tv Inside Story Al Jazeera January 11, 2014 5:30pm-6:01pm EST
>> she smashed records, they thrilled fans and wrote new chapters in the history of the game, and many were probably cheating. we asked writers and you what to about the performance-enhancing drugs in baseball on the day that the new hall of fame ers are announce. that's "inside story." >> hello, i'm ray suarez. if you're a baseball fan you may remember the 1990s with sheer
joy, great players beginning or ending careers. or you may have memories that are ambivalent. mark mcgwire and sammy sosa combining for 136 round trippers in one season. baseball trying to wrap its head around a new normal only very late in the game. today the decisions of the voting members of the baseball writers association of america were announced who among eligible players would be honored with the plaque on the walls of the baseball hall of fame in cooperstown, new york. they are greg maddoux, the winner the cubs and braves fame, and the great chicago white sox greg thomas with 521 career home runs. what to do with the players whose careers are in the shadow of the tainted era? the writers have decided not to decide.
barring the gates of cooperstown glory to the most heavily rumored names and allowing players who had reputations for playing clean to emerge from their arcane balloting. >> reporter: players are voted in by members of the baseball writers association of america, a player must get 75% of the vote to be inducted. you need at least 5% to stay on the ballot the following year, and can only be on the ballot 15 years. last year was the first that players from the so-called steroid era were on the ballot, and no one was voted in. again this year two baseball legends, home run leader barry bonds and pitching ace roger clemens got support. more votes than last year but not enough. for the baseball writers america's pastime hit a low point in what is known as steroids era beginning in the late 80's.
many players were suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs shattering longstanding records. steroid use was banned by major league baseball in 1991, but testing didn't begin until 2003, so remarkable players using p.e.d.s were never caught. rumors of drug use pit player against player . >> during the period discussed in my report the use of steroids in major league baseball was widespread. >> reporter: the culmination of two-year investigation led by a former u.s. senator from maine the 400-page report pulled back the veil and named over 80 players who used steroids or other p.e.d.s including superstars barry bonds, roger clemens, gary sheffield and jason giambi. they found that the baseball
association was largely incorporative despite concluding that least one player from each of the teams used illegal substances. >> the minority o players who used these substances were wrong, they distorted the fairness of competition by trying to gain an unfair advantage over the majority of players who followed the law and the rules. >> reporter: congress held hearings. player after player either didn't answer pointed questions or pinned the blame on others. best known doping allegation center on san francisco giants outfielder home run king barry bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice in 2011 surrounding the bay area laboratory cooperative or balco. he didn't serve prison time. in 2012 roger clemens was found not guilty of lying to congress
when he testified he never took steroids. although both bonds and clemens were named in the mitchell report neither was proven to have taken steroids. coming off the strike year of 1994 baseball took a big public relations hit but was revived in 1998 as the nation watched in amazement as a home run chase between power hitters mark mcgwire and sammy sosa stretched through the summer. maguire since admitted he used steroids that year. with sosa suspicion of steroid use had never been proven. both players had slugging records worthy of hall of fame, they're on the balance a lot but never have been voted in. baseball is not the only sport fighting the use of steroids. american sprinter marion jones went to jail for lying to federal prosecutors about her
steroid use. and after years of denial lance armstrong finally admitted he used drugs and blood dope to go win the cycling prize tour de france a record number of times. >> how do sports restore their image and regain the trust of fans? are athletes who didn't take drugs smeared by association? the hall of fame, do they have to decide? do they have to have a policy? or through the voting formula and the gut check over time do we get something like a verdict? for now the suspected cheaters have to wait. joining us to talk about the hall of fame announcement from denver jonah cary, writer , and author of "up up and away."
and editor of sp nation and cliff corkland, a writer for "sports illustrated" where he's coauthor of "the strike zone blog." let me start with you, the fact that bonds and clemens have been passed over yet again is that a kind of verdict even without any official policies on what to do with suspect athletes? >> it is. obviously the writers who vote, and i'm not among them. the writers who vote, a certain percentage of them, two-thirds, decided despite clea clearly deserving to be on the hall of fame because of their on field accomplishments will not be awarded because of their steroid use. i don't think that's just. it should be up to baseball. if baseball wants to declare these players uneligible for the hall of fame i like they did with pete rose, they should not
be on the ballot and clearly could not be voted for. but the voters should only consider what they did on the field. if they're on the ballot they should be voted in. >> is this a form of the writers creating their own probation and they'll eventually put barry bonds and others into the hall of fame? >> well, it certainly is probation, how long it's going to last is a good question. i would guess they're going to get in. i find with baseball and the hall of fame "never" is a big thing to say. this guy, gosh, he's not getting enough votes, p.e.d.s or not, the momentum will pick up and things change, and cliff mentioned that he's not a voter, neither am i, but we're both members of the baseball association of america. i just got in a month ago. so in 2023 i'll be able to vote. and if barry bonds is still on
the ballot i'm going to vote for him. people from a younger generation who grew up watching these guys plays, they may have a different thought of p.e.d.s and not willing to crack the hammer on them. >> will it roll out now? >> you have a lot of voters now who are active as writers in the 7070's, 80's, and 90's, and saw these guys played. i think many of them feel betrayed, they feel that what they watched, reported and celebrated was not authentic. whether they say explicitly or not they want someone to be punished for that lack of authenticity. really, all they can do is withhold their hall of fame support for these few incredibly talented brilliant players who have obvious hall of fame numbers.
