Frank Deford, the journalist who is concerned that the hard-hitting, fact-based investigative journalism of his day is going to disappear because lazy, fact-free assertions are rewarded on the Internet, made some lazy, fact-free assertions in his latest weekly NPR rant:
I’ve been surprised to learn that some baseball writers have declared that they’ll vote for Bonds and Clemens because they were the best players in an era when drug use was widespread — ergo if there’s a lot of guilt going around, then nobody should be assigned guilt.
Of course, we do not know how many baseball players took steroids, but it certainly never involved more than a small percentage. It was never, for example, like the Tour de France where drugs were as common as toothpaste. But what the baseball writers must not forget is that the dopers did not just pad their own statistics. They keep score in games; by definition, sports are zero sum. By taking unfair advantage, the druggies hurt the players who played fair.
This is my favorite bit from the sanctimonious Hall of Fame Protection Force. They’ll slam an entire era of baseball as illegitimate due to a distortion of the game by players who were gobbling up ‘roids like candy in one argument, and then in the next they’ll claim that the superstars were the bad seeds because they were screwing all of those clean players — in DeFord’s case here, the vast majority — from their proper due.
I do not doubt for a second that there were clean players who were hurt by the Steroid Era. But these guys were not going to be taking Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens’ place. They were hurt because other 20-25th men on the roster were taking things, keeping them out of jobs.
Yes, you can extend that and say that the superstars doing what they did caused it all to trickle down, making those 20-25th men do it too, but you can’t then also say that “a small percentage” of players were doing it. It was very likely widespread, and in no case was confined to the Hall of Fame-threatening superstars, no matter what DeFord’s convenient (for today) assumptions happen to be.
Also: DeFord’s headline was stolen from Neil Young and that makes me mad.