Home Page

Baseball Analysis  John Holway


A Rose by Any Other Name Would Still Be Thorny

By John B Holway

It is the seventh game of the 2003 American League playoff. Pedro Martinez is leading the Yankees 4-0. The leadoff man in the fifth, Jason Giambi, smacks a home run for the Yankees’ first run. He comes up again in the seventh and lofts a mighty blast into the distant upper deck in rightfield to make it 4-2. Thanks to those two blows, the Yanks tie the game 5-5 in the eighth after Boston manager Grady Little refuses to lift Martinez. The exhausted Pedro gives up three runs. Without Giambi’s two homers, the Red Sox would have won the pennant by a score of 5-3. Instead, the Yanks win in the 11th on Aaron Boone’s home run.

“The Curse of the Bambino” strikes again. Another Red Sox choke.

Now we know that it was not the Babe. It was the Curse of the BALCO Lab. Giambi’s bulging muscles that powered those two home runs came, not from the good lord, but from a needle. The Yankees won, thanks to a now notorious steroid cheater.

Pete Rose was never accused of, never admitted, and was never found guilty of altering the outcome of a game by illegal or unfair means. Yet Pete is banned from baseball for life.

No lesser punishment should be meted out to Giambi and all other cheaters who got secret and unfair chemical help to win riches for themselves and championships for their teams.

If they had been caught in the Olympics, the guilty party and all his teammates, innocent or not, would be stripped of their medals, denounced, disgraced, and banned. No mercy, no exceptions. Their gold medals would be expunged from the record, and the silver medallist would move up to gold etc.

By the same token, the Yankees should be stripped of their 2003 and 2004 division championships. The Marlins, whose Gary Sheffield also used a steroid, should lose their 2003 World Series rings.

After Barry Bonds started consorting with BALCO, he led the Giants to two division titles, both over the Dodgers. The record books should also take those flags away from San Francisco.

Ken Caminiti is another who admitted that he cheated in 1995, adding 14 home runs and 36 RBI’s and going from zero MVP votes to a unanimous choice over Mike Piazza. Ken’s team, the Padres, added 21 victories to climb from next to last to first, one game ahead of Los Angeles. San Diego should lose its title too.

Yes, the whole team.

How innocent are their teammates, coaches, managers, and owners? It’s hard to believe that nobody knew what was going on. Any displays of chest-beating amazement sounds hypocritical and theatrical. New York’s Joe Torre, San Francisco’s Dusty Baker, St Louis’s Tony LaRussa, Florida’s Jack McKeown, and other managers certainly must have known what had been going on in their own clubhouses.

When Bonds shot up from 37 homers to 73 in three years, I can't believe that Baker never stroked his chin and said, “Hmmm.” That 73 was in only 476 at bats. Historically a home run champ comes up 550 times. On that basis Barry would have slugged 84 homers at the age of 36. Don’t tell me that that didn't raise any eyebrows.

I once asked Torre’s predecessor as Yankee skipper, Buck Showalter, if he knew about a certain statistic I had dug up on his pitcher, Jimmy Key. “It’s my business know,” Buck shot back. Well, it was Torre’s business to know too.

Nor can George Steinbrenner et al pretend surprise, protesting, like Claude Raines in the movie, Casablanca, “I'm shocked, do you hear me? Shocked!” If the Yankee boss can keep tabs on Derek Jeter’s jaunts to the nightclubs, you can bet he kept tabs on what his other multi-million-dollar investments were ingesting and injecting.

The Yankees’ harrumphing about breaking Giambi’s contract has less to do with moral outrage then with old-fashioned greed. The man is damaged goods now and no longer worth what Steinbrenner would have to pay him for the rest of his contract.

Whatever punishments are meted out to the malefactors, they should be meted out to the coaches, managers, and owners too. And we fans as well – we’re the ones who demand home runs and rush to the ticket windows to pay for them.

Of course, none of that is going to happen.

We can't go back and replay the last two post-seasons, let alone the pennant races, and certainly not the entire last decade.

Rearranging the standings won't help anyway. Some of those

Red Sox didn't look any too skinny to me. My guess is that steroids were pandemic up and down every big league roster.

I'd give the whole decade a big asterisk. Or treat it like the 1942-45 World War II years. “Major league” baseball played three seasons; it crowned pennant winners and “world champions” and awarded batting and home run titles. But everyone knows those seasons were not the same as the other 97 years of the century.

Neither is the past decade.

Total Baseball can run a note in its future editions: “We will never know what the individual and team statistics would have been without steroids. The following are provided for academic purposes only,” and put the suspect data in italics.

Today Pete Rose, who never cheated to win a single game, languishes as a baseball outcaste, the heavy doors of Cooperstown clanged shut in his face. It would be the height of hypocrisy if Bonds, Mark McGuire, and other flagrant cheaters should stand on the dais there while Commissioner Bud Selig hands them their plaques to fill the space left empty by Rose.

John B Holway is a free-lance writer of 12 books on baseball. His latest, Blackball Stars, will be published in January, 2005.

HomeGuru's Baseball Book StoreLink to UsBraintrust & Mailing ListsEmail the GuruContact InfoBaseball Analysis Home