What a scandalous headline! Let me explain myself before the death threats. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Bill Crystal. In the current climate where if you ever used steroids you cannot make the Hall of Fame, let me offer up my contrarian view. My standards are to reward players who did everything they could to become a better player. Sure these players cut corners to possibly become more accomplished at their craft, but think about the sacrifice they made to be the best they could be.
And then there was Mickey Mantle. As physically talented of a player that has ever stepped on the diamond, Mantle seemed destined to be the greatest to ever put on a uniform. While it is obvious that injuries derailed some of his physical talents, who knows how much drinking played a part in him not reaching the levels that an Aaron or Mays reached. The legendary drinking stories reached mythic proportions, as Mickey was the ultimate leader of the boozing and carousing pinstripers of the 50’s and 60’s.
I realize that this is a major contrarian view, but ethically I believe it is a more moral stance to do everything it takes to be better, even if you are taking an illegal drug than to overuse a legal one that impacts on the field performance in a negative way. Sure Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are disagreeable men, with a spotty record in dealing with the public and the press. Well I can guarantee that Mantle would’ve stood no chance surviving the New York sports piranhas (writers) glare, if he would have played in current times. Deadspin would probably have to have its own satellite site just focused on the Mick. If you thought ARod having a fling in Toronto was news, do some research on Mantle’s off the field exploits. It makes ARod look like A.C. Green.
One of the most difficult challenges one could ask for would be to debate Bob Costas on the subject of baseball. I would love to discuss this particular topic with him, though, as Costas has been such a severe critic of steroids, while joining in the hero-worship business of the Mick. Despite Mantle trying to sabotage his natural ability, he still ended up with first ballot Hall of Fame numbers. My bigger point is that the steroids era is lot more complicated than what the general public believes which is a few players obtained great benefits by using PED’s, while most of the players were clean.
On a similarly related topic, Don Hooton is all over the TV pushing the story about how steroid use by pro athletes will lead to death for many high schoolers who emulate them. I’ve never used steroids and wouldn’t recommend them to anyone, let alone someone who is under 18, but the incidents of steroids killing kids is really small. Now if you want to look at a set of troubling stats, look at alcohol related deaths for the under 18 set. Alcohol-related advertising is a key component of what you see at the game or on TV. I cannot imagine how devastating the loss of a child is and my hearts aches for Mr. Hooton, but let’s have some perspective here. While steroids use is a problem for young people, there are far more serious issues that we should be focusing our attention on.