Courtesy of Rob Neyer:
Jim Kaat on Alex Rodriguez and the bigger question:
When I went down to the Dominican Republic’s World Baseball Classic team practice before A-Rod opted to shut it down for the tournament and have hip surgery, I got to talk to him a little bit. He came right up to me and said, “I really appreciate your support and I was hoping to run into you and thank you.”
I told him right back that he’s an easy target, and it’s easy to pile on to the situation. I went on to tell him that I had a conversation with Bob Gibson, and we both agreed that in my playing day, if these things were readily available, we would have all been tempted to use them. I wish him a speedy recovery, and he is missed in the WBC event.
I believe that the players of the “Steroid Era” — that is, Mark McGwire and everyone since — will eventually be rehabilitated to some degree, and comments like Kaat’s will only speed the process along. The toughest barrier players like Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds face is the sportswriters’ bizarre notion that the players of the 1960s and ’70s were pure as the driven snow, and of course they wouldn’t do something so terrible as take illegal drugs to play better (even though we know that many of them did exactly that).
This is a point that came up in our discussion about steroids yesterday. The idea that today’s players are morally bankrupt and have sullied the pastime of gentlemen is silly. This game has always been populated by rogues, and we have celebrated that fact on many occasions. The stories about greenies and scuffing the ball were always told with a chuckle about those dastardly players from the past, who really knew how have a good time. Now that today’s players have been caught up in improprieties, older players have become saints, who always respected the game and worked hard to succeed. I am not excusing the steroid users, I am just pointing out that the image of baseball as a game played by gentleman has never rang true, and it is a standard that we should not hold today’s player to.
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