Today the Hall will announce who the baseball writers deemed worthy, and, as usual, the acknowledged steroid cheats with Hall of Fame statistics will be resoundingly rejected. I don’t feel like revisiting this subject in depth again right now: I have done so before, many times. However, yesterday I nearly drove off the road listing to MLB radio commentators Casey Stern and Jim Bowden, supposedly baseball experts, give their reasons for voting for the entire range of steroid cheats, from Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire to Roger Clemens and the despicable Alex Rodriquez.
Baseball’s Hall of Fame, alone among the sports Halls, includes ethics in its criteria for entry: a player must exhibit sportsmanship, integrity and have been a credit to the game. The average sportswriter who votes for candidates is about as conversant in ethics as he is in Aramaic, leading to an endless debate involving every rationalization on the list and analogies so terrible that they melt the brain.For example, I constantly hear and read that the evidence that Barry Bonds used steroids is “circumstantial” so it is unfair to tar him as a steroid user. Such commentators don’t know what circumstantial evidence is. Criminals can be justly convicted beyond a reasonable doubt by circumstantial evidence, which is also known as indirect evidence. Direct evidence, if believed, proves the existence of a particular fact. Circumstantial evidence proves facts other than the particular fact to be proved, but reason and experience indicates that the indirect evidence is so closely associated with the fact to be proved that the fact to be proved may be fairly inferred by existence of the circumstantial evidence. There is direct evidence that Bonds was a steroid-user, but the circumstantial evidence, as the well-researched book “Game of Shadows” showed, is so voluminous that it alone is decisive. Literally no one thinks Bonds is innocent of using steroids. [You can read my analysis of the case against Bonds here, here, and here.]
Stern and Bowden, however, claim that it is unfair to refuse the honor of Hall of Fame membership to suspected steroid users because it is inevitable that some players who used steroids and were never caught or suspected will make it into the Hall, if there aren’t such undetected cheat in the Hall already.
Bowden spouted this yesterday, and Stern eagerly agreed. I have read columnists making the same astounding argument. [The rationalization that embodies this threadbare logic is 39. The Pioneer’s Lament, or “Why should I be the first?”]
Thus it would be unfair to refuse to graduate a student caught cheating on his final exams, because it is certain that some students have cheated on exams and not been caught, and graduated without impediment. We should also bury traitors in Arlington National Cemetery, because we know that at least some of the honored fallen there must have been in cahoots with the enemy, and never were detected. And it is so unfair to fire an employee who was hired based on fake credentials, when other hires pulled off the same scam without penalty. In fact, we shouldn’t punish anyone for breaking the law, because so many get away with their crimes.
The MLB network promotes these guys as “experts,” which means their unethical arguments will be aped by gullible listeners, who will also absorb their unethical reasoning to apply in other contexts. Thus does sports corrupt as well as inspire.
This is one more reason not to honor Barry Bonds and the other cheats who created this ethical morass.