In 2014, the Veterans Committee returns to the "modern" era. And Torre and La Russa are on the ballot as managers.
But should they be in Cooperstown, given that the Baseball Writers Association of America has punished recently retired players who have used performance-enhancing drugs, incluing players managed by Torre and La Russa?
You know, like Roger Clemens, and Mark McGwire?
This is especially a matter for debate and discussion since former Major Leaguer Eric Byrnes has now joined longtime sportswriter Thomas Boswell in claiming that the Baseball Hall of Fame already contains, in Byrnes' words, not just a member, but a "prominent" member who was a serious user of performance-enhancing drugs.
Here's the money quote:
Disturbingly, not long ago I was having dinner with a former long time Major League player that spoke about the steroid use of a prominent Hall of Famer that played the majority of his career in the 70′s and 80′s… Ha! Not like I was shocked but damn… So many members of the Hall of Fame, including this character, have recently spoken out and condemned guys who have had ties to performance enhancing drugs, saying there is no place for “cheaters” in the HOF.OK, "prominent." From Byrnes' angle, I take that not necessarily as a first-ballot HOFer, though it certainly could be, as someone who is well-known, keeps in the public eye, etc.
When Boswell's statement came out in 2010, some sites, like Wezen-Ball, speculated on who it might be. That said, per a poll I put up at the time, in a follow-up piece, Wezen-Ball has a 1988 quote from Boswell that indicates TLR Tony La Russa had some idea what was up and therefore, from where I stand, should be kept out of the Hall just as much as Barry Bonds and the aforementioned duo.
The fact that La Russa wanted to ink Bonds to a Cardinal contract when he was a free agent after 2007 also points to his total lack of innocence on this issue.
(For the money, poll respondents said they thought the actual, original Mr. October was Byrnes' most likely guy.)
But, in the case of both La Russa and Torre, but especially the former, the questions don't stop there.
And, in Oakland, TLR managed the two most notorious known, admitted users in Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. Re Big Mac, TLR has claimed he didn't notice anything, didn't know anything. He's been more circumspect about Canseco. That's why I'd love a, say, Ken Rosenthal to put both of them, La Russa and Canseco, in the same interview room at the same time. Because, to be honest, I don't believe La Russa. And, given that he's got a law degree, he knows just how to parse and shade his language.
And, although La Russa seems "dirty," given his connection to Canseco and his "milkshake," let's not let Torre off the hook too lightly either.
What about Torre and his Yankee years? I said before that I thought Bonds' courtroom appearance twin, Roger Clemens, was juicing before that. Then there's Andy Pettitte who, yes, has apologized, and I said that Torre was probably not aware of Andy. But, I don't know. Whether he should have been aware of "Muchie Peachie" and others (Jason Giambi, pre- or post-apology) is a different question.
That said, here's my thoughts on likely roiders among players. It applies to La Russa and Torre, too. (To riff on Ricky Ricardo, you got some 'splaining to do, and some apologizing, along with the players union, management, and now, I would say, at least one field manager.)
We can make some sort of guesstimate as to how your managerial career might have panned out without the "help." And, making it to three straight World Series in Oakland, then having a juiced Mac welcome a trade to St. Louis, to break Roger Maris' record, might not have happened, either.
That said, Torre might not deserve a 100 percent pass, either. How much did Yankee roiding help his team win four World Series in five years, and make it to five in six years?
So now, we're going to find out how well the Veterans Committee has studied this issue and how much it concerns them.
And, no, this is not a snarky attack on the BBWAA or anything similar. It's a legitimate issue, I think.
And, managing roiding players aside, how do we judge "borderline" managers? See here for my cry for a WAR for managers.
This all is also complicated by one other issue, an issue we all saw illustrated during the World Series. Both Torre and La Russa now work for MLB, for ... Commissioner Bud Selig, he of ostrich-head in the sands during the early years of roiding, followed by playing Marshal Matt Dillon, with the help of leaking to a complicit, compliant press after that.
Given that the Veterans Committee is a partial creature of the commissioner's office, though its members are picked by the BBWAA, will it crap in Bud's retirement bed?
About as likely as Bud is to ban the DH from the American League.
But, if you want to persuade them otherwise, here's the committee's members:
This year's committee includes Hall of Famers Rod Carew, Carlton Fisk, Whitey Herzog, Tom Lasorda, Paul Molitor, Joe Morgan, Phil Niekro and Frank Robinson; Blue Jays president Paul Beeston; retired club executive Andy MacPhail; Phillies president Dave Montgomery; White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf; Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau; Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle; Baseball Writers' Association of American Secretary-Treasurer Jack O'Connell; and retired Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter Jim Reeves.But should the VC find the same conscience I do? I'll get it to try. I still have to contact the BBWAA to keep Jack Morris out of the Hall one more year. It will be an uphill sled with HOF players possibly not buying my argument that a manager should be aware of this stuff, plus Whitey and Tommy surely in their corner. But, gotta try! (And, the Morris contacts are now pretty well done!)
By the way, just like my stance on Big Mac, my stance on TLR should be proof I'm not so much a Cardinal homer that I can't stand up for truth, justice, and the real baseball way.
Meanwhile, there's a third manager on the ballot.
Bobby Cox? I've heard nary a rumor about any Braves roiding. Nor, laughingly, other than his propensity for getting tossed out of games, does he have any real black marks of other sorts. Obviously, although the Braves only cleared the World Series victory hump once, his teams had an incredible run during the 1990s. Vote him in.
Otherwise, there's also two other overdue people. Folks, labor leader Marvin Miller and catching great Ted Simmons, who had the misfortune of playing in Johnny Bench's shadow, in the same league, for much of his career, should also both be in the Hall.
And, what good is a post like this without a poll?