Please stop with the “Great Clean Hope” nonsense

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Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch spends some time talking about A-Rod and then turns his attention to Ken Griffey Jr.

Ken Griffey Jr. was placed in the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame on Saturday night. That was the perfect antidote to whatever A-Rod has wrought.

A lot of people may have forgotten how good Ken Griffey was. Maybe there are kids today who have no memory of his legacy. We can’t allow that to happen. Griffey was someone we can all believe in. I want everyone to remember every one of those 630 home runs Griffey hit, because they are the rare ones that were not fueled by a mad scientist’s illegal brew. Every one of them was hit with nothing more than the strength of Griffey’s pure natural abilities. This was all about his family’s rich baseball DNA.

And Burwell knows this, how exactly?

I don’t think Griffey juiced. I hope he didn’t. But I don’t know. And neither does Burwell. Indeed, as commenter cohnjusack demonstrated in the Albert Pujols defamation thread yesterday, one could make the common bullcrap/innuendo case against Griffey that has been made about all sorts of players over the years:  He hit 50 home runs multiple times in the 1990s and was threatening Roger Maris’ record;  he saw a large, sudden jump in home runs (27 to 45) over the course of a year; he became chronically injured; he got noticeably bigger, going from this to this. All of the pieces fit if you believe the stupid armchair PED “experts.”

The point here, though, is not that Griffey could have juiced — again, I doubt he did — but that it is beyond stupid and naive, at this late date, to play the “Great Clean Hope” card. To say “this one, this guy I loved, at least he never cheated!” game. We did before, after all, with current History’s Greatest Monster Alex Rodriguez. Remember this from the New York Times in 2006?

The cause of Bonds’s physical changes has been endlessly scrutinized; he has repeatedly denied knowingly using steroids, and baseball only began testing for them in 2003. The worst accusation against Rodriguez is that he bragged too much about his workouts in an interview last spring. Whatever people think of him personally, the legitimacy of Rodriguez’s performance has never been questioned … If he continues to avoid injury, the home run record could be his. If Bonds is the man whom Rodriguez is chasing, it is safe to say baseball will be rooting for him.

If we have learned anything in the past decade it’s that talking up ballplayers as ideals of virtue is idiotic. The only reason we do it is to better trash the other guys. And, I suppose, so that we feel morally justified in saying we were “betrayed” when the objects of our idolization later prove to have been fallible after all.

I would be disappointed if, say, we found out Griffey was on that list of 100 players who tested positive during the trial tests back in 2004. But then I’d move on pretty quickly. If you believe what Burwell does — that Griffey was pure despite not knowing that for a fact at all — you are bound to be betrayed and outraged. Why you want to do that to yourself is beyond me. But do realize that your’e doing it to yourself.

Sandy Koufax to be honored with statue at Dodger Stadium

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Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax will be honored with a statue at Dodger Stadium, expected to be unveiled in 2020. Dodger Stadium will be undergoing major renovations, expected to cost around $100 million, after the season. Koufax’s statue will go in a new entertainment plaza beyond center field. The current statue of Jackie Robinson will be moved into the same area.

Koufax, 83, had a relatively brief career, pitching parts of 12 seasons in the majors, but they were incredible. He was a seven-time All-Star who won the National League Cy Young Award three times (1963, ’65-66) and the NL Most Valuable Player Award once (’63). He contributed greatly to the ’63 and ’65 championship teams and authored four no-hitters, including a perfect game in ’65.

Koufax was also influential in other ways. As Shaikin notes, Koufax refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series to observe Yom Kippur. It was an act that would attract national attention and turn Koufax into an American Jewish icon.

Ahead of the 1966 season, Koufax and Don Drysdale banded together to negotiate against the Dodgers, who were trying to pit the pitchers against each other. They sat out spring training, deciding to use their newfound free time to sign  on to the movie Warning Shot. Several weeks later, the Dodgers relented, agreeing to pay Koufax $125,000 and Drysdale $110,000, which was then a lot of money for a baseball player. It would be just a few years later that Curt Flood would challenge the reserve clause. Koufax, Drysdale, and Flood helped the MLB Players Association, founded in 1966, gain traction under the leadership of Marvin Miller.