what if drugs never had been invented, and it's an emotional reaction. it's not a local reaction for what happened back in the 1990's. >> i think what happens among all the sports, baseball is obsessed with its numbers. if you listen to two fans talking about who was better trying to compare players across eras they fall back on numbers almost immediately. if something undermines the validity of the numbers, haven't you undermined the whole game of being a fan? >> well, look, there have always been things that undermined the validity or threw them into question whether it was smaller ballparks, lively ier baseballs, these things have always been around. you're right in that much of the outcry about what happened in the 90s about barry bonds has to do solely with the numbers
that the records that were broken. mark maguire breaking the records and then barry bonds breaking hank aarons record. i think those two in particular define an era for a lot of people. >> we're going to take a short break, and when we come back we'll talk about baseball today and what the sport does going forward to deal with steroid era in baseball. this is inside story. >> every sunday night al jazeera america presents the best documentaries. a historic election >> we have 47% of our people who pay no income taxes... >> we take you behind the scenes >> i'm rick santorum, i'm running for president... >> no barriers... >> i intend to be the nominee that defeats barack obama >> no restrictions... >> i think we're catching on... >> no filters... >> my guess is they won't be voting for me... >> al jazeera america presents caucus
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induct players this summer. baseball writers floated greg maddox, many big stars from the steroid era will have to wait. jonah kerry, has baseball finally, grasped the nettle? it was later than other sports to create standards, to impose a testing regimen. going forward, will it at least be clear enough about the players who are playing now, whether they were playing clean? >> i would actually say that baseball is leaps and bounds ahead of the three occurring north american team sports. you can talk about the olympics being ahead in cycling and so forth but nfl, nba and nhl, they look the other way. what comes to mind here in denver, a suspension for ped use. he gained 16 pounds of muscle. how did he do that? he was on suspension. baseball does not put on up with that. they are making an effort to
stamp this out. it's perceived to be an epidemic and a negative for the game. it's just the commissioners coming down hard on baseball. i think it has not only caught up bur surpassed other sports and they are making an effort to try to get rid of this. >> cliff corkrin was baseball the author of some of its own ms.ries whether it took its time, when other fields of athletic endeavor were already cracking down on certain kinds of chemicals, certain kinds of substances, baseball created this sort of, umm, mushy limbo period of 12 years between the time when it said, don't take them, and actually checked whether anyone was listening? >> yeah. the baseball basically looked the other way. one of the major factors is the 1994 players' strike. baseball hit a big blow. they cancelled the world series for the first time since 2004. i'm sorry 19004.
yeah, baseball looked the other way because they needed to bring fans back. the big power numbers, the commercial ironically with greg maddox and baseball had a reason to look the other way. it looked the other way for a little too long. they let things get out of hand. they let the monster grow. i think they beat it back down to a certain degree. i don't think they will ever completely get rid of performance enhancing drugs in baseball or any other sport. the drugs are going to be ahead of the tests, and there is always going to be incentive for players on the fringes of the game to use but baseball did absolutely look the other way for too long. >> rob, not only was baseball looking the other way; weren't the sportswriters looking the other way? didn't some of this come down to the attitude of the beat writers in not wanting to crossing certain thresholds when writing about certain players? >> the union fought against any sort of testing.
writers could have done more. there were a number of writers who were skeptical, writers who knew something wasn't going on. they couldn't write anything really without any evidence. the truth is that baseball writers as a group, they are not investigative reporters. and really, if you are going to blame anyone on the journalistic side, i would almost go a level higher to the editors and the producers of the t.v. networks. they could have assigned stories to the investigative reporters they do have and actually dug deep and tried to find some of these things out. nobody really did that for a a long time. so, yeah, look. there is plenty of blame to go around and the players deserve their share and so do a lot of other people. >> jonah, isn't there still a question mark over a lot of this? because even many of the people who were spoken of routinely as being tainted have never actually failed a drug test or been caught doping? >> no question about it. i mean i think that there needs to be a
burden of proof and, you know, i think in the past, rob talked about the idea of being -- that you wanted to be sure if you were going to be a writer, you couldn't just go around smearing somebody and use evidence. it's gone the other way now. we are talking about the hall of fame. mike piazza is being accused of pd use because he as acne. geoff bag well was muscular and played in the '90s. therefore, he is a steroid user. these don't exclude someone from baseball's highest honor. if there is no guilt, put them in. sure, i think we have definitely swung too far the other way. i think a lot of that is the writers feeling they got burned that, like you said, if they didn't do it the first time, they are sure as heck going to do it the second time. if anything, they will go over the top to do it. >> cliff, if the numbers are there, let them in. do you agree with that? >> i do. like i said before, it's up to baseball to declare these players indelible. if they are on the ballot, the writers, voters, who are they are should deal directly with what the player did on the field because you can go back throughout the history of the
hall of fame and find players in the hall of fame who used amphetamines, who were disreputable for a number of reasons whether in the early part of the 20th century involved in game-throwing, racism, horrible off of the field attributes. the drugs did contribute to the on-the-field performance but i don't think you will be ever know somebody didn't use. you can't prove that you didn't use for an entire 20-year baseball career. i think if the guy is on the ballot, you have to vote on what he did on the field and let baseball sort them out. >> rob, by common consent, this was one of the most talented fields of candidates ever in a hall of fame election, yet one voter submitted a blank ballot, one voted only for jack morris, who was in jeopardy of falling off of the ballot after 15 years of not making the hall. in a weird way, are the sportswriters, some of them cranky, some willing to look the other way, some not, kind of proxies for the fans,
themselves? >> well, they are. they are idiosyncaatic and they have pet projects. you mentioned those ballots. migio missed the hall of fame by two votes. he is a fantastic candidate historically speaking. you could argue those two odd ballots kept him out. i will say this, though: i don't think the fans care as much about the drug issue as the writers do. you can say that's good or bad. i don't know. but the writers are proxies for baseball fans born before 1970 or something, or 1960. but do they mirror the average baseball fan? i don't think so. >> one interesting doument, rafael palmero, a man who hit the same number of home runs as frank thomas voted in to the hall today is falling off of the ballot because he did not clear the five % threshold.
