You may have heard that Mark McGwire did not make it into the Baseball Hall of Fame today. It didn't take me long to discover this picture and a blog post was born. I've been somewhat torn over the McGwire / baseball steroid issue for a while now. Line56 has an interesting article that uses McGwire's situation as a market analogy. I like analogies so here it is:
That's essentially how I feel about this whole issue. Let's face it, we're taking McGwire, Palmero, Bonds and others down for basically giving us what we wanted. Often the 1998 McGwire / Sosa home run chase is credited with saving baseball. I don't know if I'll go that far but it did serve as a huge turnaround. Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci has become the resident watchdog for purity in baseball, but even he was not immune, when recapping the '98 season he called McGwire's 70 home runs "good for baseball." We were all turning a blind eye to the obvious.
For some reason, the furor over Wal-Mart's new software reminds me of the righteous indignation at Mark McGwire, the former baseball now denied entry to the Hall of Fame. It is symptomatic of a certain kind of schizophrenia that we demand our heroes to kill the cow and then interrogate them over how they got the meat. Wal-Mart is, after all, responding to our demand. We want big home run hitters and $9 DVDs and plenty of other things that someone, somewhere has to sacrifice to achieve.
If baseball fans hadn't salivated over the McGwire-Sosa home run derby, and appreciated Ichiro's style of baseball more, steroids wouldn't have taken over the big leagues. If we remained willing to pay $22 for DVDs, Wal-Mart workers wouldn't be paid minimum wage.
Why should Mark McGwire and Wal-Mart suffer for our greed?
Still, I'm glad the Hall of Fame voters stood up and erred on the side of ethics. The things we value one moment and the things we honor for a lifetime are two different things. Baseball, for better or worse, is a game of tradition. It is a game of comparison. Perhaps most of all it is a game of purity and innocence. Or, at least, we'd like to think it is. When football's Shawne Merriman failed a steroid drug test earlier this season he was suspended for four games. He came back and was elected to the pro-bowl. When baseball's Rafael Palmeiro committed the same gaff everyone knew his career was over.
Football has a much shorter memory. Rules and records are broken but the game is fixated on next Sunday. Mark McGwire's congressional testimony may have said that he didn't want to look at the past, but that's all baseball fans look at. It is a game linked to history. Knowing what we know now about the use of steroids in baseball, it is not hard to extrapolate backwards to McGwire. He may have saved baseball, but his day in Cooperstown will have to wait.
What do you think?
Welcome to the Hall Cal and Tubby