech" thing they've heard so much about, not realizing that while the Federal Government cannot punish them for saying that Janice in accounting has a nice ass, that Janice in accounting can, and probably will, aided by the company's HR director.

Not that anything like this has ever happened at Fremulon Ins., Inc. mind you.

The larger point here, though, is that if you choose to employ "innocent until proven guilty!" to refer to people who totally definitely cheated, like Barry Bonds: please realize that I completely agree with you that Barry Bonds should not be thrown in jail unless he is actually convicted of a crime in a court of law. But there is no Bill of Rights of Baseball. In fact, the rules governing almost all MLB awards and honors are incredibly vague, and are voted on by either dummy journalists or even dummier fans, and so if I want to use my brain, and mathematical probability -- I wholeheartedly recommend this article at Kermit the Blog, which calculates the odds of Barry hitting 73 at age 37 at one in 53 million -- and the actual sworn testimony of the actual man, and just motherfletching common sense, and I decide that Barry Bonds used PEDs and that because of that he shouldn't be in the HOF, and I have a HOF vote, then sorry, people, but that's fine, and you can't use "innocent until proven guilty" to shame me because it has nothing to do with HOF voting.

But Ian's position is fine, too, in my opinion. (You know us -- we're not strident guys.) So let's keep going.

But despite what we know about Bonds at this very moment – he surely used performance-enhancing drugs to break Aaron's record, and he surely stands among the biggest jerks in baseball history – I would put him in Cooperstown, a place that has immortalized jerks, racists and cheaters among its many gentlemen, progressive thinkers and good sports.

Again, I think this is fine. Ty Cobb once jumped into the stands and beat up a heckler who had no arms or legs. He was also a terrible racist. Gaylord Perry threw a spitball. Blah blah blah. It is 100% legit to say that Barry -- and McGwire, and whoever -- should be in, PEDs be damned.

I did not vote for Mark McGwire, and I don't plan on ever voting for Mark McGwire. It has less to do with Little Mac's pathetic performance on Capitol Hill than it does the fact he didn't have half of Bonds' talent, even if his homers seemed to travel twice as far as Barry's.

Here's where I start to get lost.

Bonds may have been more "talented" than McGwire. But Mac's career OPS+ is 163. His career EqA is .336, including .381 in 1998. (Bonds EqA in 2004: .456. It kills me that he cheated so much, because if he hadn't, that would be my favorite statistic of all time.) If you don't have a problem with Mac's steroid use, there's really no argument to keep him out.

The evidence suggests performance-enhancing drugs made McGwire a Hall of Fame player. Without them, McGwire might've gone down as a rich man's Dave Kingman.

Dave Kingman, career:

HR: 442
EqA: .276

McGwire, career:

HR: 583
EqA: .336

McGwire is the "rich man's Dave Kingman?" That's like saying Harrison Ford is the rich man's Joe Rogan.

The evidence suggests performance-enhancing drugs made Bonds a better Hall of Fame player. Without them, Bonds might've gone down as a poor man's Willie Mays.

There's a difference. A big difference.

For the record, Mac hit 49 HR as a relatively skinny 23 year-old rookie. Bonds didn't hit over 33 until he was 28. Bonds was obviously a better all-around player, but come on.

Truth is, more stars than we know have used steroids and/or human growth hormone. A chemically enhanced Bonds often competed against dirty pitchers backed up by dirty fielders. It's hard to keep him out of Cooperstown when other big-name, big-game cheaters have surely escaped detection.

So a complicated process – the Hall of Fame voting process – gets more complicated, more subjective, more hazardous to a voter's mental health. When, exactly, did a slugger begin cheating? Just how good was the slugger before he started cheating? How many opposing pitchers were cheating – and therefore creating a level, if corrupt, playing field – when the cheating slugger took his home-run cuts?

I agree. These are fine points. Why did you not vote for McGwire, again?

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posted by Unknown  # 12:38 AM
Originally, I actually wrote that John Glenn had orbited the moon. That is hilarious. I went to college!

Thanks to those of you who pointed out what is probably my most boneheaded mistake ever.
I suppose if you're going to be a snide dick about people committing spelling errors, you are dooming yourself to committing some yourself. Thus, it is with heavy heart that I admit, too, that I spelled "linchpin" with a "y," until reader Mike pointed out my error.

I holehertedly appologiz.
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