he won't appear on the ballot next year. is he really so far the most prominent scout taken by the steroid era? joan jonah? >> the numbers are interesting. getting at home runs and hits, the three on the panel deal with advanced stats. by advanced stats, palmero is closer than you would think. but there is no question that he would get more support if he wasn't linked to peds and the link is stronger with palmero with him than bonds or clemmons. there is no doubt about it he has been the first casualty and bonds and clemmons are ongoing stores to see how they will go and how the vote might pick up over the future. >> cliff, rob, can you think of any other people who might be in jeopardy of going the palmero route? to have a guy north of 500 home runs not be considered for the hall very early in his eligibility window is a striking
thing. >> 3,000 -- >> mark mcguire got 11% this year which i believe was almost a 6 point drop from last year. his candidacy is weak because we have a crowded ballot. next year we will have randy johnson, pedro f smoements, sheffield who has steroid connections, himself he is winding down his candidacy and another guy with 500 or more, he is the next guy in danger of falling off because of his steroid use. >> we will take a short break. when we come back, we will talk more about drugs in other sports. this is insi"inside story." stay with us.
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i'm ray suarez. two squeaky clean 300 game winners and a big slugger is going to cooperstown. but a long list of stars will wait for the title hall of famer. the which is how long and whether we're coming to common wisdom across athletics on this edition of the program we're talking about drugs in sports. rob, i'm wondering whether now as a class of institutions, whether sport is getting its arms around this, and whether with distance we'll look at this with the bad 'ol days in 10 years, 20 years. >> you know, in 20 years, i wouldn't want to guess because there are so many different things happening with drugs, implants, computer chips, who knows what will happen. but this year, sure, we'll look back on this time as an unique time, it was when people did whatever they want, it was the wild west. players use drugs in every sport but i don't think as often
because the penalties are so severe now. >> has it brought the sports, jonah, athletics, cycling, the nfl, into a kind of disrepute that leads fans if they can really trust what they're watching. >> i think it depends on the fans . in the nfl, james harrison was suspended, a big muscular guy who came back, and if you way 220 in the mlb, that's not necessarily accepted. in the nba nobody talks if the guys are doping, the same in the nhl. i think it's what sport we're talking about and the group of fans and the younger generation of fans don't care as much as the older ones do. >> have the sports moved in a way to protect their brands?
do they feel this is essential to handle because of the fans watching over their shoulders? >> absolutely. that's mainly bud selig, an outgoing commissioner has been trying to protect his legacy and the legacy of the sport trying to eradicate steroids. i don't think they'll ever get rid of them. with advances of medical technology, they'll never get rid of them. but even if it's just putting on a show of trying to eradicate them, baseball has come a long way of doing that, and they're doing a very good job even if some of their methods were in the bio jenist case was a little under handed. >> in the majors and the minors, they face long suspensions. it's funny that people think they can still cheat the cup test. >> i think there is always going to be someone who thinks they
can. the drugs are always going to be ahead of the test and there will always be players on the fringes, whether it's a triple-a who just can't get that major job, or a player who was tested last year and whose only shot back in is a little something tricky on the medical end. there will be always those players trying to do it because they don't have a whole lot to lose and the rewards as we've seen with the contracts are great. >> cliff, rob, jonah, gentlemen, thank you all. thank you for being with us on the announcement day. that brings us to the end of this edition of "inside story." thanks for being with us. in washington, i'm ray suarez.
you are watching xeroxed. i am jonathan betz live in new york. words of respect for ariel sharon, who died today after eight years in a coma. >> massive chemical spill may be days before 300,000 people can use tap water again. alex rodriguez's punishment is reduced. the slugger says it's still too much. fifty years since the first big health warning about smoking, where we stand