- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
I've thought more about an argument that Bob Costas presented the other day about the steroid era Hall of Fame candidates. The key word of his thesis -- embraced by others employed by MLB Network and Major League Baseball -- was "authentic." What he outlined, in so many words, is a search for "authenticity."
The argument could be made, he said, that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were already Hall of Famers before they started using performance-enhancing drugs -- which, he seemed to be suggesting, made them more authentic than others. Some achievements and some players, he seemed to suggest, were authentic, while others lacked authenticity.
It's an interesting ideal for which to aim, and the beauty of it is you really can move the line anywhere you want.
Is there authenticity in the numbers of Babe Ruth, who played at a time when the sport was segregated? Is there authenticity in anything that happened before 1947? Are Hank Aaron's numbers more authentic than those of Ruth? Are Barry Bonds' numbers more authentic than those of Aaron and Ruth, because the game is more globalized, with the greater number of international participants providing a larger pool of talent?
What about the war years, when rosters were depleted because stars like Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Willie Mays were in the military? Are those years authentic? When Williams was out of baseball to serve in Korea, were the numbers of the American League pitchers less authentic?
How about the '60s, when the pitching was so dominant, so overwhelming, that the powers that be decided to lower the mound. Is Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA in 1968 authentic? Is there authenticity in Sandy Koufax's feats?
What about the performances of the stars of the dead ball era -- Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and many others? Because they played at a time when the baseballs used essentially turned into shot puts during the course of the action, are those numbers authentic?
What about the records produced with a 162-game season? Are they less authentic than the numbers generated in a 154-game season? (It seems longtime commissioner Ford Frick went down this road when he attached an asterisk to Roger Maris' 61 homers in 1961, because apparently in his eyes, Maris' single-season home run record was less authentic than Ruth's home run record.)
Are the World Series titles won since the advent of the divisional era in 1969 less authentic, because it could be argued that winning a league of eight or 10 teams over the course of the regular season is a much more difficult task? Or are the titles won in the wild-card era more authentic, because teams have had to go through two or three or even four rounds of playoffs?
Testing for amphetamines started in 2006, and a lot of players and executives strongly believe that the offensive numbers have declined because most players haven't been able to use speed in the way that a high percentage of players did for a period of about half a century. So do the numbers generated since amphetamine testing began lack authenticity? Or is it the numbers produced with greenies that lack authenticity? (Keep in mind: Some current Hall of Famers have acknowledged using amphetamines.)
It's all very complicated.
There's probably an easier way to determine authenticity than by trying to assess mental demerits: You open the record book; click on Baseball-Reference.com. Everything in there is authentic, because it happened. It's all real; you can look up the box scores, for when Ruth mashed his 60th home run in 1927, when Maris hit No. 61 in '61.
You can look up the 1919 World Series, with the 12 errors by the White Sox notated, or Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, or the amazing twists in the 2001 World Series. It's all there. It all happened -- the good, the bad, the ugly.
Now, if a fan wants to assign more credence to something Ruth accomplished when he was in the live ball era, or less credence because he played at a time of segregation, that's up to him or her. If the fan wants to give more credence to something accomplished in the years saturated merely by amphetamines than in the time filled with amphetamines and steroids, well, that's the fan's prerogative. If the fan respects Gibson more than Clemens, hey, that's up to the fan.
But unless Major League Baseball steps in and wipes the history from the books -- in the way the Olympics have, in the case of Ben Johnson and others -- it's folly to question the authenticity of what happened in 1903, or 1927, or 1961, or 1998, or 2013.
It's like arguing that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are less authentic than Abraham Lincoln because Washington and Jefferson were slave owners, or that Lincoln was less authentic than Theodore Roosevelt because Lincoln once proposed the creation of a colony of African-Americans outside of the United States. Each is on Mt. Rushmore for what he accomplished in the context of his times.
Baseball's history is authentic, and whether we love all of it or only some of it, or hate some of it, it happened, on the ever-changing landscape of circumstances.
• Meanwhile, the 2014 Hall of Fame inductees were on tour, with Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas taking center stage in New York. Glavine wishes Mets fans would move past his 2007 start. Bob Klapisch asks: If Greg Maddux can't get 100 percent, then who can?
• The decision of the Baseball Writers' Association to immediately strip ESPN's Dan Le Batard of his Hall of Fame vote was inevitable, but what it accomplished, mostly, was to turn him into a Twitter martyr and folk hero.
It might've been more effective to ignore Le Batard's actions, just as the BBWAA has ignored those who cast votes for the likes of Jacque Jones and Armando Benitez. Dan's agreement with Deadspin has drawn a lot of attention, but the actual impact is negligible; there already was ongoing discussion about Hall of Fame rule changes that would've taken place regardless of Dan's ballot, and the Deadspin ballot wasn't really that much different than any other ballot. Dan, himself, has said that he doesn't think he would've submitted the ballot if the Deadspin readers produced something ridiculous.
It was worth it, Dan said.
After he was drafted by the Tigers, Verlander found a home in Lakeland, Fla., near the Tigers' spring training facility, and at this time every year, he has diligently created the platform for each of his seasons with his conditioning -- the weight work he does with his legs, in particular. That timeline is assured of being affected this year, so it will be interesting to watch the adjustments he makes because of what he can't do this January.
• A-Rod will get a really big check in five days, regardless of whether he's suspended. And an announcement could come any day now.
A-Rod is likely to challenge the arbitrator's ruling if he gets a long suspension, but the history of those sort of challenges is not good, writes Tom Harvey.
Tanaka wants to reduce concerns via the physical exam he took.
• Tony La Russa would like to work for the Mariners.
Moves, deals and decisions
2. Dayton Moore dismissed the idea of a third-base platoon, writes Pete Grathoff.
4. The Rangers announced some lower ticket prices.
• It's time for the Phillies to start spending some of their money, writes Bob Brookover.
• The Twins released their list of spring training invitees.
• The Astros have been forced to delay some promotions.
• Marlins president David Samson will participate in "Survivor."
• Chief Wahoo has not been demoted, the Indians say.
• Tim Raines has shown how times can change.
• Bobby Valentine says he was told to stop his PED investigation into one of his players.
• James Franklin is reportedly undecided.
• We'll have the Dodgers and Padres for our first broadcast of the 2014 season. Cannot wait.
And today will be better than yesterday.