We hear so much about the steroids guys being kept out of the Hall of Fame because they fail the “integrity and character” test. Specifically, the language right on the ballot that instructs the voters to consider “the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
Over at SB Nation, Rob Neyer asks why, all of a sudden, that standard is being considered when it was never considered before. At least not consistently. And this isn’t about Ty Cobb being a racist or any of that stuff we usually hear. This is specifically about the character and integrity shown by baseball players — or rather, the lack of it — in a manner which had a material impact on the game. His example: Mickey Mantle:
But integrity and character? Really? Even leaving aside Mickey Mantle’s thousands of infidelities and the fact that he essentially turned all of his sons into alcoholics and drug addicts, there’s the little matter of him abusing his body throughout his career. Mantle is famous for arriving at the ballpark with hangovers. In fact, those stories are often told as jokes; it’s so funny that a well-paid superstar routinely wasn’t in condition to play his best. Hilarious stuff.
Just so we’re straight on this, though … If you routinely drink yourself into a stupor and show up for work half-drunk, you’ve got more integrity and character than if you do whatever you can to play as well as you can, within the established norms of your contemporary colleagues?
People like to grab on to the word “cheating” when it comes to steroids and claim that it makes what the PED guys did so much worse than anything that came before. But the standard itself isn’t about whether a rule was broken. Lots of rules have been broken in baseball and we don’t care all that much. The standard is about “integrity and character.”
Rob submits — and I agree with him — that letting your teammates down by not taking care of yourself shows just as much if not more of a lack of integrity and character than taking PEDs do. And if we’re OK with the Mickey Mantles of the world behaving in such a way and making it into the Hall of Fame, then we should not treat the PED guys any differently.