Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sammy, Steroids, and Scandals

There are few things in life as polarizing as the message board in a very active fantasy league. From bickering over rules to showing exasperation when leaving three home runs on the bench and everything in between, it can be a source of great entertainment throughout the baseball season.

If you are in a league where the members are mostly unfamiliar with each other, the message board is probably used primarily as a place to announce trade needs or to comment on recent transactions. Occasionally it is used by the more vocal among us as a tool to engage others in smack talk, but it can be hard to gauge how some people will react to that unless there is already an out-of-league acquaintance.

If you are in a league where most members are already friends away from the game though, the message board can become an entirely different animal. In addition to everything listed above, the posts in these leagues tend to evolve into something much more dramatic. If you are at all familiar with this, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If not, I can only suggest that you start a fantasy league with your buddies and see what happens.

In one particular league I am in, a league that has had the same core members for almost ten years, the posts can get downright out of hand. There are at least five posts a day, some days many more than that and a lot of them involve things which I could never repeat anywhere, let alone in a public blog.

With that as a backdrop, I wanted to share something that recently became a topic of much debate in our league. It started with the announcement of Sammy Sosa’s retirement on Thursday, and what ensued was a bantering back and forth about the impact of steroids in baseball. Now, keep in mind that we are simply a group of friends that happen to enjoy playing fantasy baseball. We aren’t serious journalists, nor should we be seen as such, especially in this forum. I have looked at some of the “facts” represented in some of these posts and, other than the blatant opinion statements, everything does seem to be in order.

Being based in Indianapolis, there are quite a few Cubs fans in this league, which I bring up only to explain the tone of some of the posts, especially the first one which was posted by me right after someone made a snarky comment about how he thought that Sosa had been retired for years. Here it is:

Maybe now everyone can start remembering Sammy Sosa for what he was: One of the best all-around baseball players of all-time, one of the three heroes that saved baseball when the strike happened (Cal Ripken and Judge Sotomayor being the other two), someone who truly loved being both a great baseball player and a great entertainer, and the adolescent hero of many present-day 30-something Cubs fans. Myself being one. Too bad Sammy had to be one of the first martyrs of this steroid-McCarthyism era we live in.

Let me explain my reasoning behind this post. First of all, it struck me that if someone had told me nine years ago that the retirement of Sammy Sosa would be a laughable event, I would have had them committed. Secondly, I’ve finally come to grips with the “clubhouse cancer” Sammy and the “corked bat” Sammy. It took me a while, but I once again have fond memories of a player that I once regarded as my favorite Cub of all-time. Thirdly, as this steroid-era drama unfolds, it has become clear that the outrage level is lessening with each passing day. Sosa was one of the original villains in this saga, and still finds himself on the outside looking in, meanwhile Manny Ramirez is the latest case, and he will have his job back in less than a month.

At any rate, this post struck a chord with my league-mates, and they had numerous responses. Here are most of them, which I have tried to censor where necessary, but still remain for mature audiences only:

That was sarcasm and/or satire, right?? (Eric #1)

It was most definitely neither. I've decided this whole steroid-era thing is ridiculous. Not that Sammy ever tested positive for anything anyway. He paid his dues by never getting the proper treatment during his twilight years. Instead he had to play for the O's and the Rangers with fans disrespecting him everywhere he went. I'll consider that his penalty for corking his bat and being an occasional prima donna from '02 to '04. But that's all he deserves. I'm convinced that the only guys who are going to really get vilified for the steroids crap are Bonds, McGwire, Palmeiro, and Sosa. Even Manny is already getting a pass compared to any of them. It's a load of crap. Put Sammy In The Hall!!!! (Me)

Uh Josh, what did you smoke tonight before you posted? McGwire, Bonds, Palmeiro and Sosa are going to be the only steroids era scapegoats? Uh, first off, did you forget about Clemens and A-Rod? They have only been in the news over this very issue within the past 2 months. Also, if you think Sammy didn't do steroids then you need to hook me up with your dealer because I've never even seen some s*** like you must be smoking. That guy was a complete fraud. At least Bonds and Clemens were good before they doped. Sosa was a scrawny .235, 50RBI, 15HR, 65R hitter for the White Sox as I recall. Then he hits the ‘roids and bangs out 60. If you want to make your case for one guy who did it clean that would be Griffey. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that he did it too, but if I had to bet a dollar, my money is on Griffey as being the only legit guy in this FUBAR era. (Chris)

What about Manny? What about Pettite? What about the fact that Griffey started having all kinds of injuries? How do you know he didn't take steroids early in his career, and then stop when someone said something to him? What about Pujols? He wasn't even much of a prospect and now he's like a machine. What about Giambi? Nobody even cares about him. Where are you gonna draw the line Chris? And not only you, where are all of us supposed to draw the line? Apparently we are drawing it with just those four guys I mentioned, because everyone else, other than Clemens, is getting a pass. And he would've gotten one if he had kept his stupid mouth shut. I hate to see that you've fallen for MLB's bulls*** Chris. F*** that, we are supposed to just take the Mitchell Report's word for it that everybody is clean now. Bunch of bulls***. I've decided I'm going the other way. I'm going to assume that everyone was doing something and still probably is and everything that I've seen over the past 15 years is perfectly legitimate, and that's why Sosa belongs in the HOF. (Me)

