From the archives: Baseball and the Romantics

While I’m taking a summer break from the blog, I’m reposting and updating selected links from the archive.

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With another Baseball Hall of Fame Class having been inducted into Cooperstown, I thought I’d dig into the XCs vault and link to a post from January 2013, “Baseball’s Dwindling Romantics,” about Hall of Fame voting and steroids.

The new development coming out of the most recent festivities is that the Baseball Writers Association of America has reduced the time for newly-retired candidates to remain on the eligible list from 15 to 10 years. The HOF and writers explicitly deny the move was made given the long list of eligibles from the so-called steroids era.

But the new rule means that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have only eight years remaining to reach the 75 percent threshold of a plurality of votes from sportswriters, instead of 13. Both have received fewer than 40 percent in each of their first two years of eligibility, and their second-year percentage dropped slightly. The Romantics are still deeply entrenched among establishment writers, and clearly have the upper hand here.

Blood SportAlso new is the publication of”Blood Sport,” which details Major League Baseball’s investigation of the Biogenesis lab. The book was written by Tom Elfrink and Gus Garcia-Roberts of the Miami New Times, which broke a good deal of the story that eventually led to the current season-long suspension of Alex Rodriguez.

Dave Sheinin of The Washington Post writes in a review that “there is a tangible sense of steroids fatigue among baseball observers.” The most useful material in “Blood Sport,” he says, doesn’t come along until there are 100 pages left.

There’s a clear understanding among non-Romantics, especially a new wave of baseball writers skeptical of absolutist pontificating, about the role and history of steroids in a sport that was the last to bring down the hammer. As I wrote last January:

“The black-and-white persistence of the Romantics is fading away, but not because of any perceived moral relativism by a younger generation of writers or players who may shrug their shoulders at ‘juicing.’ There is a heavy dose of realism and probity that is entering the discussion, a strong counter to those who wish to oversimplify.”

The A-Rod suspension may have pleased the Romantics. But the actions of Bud Selig’s henchmen and the commissioner himself, in rendering a purely arbitrary punishment, should be more worrisome than anything ballplayers ever injected into their blood streams.

Especially when the now-retiring Selig sat on his hands for years, fully aware of what was transpiring in his domain.

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