Murray Chass Comes Out From The Crypt To Make Salient Hall ArgumentS

If he is to be taken at his word, this is the final year that blog-hating blogger Murray Chass will be voting for baseball's Hall of Fame; few, at least in these parts, will be sad to see him bid that responsibility adieu. His reasoning behind this decision is predictably loony – he wants nothing to do with the steroid era, yet desperately wants Jack Morris in the Hall, so he's just gonna vote until Morris is no longer on eligible, then call it quits.

In revealing his 2013 ballot, Chass has graciously deigned to include Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine alongside Morris as worthy of baseball immortality. Maybe, just maybe, he'll feel Frank Thomas is a viable candidate, but he needs a little more time to think about that one. Setting aside for a second the absurdity of a ballot that includes Glavine but not Mike Mussina or Curt Schilling, and a ballot that might include Thomas but not Jeff Bagwell, his PED carpet-bombing (which Leitch highlighted, with a little help from the always-great Craig Calcaterra) actually helps shine a bit of the spotlight onto the managers who benefitted from the Steroid Era as much as the users themselves.

Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre were all unanimously inducted into the Hall of Fame earlier this month by the expansion era committee – a group of 16 baseball executives, writers, and Hall of Fame players and managers. Many of the same people fighting to lock the doors of Cooperstown before any PED user enters the hallowed grounds are more than happy to extend invitations to some of the men who enabled, if not encouraged, that use.

It's exceedingly likely that every single clubhouse had PED users, and no right-minded person would expect a manager to quash the benefit to his team while baseball itself implicitly encouraged use. But LaRussa and Torre, in particular, accumulated hundreds of wins and several titles each with the help of players who, as it stands now, have no shot of being inducted: Canseco and McGwire (twice), Clemens, A-Rod, Pettitte, Giambi, Canseco (again). As with most steroids arguments, this doesn't even take into account the dozens, or hundreds, of PED users who never reached the superstar stratosphere – your 4A bench guys, league-average players, eminently replaceable bullpen arms.

Back to Chass:

LaRussa and Torre might not have used steroids themselves, but they benefitted from players who did. Why should those players be penalized but the managers they helped are rewarded?

A manager is responsible for knowing what goes on in his clubhouse and not bury [sic] himself in his office so he doesn't know.

Chass points out that LaRussa has joked around about knowing what Canseco was up to, although he staunchly defended McGwire against his accusers until the morning of Big Mac's public admission of guilt. If you believe that the managers knew what was going on in their clubhouses and locker rooms, then their records should be suspect and held to the same exacting standards of the players whose performances are considered tainted. After all, the strongest piece of PED evidence I've heard against Bagwell has been that he was teammates with Ken Caminiti and didn't, I don't know, publicly hang him from the Astrodome roof or something.

The converse is that the managers were truly in the dark, and hadn't the slightest idea what the players were injecting and ingesting while they hobnobbed with reporters, drank beer, and ate peanuts in their offices mere feet away from the locker room. Of course, if Torre, LaRussa and Cox (David Justice and Gary Sheffield were the most famous among several Braves named in the Mitchell Report, while in the biggest bombshell to hit the majors since 1919, John Rocker has admitted being a steroid user) were really that clueless, wouldn't that indicate a sub-Cooperstownian level of leadership among those managers?

Maybe. Or maybe Murray Chass, the BBWAA, the Hall of Fame and baseball itself just have no idea what the hell they're doing and are quite content with their selective justice.

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