There are a few reoccurring assertions that Ethics Alarms readers know I am duty bound to defenestrate, no matter how repetitious it is for them and me. The gender gap argument in salary is one; election night in 2016 spawned another, when hack historian Doug Brinkley falsely claimed that the same party seldom holds the White House for three straight terms. That Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct was “private personal conduct” unrelated to his professional trustworthiness was long on my list, though that one seems to be, finally, discredited. There are others involving gun control, marriage, illegal immigration and more; I should list them in one place some day.
None annoys me any more, however, than the rationalizations mounted to claim that steroid cheats belong in baseball’s Hall of Fame.
It happened again this week, as it will every time the Hall of Fame ballots are counted this time of year. On the MLB Channel on Sirius-XM, two alleged experts, analysts Casey Stern and former pitcher Brad Lidge each gave their list of ten former players who belonged in the Hall of Fame, and both listed Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens as deserving. When Lidge went through his “reasoning”—I hate scare quotes, but here they are unavoidable—I wanted to leap through my car radio and throw him out his studio.
It wasn’t just the unethical opinion that infuriated me. It was the sheer ignorance and intellectual laziness of it. The man clearly has never practiced critical thinking in his life. Nobody taught him. Like the President, he literally doesn’t know what ethics are, and reasons by rationalizations and conventional wisdom, meaning that if enough dolts say something, it becomes a persuasive position to him. It is unethical—malpractice, negligence, incompetence—to argue like this when you are holding yourself up as an expert, and addressing the public through mass media. You are making the public more ignorant and stupid, and less able to think clearly, with every word. Stern, who is about five times smarter and more articulate than Lidge, used slightly less moronic arguments to defend Bonds, but only slightly.
So I’m sorry if you have heard this before, but I made a promise to myself, my readers, and baseball, which I love. Here are Lidge’s arguments to allow Bonds into the Hall of Fame, and why they are crap.
- Bonds was on his way to a Hall of Fame career before he used steroids.
Yes, and that brilliant scientist was on the way to a Nobel prize before he falsified his data. This idiotic argument–maybe the worst of the worst—absurdly holds that if something would have occurred if a disqualifying event hadn’t happened, the disqualifying event shouldn’t count. It also embodies the “he didn’t have to cheat, so his cheating was no big deal” fallacy. This would have excused Richard Nixon: after all, he won by a landslide anyway, so what difference does it make that he tried to illegally undermine the McGovern campaign? Ugh. It makes me crazy even writing about this one.
- Bonds cheated during a period when cheating was rampant, so a lot of the player he surpassed weren’t disadvantaged.
A. And a lot were.
B. This is Everybody Does It, the #1 unethical rationalization. That’s pronounced raa-shun-al-eyes–ZA-shun. You see, Brad, an individual’s misconduct isn’t mitigated at all by someone else’s misconduct. Wrongdoing doesn’t become more tolerable the more people engage in it. In fact, the more who engage in it, the more damage it does, not less.
- Bonds’ achievements are so, so far above everyone else’s.
Yes, and that is substantially because he cheated, you idiot. If his career had followed the typical trajectory one would expect before he started juicing, he would almost certainly have declined at the point where his actual steroid-fueled career made him freakishly good, and better than ever before. No player in baseball history among the thousands and thousands who have played the game ever became an order of magnitude better after his 30th birthday. Lidge is using the results of Bond’s cheating to argue that his cheating shouldn’t matter! And he thinks that makes sense.
- “I understand the arguments of those who think factors other than statistics should be considered…”
Oh, you understand, do you? Do you understand that the standards for admission to the Hall direct that voters consider sportsmanship and character as well as numbers? Here is the character clause:
“Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contribution to the team(s) on which the player played.”
Barry Bonds cheated, broke the law, used forbidden substances to enhance his natural playing abilities and lied about (still is lying, in fact) it. That’s not integrity, it’s the opposite of integrity. It’s not sportsmanship to cheat, it’s the opposite of sportsmanship. Bond’s miserable, shameless sociopathic character corrupted the game, its records and other players, and tangibly harmed baseball. Even interpreting the character clause narrowly, he flunks it worse than any player ever has, including Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose.
Furthermore, Lidge’s “I understand” rhetoric is the infuriating mantra of the uninformed but opinionated. I get it constantly in comments that are dinged in moderation: “I get what you are saying, but I still think that judge did the right thing/ the news media isn’t biased/ the President should be impeached/ guns should be banned/ hate speech isn’t protected by the Constitution/ Mike Brown was murdered and so on.” It means, “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with ethics, facts and logic.” It also means, “I’m an idiot, and a menace to intelligent civic discourse and participatory democracy.”
- We don’t know for sure if Bonds used steroids.
Yes we do. I’ll accept this argument regarding Roger Clemens, but not Barry Bonds. The book “Game of Shadows” made an airtight case against Bonds. The amount of evidence is mountainous. Nobody with an IQ above freezing who has reviewed the facts believes that there is the tiniest chance that Bonds is innocent. If Lidge does, then he either is mentally impaired or hasn’t done his due diligence research. I’m guessing both.
Well, there it is. Again.
I’m sorry, but I promised.
Blame Brad Lidge.