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Friday, August 26, 2005

Frank Robinson, Hypocrite?

Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson believes that Baltimore's Rafael Palmeiro, who recently served a ten-day suspension after testing positive for a banned steroid, should have his statistics wiped from the record books.

I've written about this before; senator Jim Bunning, a former Major League pitcher elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996 who is widely believed to have cheated on the mound, said the same thing while grandstanding at congressional steroid hearings earlier this year. (Yes, steroids in professional sports are more important, apparently, then getting to the bottom of why we're torturing political prisoners or why our president lied to get us into an oil war.)

But Frank Robinson saying this stuff opens up an even gooier can of worms. Robinson, a Hall of Fame outfielder who hit 586 home runs in a 21-year career, was a member of the Baltimore Orioles from 1966 through 1971 and played on World Series winners in '66 and '70.

Robinson was one of the toughest players of his day, a black man who admirably stood up for himself. He was also a "take no prisoners" baserunner and a true team leader.

He also played on a team that used amphetamines as if they were Life Savers.

In Jim Bouton's baseball diary of the 1969 season, Ball Four, Seattle first baseman Don Mincher (teammate of pitcher John O'Donoghue, who got greenies from his former teammates in Baltimore for the Seattle club) said, "Just about the whole Baltimore club takes them."

For some reason, nobody's been asking Frank Robinson about whether he'd return his World Series rings or allow his statistics to be wiped from the records because his teammates took greenies. (And certainly no reporter covering the Nats has had the temerity to actually ask Robinson if he used illegal drugs while he was playing to give himself an extra edge.)

So I'll do it now, even though I know Robinson will never see this article. Frank, did you take illegal drugs while you were playing? Come on, big guy. Let's hear it.


Blogger John Thorn said...

My own view might be characterized as a sigh, as hypocrisy reigns not only in baseball. Adjusting present reality by rewriting the record books or the law is an amusingly self-delusory business.

Why not wipe out pre-1947 stats because many of the best players were barred at the gate? Or "adjust" Ruth's figures because he flouted the Volstead Act? Or wipe out Radbourn's record for wins in a season because "things were different then"? I could go on, and have done so previously ( The issue is much larger than Palmeiro or Robinson, or who did what and when.

John Thorn

10:09 AM, August 26, 2005

Blogger Tom said...

Said it before, say it again: Anybody out there think that during Prohibition, that Babe Ruth wasn't drinking from a custom-made Steuben glass bowl of beer before, during , and after every damn game?

11:01 AM, August 26, 2005

Anonymous Jim Nazeyum said...

I won't argue your point about him being a hypocrite if, as you said, he used an illegal or non allowed substance in his day. And I agree with you that Congress needs to clean up its own house, and the one down the street, first.

On the other hand, I can't see that using amphetamines, which at the most is going to make a player more focused and alert - if that - is in any way comparable to injecting or otherwise using a substance which can actually help you get stronger than you could using what nature gave you.

One might make you a bit more able to respond quickly, the other might make you hit the ball harder and farther. Not exactly the same thing.

Not sure where Babe Ruth's drinking fits into any of this - seems to me that probably put him at a disadvanage!

7:57 PM, August 26, 2005

Blogger Stuart Shea said...

Well, I have two responses to Mr. N. First of all, we don't yet know what the real effects of steroids are. The players who take them almost always take them as part of a program including intense exercise and specific diet. It's too early to tell either the long-term or short-term effects, because users have been understandably leery of being analyzed.

Second, I don't see how the effects of the drug make a difference here. Increased focus and acuity are actually very valuable skills for an athlete, although again it's hard to tell exactly what effect speed has, because the athletes who use it do it in secret.

The simple fact of the matter is that we don't know the real effects of these drugs--only the perceived ones. Until scientists are able to truly study the effects on the athletes in question, it'll all be conjecture.

Bottom line--if something's illegal, it's illegal. Frank Robinson knows that, and Jim Bunning knows that, and they're just pretending to be morally superior. And that's a big pile of bullshit.

8:52 AM, August 27, 2005

Anonymous Jim T. Shured said...

Well, the illegality of it isn't the issue for me. Plenty of things which have no business being illegal are, nonetheless, against the law. I won't find fault with someone simply for breaking a law, if that law isn't worthy of being a law. Marijuana use and Prostitution come to mind (despite the fact that I've never partaken of either).

Assuming for a moment (a large assumption, I'll admit) that both the items used have done what the users believe them to have done, the two effects are simply not comparable. Being more alert is a slight advantage, if that. Being freakishly strong is big time cheating.

Seriously, I happened to find, at the end of an old videotape, the beginning of a world series game from the '80's or early '90's, featuring Oakland, and Mark McGwire was there, in what I believe was his rookie year or perhaps his second year. It was not even the same guy that he turned out to be years later - it was as if he got blown up as if in a cartoon. I've recently seen the same thing in side by side images of Barry Bonds.

I find it impossible to believe that training alone did that. And again, if I'm right, that's a far bigger unfair advantage than being on speed has ever given anyone, in any endeavor.

In my opinion.

5:32 PM, August 28, 2005

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do agree with you. I just feel a certain ball player who wrote a book, because he was black listed got all the flax. He actually took steroids for a medical condition. I'm just saying that he was judged too quickly.

3:59 PM, September 01, 2005


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