Okay I'm about tired of this s*** I'm going to put my two cents worth and be done. I am a baseball fan. There is nothing better than sitting at the ball park with a beer and a hotdog and watching the game (okay well maybe one thing I can think of is better). I love home runs, grand slams, hitting for the cycle, a good double play, a great pitching performance and a no hitter. I don't give a s*** how it got there. If they used some stuff while working out or to help them heal from an injury quicker, I don't care. It was available to everybody and it's MLB's fault that it went on so long and it's ESPN and baseball writers that tell me I should care so much. And, as far as the HOF goes, I say take a step back and take a look at what players like Clemens and others did on the field and vote them in accordingly. Then, as I think Gammons said, put up a plaque telling us about the era and be done with it. That’s what I think. I'm going to Cincinnati this weekend to watch two baseball games. Hell, I love the game so much I'm driving three hours to watch two teams I HATE. And I know there will be players on the field that probably have or are taking something and the moral of this whole post is I DON'T CARE. (Brian)

There are bad characters and cheaters in the HOF from other eras. I will be pissed if Clemens doesn't get in first ballot no matter how much of an idiot he apparently is. I'm not as worried about McGwire because it seems to be debatable whether he is worthy (no matter how much I loved the guy and loved being at the game that he tied the record and last game he set the record in), but .263, 1400+ RBI and over 500 HR so I say no doubt. And I don't like Sammy but he did hit over 60 three times and 50 once...609 career, I guess he deserves to be in with his .273 BA and 1600+ RBI, HAHA. Regardless, 1998 has to factor in following up on 94 and then Ripken. For what it's worth, that's what I think on the matter. MORAL OF THE STORY.....I DON'T CARE ABOUT THE "ERA". --Brought to you by the committee to elect Pete Rose into the HOF (damn I hope I see if before I die). (Brian)

In essence steroids "saved" the game back in 98 and now the same people who loved what it gave the game are frowning on it? I don't get it, IMO the entire league was on it for the most part. Pitchers on roids pitching against batters on roids. Let stats be stats, whoever makes it to the HOF we all know which era they played in. So really the debate comes when people try to compare players from different eras. Even Hank Aaron took amphetamines, and who knows who was doing what and for how long. Not to mention that the NFL and NBA most certainly have their fair share of players using PEDs but it's just not being talked about as much. Lance Armstrong did roids, the list goes on, s*** I did roids and I didn't make it to the HOF, what the hell is up with that? (Eric #2)

Normally I'm a smartass and a dick on these posts but I will be serious for a second. First, 1998 was the best baseball year I have ever seen as a fan. (Yeah, I'm a homer when it comes to my Cubbies) Those two DID save the game. I don't give two s***s about what anyone has to say about it. AMERICA was captivated by the chase and the personalities of those saviors of the game. I find it disgusting that ALL of us would sit there, watch, applaud, cheer, and then question how we got there. Take a look in the mirror gentlemen. We all were going out of our heads watching the race that year. If you say that you were not then you are flat out lying. It is very hypocritical for us as fans to be so accepting of the entertainment and then a decade later question the manner of which it was provided. One of the beauties and the curses of the most wonderful game in the world is that there is ways to "cheat". There will always and forever be cheating in the game. As sure as there are wood bats, four bases, and the Cubbies not winning the World Series, there will always be cheating. (Jeff)

We cannot have our cake and eat it too guys. I have been to the HOF, guys. I have ZERO problem with having Sammy, Mark, Barry, and Roger in there. Matter of fact, the only time that I went to the holiest of places there was a lot of their stuff on display there already. Other than Rafael Palmeiro I have no problem with any one of the above mentioned getting in. (Raph you lied before god and your country. You are a d*****bag. rot in hell). There have been many other more vile things that go on in the game guys. Given the situation we all would have gone the same rout those dudes did. AND FOR THE RECORD.......Pete should be in. NO QUESTIONS ASKED (Jeff)

Since you all feel so good about Sosa and McGwire and rest of the roid ragers, I assume you are all fine with the fact that guys like Greg Maddux got robbed out of who knows how many wins because these losers had an unfair advantage. You are taking a much more casual approach to this than you should. It would be one thing if "everyone" did it, but you need to remember that steroids were illegal, and there were many guys (more than half the league) that attempted to earn a living clean and whose careers will always be tarnished by deflated numbers due to cheaters like McGwire and "Sneezy McBatCorker". By the way, what was so great about '98 other than the fact that two guys on roids were hitting out dingers? It would be like 2 guys in NASCAR winning every race because they were allowed to race cars that were faster than what everyone else was allowed to run. I remember '98 being just another year other than all of the home runs which we now know were not legit. (Chris)

