The anecdote has it that someone once asked Louie Armstrong what jazz was. Satchmo is reported to have something like this in response, “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.”
Great answer. There are other questions we sometimes hear, the only response to which is: “If you can even ask that question, there is no answer I can give you that would satisfy or enlighten you.” One of these, and one that always pole-axes me that any sentient adult could ask, is: “Why shouldn’t women serve in combat roles in the military?” The why on this one, at least to anyone with more awareness than that of a cucumber, should be too obvious to detain us, even for a moment. It would take a highly-trained social scientist or a febrile, leftist geek not to understand this one.
Another of these knee-buckling questions we’ve heard at this time last year and this, is: “Why shouldn’t Barry Bonds be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame?” Anyone who can ask this question could as easily ask, “Why shouldn’t we vote Bernie Madoff into the Financial Counselors Hall of Fame?” Heck, Bernie’s customers put up some great numbers — a least for a while.
Both of the questions above answer themselves. As does the same one in regard to Mark McGwire, Roger Clemons, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro.
Of this lot, McGwire has admitted that he cheated — that he disgraced, debased, and disfigured the game he played and that so many Americans care about. The evidence that the others in this list did so also is substantial and convincing. In Bonds’ case it should have set off an alarm when his teammates saw, beginning early in this century, that he just had one big eye in the middle of his forehead. Then when he started to come to batting practice naked and carrying a dead chicken, that also should have been a clue something was going on.
Bonds et al. should be shunned, not honored. These villains may deny the obvious, but their denials carry the credibility of other famous dodges, such as: “There’s no such thing as the mafia,” and, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.”
Wednesday’s selection of three fine athletes — Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas — to baseball’s hall, and the continued exclusion of the pharmaceutically enhanced, demonstrates that even in our post-everything world, most of the voting baseball writers get it. But how melancholy that about a third of Cooperstown's gate-keepers believe it is right and proper to heap honors on scofflaws.
In the days leading up to the voting, we were once again abused by all the arguments in favor of celebrating those who came by much of their glory dishonestly. Most of these arguments could be filed under the categories of “Who am I too judge?” and “Hell, everybody was doing it.” Philosophy professors could use these arguments as a basis for seminars in nihilism and moral relativism. That the thinking (if such it is) behind these arguments is so much a part of all spheres of life today, goes a long way toward explaining why in the history of Western Civilization we are now in late December.
The four voting writers from my hometown paper, the Tampa Tribune, split 50-50 on Bonds and Clemens. Veteran sportswriter Joe Henderson shared with me his reasons for giving thumbs up to both. His approach obviously does not persuade me, but to give him credit, he presents the only respectable (barely) case for inclusion, to wit: both Bonds and Clemens have Hall of Fame numbers even if any juiced years are excluded. This is true. But while their honest performances are worthy of recognition, their offenses against the game and against baseball fans were mighty.
Pete Rose was cast into outer darkness for less. Charlie Hustle’s activities only brought into question the outcomes of games he may have bet on. Juiced players clearly stole games for their teams and glory for themselves in the nineties (and probably beyond). If players like Barry Bonds belong in the Hall of Fame, what the hell is Pete doing on the porch?
Barry Bonds holds two of the most revered records in Major League baseball: home runs in one season and lifetime homeruns. Both of these records are almost certainly frauds. The only thing the morally discerning sportswriter could justify voting for Bonds for would be inclusion in the Baseball Hall of Shame, or, considering Bonds’ prickly personality and narcissism, for president of the Bay Area chapter of Jerks Without Borders.
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