A few days ago, Mike Vaccaro of the Post made the following comment on Twitter:
1 more on Hall/PED: I think we did way too little to find out what was happening in ’90s, seem way too hellbent on meting out justice now
I think that Vaccaro is right on the money, and a search through the TYU archives will bring you to a number of articles in which I decry the inherent hypocrisy of writers condemning steroids well after the fact. This morning, Jim Caple of ESPN wrote a stunning article in which he rants about this point. I strongly encourage you to read it, but here is the money quote from my perspective:
Hey, I get that you think steroid use is really, really bad. Or at least, that this is your view now. Your anti-steroid stance wasn’t so clear when we were all glorifying these players a decade (and less) ago. And I’m with you — I wish steroids had never entered the game and I’m very glad they’ve been banned. And I sympathize with voters who are simply uncertain about the whole issue and the stats of the era and are holding off until they sort it out better.
But as for the rest of you? I would agree more with your pompous Hall of Fame voting stance if it weren’t so hypocritical, inconsistent and impossible to defend…..
It’s also hypocritical. We knew Mark McGwire used androstenedione during the 1998 season. We didn’t know he also used steroids but if we didn’t suspect it, we were even more naive than bloggers accuse us of being. And we didn’t care! We held the great andro debate for a couple of weeks and then decided it didn’t matter. We were having too much fun following McGwire and Sammy Sosa around for two months, glorifying both. Sports Illustrated printed special editions in their honor and declared them the Sportsmen of the Year, posing them on the cover in Roman togas with olive leaf crowns. I even compared McGwire to the original Spirit of St. Louis, Charles Lindbergh, saying that he carried the entire nation on his broad shoulders that summer.
We continued to praise these players up until 2002, when the excellent baseball writer Tom Verducci got Ken Caminiti to admit he used steroids. Two years later, President Bush used the bully pulpit of the State of the Union address to decry steroid use (though it would have meant more if he had mentioned this when he was the Rangers president and Jose Canseco and Rafael Palmeiro were on his team). And ever since then we’ve cared a great deal about steroid use, vilifying the players we previously glorified.
In other words, we are holding them to a standard now that we didn’t during the majority of their careers. We are vilifying them for actions we not only condoned but unintentionally encouraged with our praise.
Vaccaro’s comments sent me into the archives to see how some prominent reporters treated this issue in 1998, and Caple’s comment provide the perfect segue into these articles.