How s****y must baseball be that 2 guys could, or would even need to, "save" it? If any of you could tell me exactly what steroids saved about baseball that would be great. I need you to clear that up for me. That statement makes as much sense to me as "baseball is America's game" when 9 out of 10 players are foreigners. Just so you all know, ratings are lower for baseball now than they have ever been, so they didn't save s***. I argue the exact opposite. McGwire and Sneezy McBatCorker, along with all of the other cheaters and roid ragers ruined baseball to the point that many people don't even watch it anymore. 9 out of 10 people (me included) are counting down the days until football starts. I've actually been counting down the days since the Super Bowl ended. Baseball sucks. The only reason I play fantasy baseball is because it is way too easy taking your money every year. (Chris)

If you want to know why baseball needed "saving", take a look at the NHL right now. They currently have some of the best young players their sport has ever seen, but nobody is watching. They are on VS network, or pay-per-view, or occasionally on NBC, but they still haven't brought all of the fans back that left them when they went on strike a few years ago. The NHL playoffs have been great this year, but nobody cares enough to notice other than hardcore hockey fans. They are going to need something ridiculous to happen for them to fully recover and become a major sport again. Whatever the hockey equivalent of the home run chase would do it. Most goals in a season? Most points? I'm not sure what it would be. (Me)

Most of those foreigners you speak of are still from the "Americas" hence the game can still be referred to as "Americas game" it's not just the United States game. I too love football season and nothing really gets me more pumped than when the season starts. But how can you really say baseball sucks? A joke right? And you're not taking any of my money this year just for the record, as a matter of fact I've still got some of yours stashed away from last season, thanks. (Eric #2)

Well said Jeff, well said. I think you actually helped express what I was trying to say. And, you are right Josh. The Hockey playoffs have been great this year and the young talent in the league is incredible. Wasn't it the game the other night when every goal scored by the Penguins was scored by players under like 24? With that being said, hockey was never on the same level as the other major sports but it's not even back to where it was. Baseball did need saving. I was never leaving the game because of the strike (even though my Rangers were in first at the time...haha) but many people did. The very next year was Ripken and that helped but that was too soon after the strike. Give it a few more years and here comes 1998 and one of the greatest things I've even seen in the "homerun" derby put on by McGwire and Sosa. I actually saw 5 of McGwire's homeruns in person including a game against Sammy, the record tying HR and 69and70 the last game of the year. To be there in the moment and experience the atmosphere...sure I was disappointed about the strike and that year just showed me how much I really loved the game, the ballpark and the fans. And THAT'S how 1998 saved baseball. Or if you don't like the word "saved" then it sure did a whole hell of a lot for the game. (Brian)

Just to add my thoughts, I think saving baseball is too strong, but the home run race did create a buzz around the country. It is not why I watch baseball, it was not then and it is not today. I have been disappointed with how McGwire and Sosa have handled the steroid issues. I believe the best player from this era belong in hall of fame regardless of steroid use. They are product of this era. Just on side note. If I could take a pill that would increase my income by half, even if it shortened my life by ten years I would take it. I am not talking millions here. Does make me immoral I do not believe so. I will not be holding baseball players to a different standard than I do myself. (Elmer)

At this point, the conversation started to devolve into who may or may not think that hockey sucks, in case you were wondering. Also, I did mention to my friends that I may use their quotes in my blog, but not until the hockey corollary post.
So having seen what these guys think, and listened to people talk freely about how they feel about PED’s in sports, I think the direction we are headed is clear. Soon, we will come off of our high horse and accept the players, records, and scandals of this era no more differently than any other era. For Sammy’s sake, I hope that happens soon. Happy retirement, Sammy.


  1. Will Carroll from BP linked to this off his Twitter, and I like your tone, Josh. I asked the other day whether anyone had actually stopped watching baseball because of the steroids issue. I haven't, and as far as I know, none of the yahoos have stopped calling into WEEI. It seems a noisy issue hyped by the media as opposed to something fans actually care about.

  2. Absolutely agreed. The fans don't care anywhere near as much as we're "supposed to", according to the media. It's time we started sticking up for ourselves. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Just to nit-pick around the edges, not sure Sosa should be described as one of the greatest "all around players." The guy was basically Torii Hunter during his 20s without the outstanding center field defense. Terrible plate discipline, low batting average, a bit of pop, good speed with poor base stealing acumen, etc. Obviously starting in his age 29 season he morphed into a video game player, but he retained the poor plate discipline and all-or-nothing approach throughout his career.

  4. Yeah. Nit-picking is allowed. And it's really not nit-picking if you're 100% correct. When I wrote that, on the MB, I knew it was a full-of-crap statement, but I wanted to see if anyone caught it. They did to a point, but none of them directly called me out on it. I'll give you the points for it. Thanks for the comment.

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