These are usually pleasant conversations — which players or teams are making big moves in the off season, to what degree the Cubs are expected to suck, random trivia.
However, it was a dark day in January when news broke that no one had been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame for 2013.
Guys with multiple records and championships to their credit were on the ballot, but baseball writers refused to vote them in because there is a strong possibility (although often little proof) that they took steroids at some point in their careers.
If Ken Burns’s “The Tenth Inning” taught me anything, it is that the steroid era was much more complicated than egomaniacs choosing to cheat.
Zac has a definite opinion about this issue, which he put to paper the day that the doors of the Hall of Fame were shut on several players who were talented long before they were linked to steroids.
“I have something I want you to read,” he announced that night.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Well, it’s kind of a column, I guess,” he said.
I have never known Zac to write more than a grocery list, so I was immediately intrigued.
As I read it, I was even more surprised by how professional it sounded. It confirmed what most writers eventually come to believe — our talent really isn’t that rare and it’s a wonder we get paid for it at all.
Since Zac has a few fans of his own in the area, I thought it might be fun to share his thoughts on one of his favorite subjects, baseball. So without further adieu, here is Zachary Cohron’s writing debut.
“This year’s MLB Hall of Fame ballot was considered one of the deepest in history. With plenty of shoe-ins, statistically this year’s class should have been huge compared to other years.
“The ballot includes the likes of Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmerio, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza. Bonds and Clemens are the most decorated hitter and pitcher in the history of the game.
“Yet not a single player received enough votes to be inducted this coming July. Why?
“The answer to that question lies in the fact that some of those stats may have been inflated by performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) a.k.a. steroids. Voters are hesitant to vote in these great players of their generation because they may or may not have used steroids. I know some have admitted to using and others have vehemently denied using them.
“Here is the problem with that rationale. How do you know for certain who was or who wasn’t using PEDs? There was no drug testing in baseball for most of their careers, so there aren’t many positive tests from the players on the ballot (Palmeiro tested positive in ‘05).
“How do you know for certain that some players that are already in the Hall of Fame DIDN’T use PEDs? Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gwynn, and Barry Larkin all played the bulk of their careers in the so called “steroid era” and are members of the Hall of Fame. Prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that they or anyone else from that era didn’t use them.
“My biggest problem with omitting the players suspected of steroid use or attached to them in some way is that it is our fault (both fans and media) that steroids were allowed to thrive in the first place.
“All writers and analyst claim that the home run race in 1998 with McGwire and Sosa chasing Roger Maris’s single season record rejuvenated Major League Baseball from the 1994 strike. But during that season, a reporter for the AP named Steve Wilstein spotted a bottle of androstenedione (classified as an anabolic steroid and now banned) in McGwire’s locker after a game. He researched the product and ran a story telling the public about it and that McGwire was using it.
“What was the public’s reaction? Instead of questioning if McGwire’s record chase was tainted or not, we vilified Wilstein. We buried our heads in the sand so that we couldn’t see the thing that we didn’t want to see.
“Steroids make the ball go farther. We fell in love with monster home runs and high scoring games, and so did the owners. So more and more players used steroids to make more money and hit more homers. And we LOVED it.
“So why punish these players for giving us more of what we wanted?
“I personally think that the Hall of Fame voters shouldn’t penalize these guys for that. Until you can prove with 100 certainty which players did and did not use PEDs, then you can’t vote some of the players from that era into the Hall and not others.
“Hopefully one day the Hall of Fame voters will see that and vote in all of these great players that deserve to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“Until then, shame on you, voters.”