Asterisks in the Record Books?

Major League Baseball used to be Debater Alex Ham's favorite sport, but that feeling has faded over the past few years of steroid scandals. "It's disgusting and an insult to greats like Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, and Roger Maris," Ham writes, arguing that offenders' records should be wiped off the books.

Perhaps that's too drastic. Maybe they should be marked with an asterisk to indicate that the means used to break those records weren't necessarily legit, as advocated by Debater gord.

I'd like to support that idea, but if Jose Canseco is correct in his statement that steroids were readily accepted in the 1980s and early '90s in baseball, how will we ever know which records need asterisks? Which game-winning home runs were made possible by performance-enhancing drugs? Which decisive World Series runs were batted in by steroid-pumped players?

Is there any way to fairly differentiate the rule breakers from the rest of the pack?

Probably not, and that's fine by Only Baseball Matters blogger John J Perricone, who points to players accused of using PEDs who've nonetheless have made great contributions to the game. In spite of long-running speculation of PED use by Barry Bonds, his team continues to attract sell-out crowds at home and on the road. Perricone compares the steroid allegations to the charges that dogged Pete Rose -- correctly, it turned out -- and argues that players should get into the Hall of Fame based on their achievements and the love of the fans, illegal activity notwithstanding. (Unfairness will never be wiped out of sports entirely anyway -- just look at some of the atrocious calls umpires and referees make.)

So what do we do for now? Suggestions from Debaters included DK's idea of punishing the entire team when one person tests positive. It doesn't take long for the bad behavior to stop, he says. Mark of the Sports Biz Blog favors harsh penalties for the individual: a one-year suspension for the first offense and a lifetime ban for second-time violators.

Debater Mzee believes PEDs should just be allowed, period, across the board. "Think of the industry that could [be] developed and the jobs and capitol it would create. Consider ... the savings in time and money" if no policing were necessary, Mzee says. But throwing the door open to PEDs would put undue pressure on athletes that want to win on their own merits, and it would send an even stronger message to kids that drugs are A.O.K. (It's bad enough that kids see athletes on PEDs being treated as heroes instead of facing pubishment.) Besides, Mzee's arguments apply to legalizing crack, too -- there are many things we could legalize that would create jobs and save money on enforcement (auto theft, looting, fraud) but we probably wouldn't be better off for it.

By far my favorite idea came from Debater johnny g in NE DC who suggests (complete with a much-appreciated Phil Hartman reference) the creation of two separate leagues: one would absolutely ban PEDs; in the other, anything goes. They'd keep separate records and at the end of the season, the winners of each league would face off. Think the World Series or the Superbowl, except one team would be stacked with Incredible Hulks.

That's a game I'd go to see.

By Emily Messner |  March 17, 2006; 4:50 PM ET  | Category:  Conclusions
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Baseball will pay a price for looking the other way.

Canseco is right. There really is no way to backtrack and determine which records are tainted or not. Most of the players of the 80s are retired, and the steroids and other PEDs were not just for creating overmuscled sluggers only affecting the Stat of "home runs", but also player longevity, recuperation time from injury, speed....which impact all records...and in many cases involve the very same compounds the "Barry Bonds Pharmacy" dispensed.

So were Roger Clemmons strikeout records impacted by daily shoulder massages of "Barry's Special Cream"? Did "Iron Man Cal Ripken" benefit from an iron needle stuck in his ass to give him steroidal boost in recuperating from injury and the wear and tear of playing every game?

They will never tell.

And many who clearly did, by other's stories and sudden miraculous statistical proof will do a "Big Mac" and profess ignorance of what others gave them or get lawyered up...and many fans will say that improved training and native talent accounted for more of "Slammin' Sammy Sosa's stats" than drugs, and Sammy won't dispute that from his mansions here and in the Dominican Republic.

Besides, if we really want, we have to go much further back, where Mickey Mantle was a walking chemical factory. Full of amphetamines, tranquilizers, pain-killers, and steroids for his knee and hip problems for the last 3rd of his career --- according to admiring Yankee "insider" hagiographies that marvelled on all "Mick" did to play hurt and injured..

So Bonds & Co. can justly say that if MLB slams them...they have to go after Mickey and Cal and maybe the Rocket.

Best the stats remain. It will give baseball statistics fans something else to complain, argue about in lieu of having a life.

Posted by: Chris Ford | March 17, 2006 05:38 PM

this all so cynical, let's just pretend it didn't happen, or what can we do about it. simple, investigate. the fans know very well who bulked up. their records should be wiped off the books. McGuire out, Bonds out, Sosa out, Palmiero out.
they cheated, doping is illegal in any sport. look how many time Armstrong has been tested in the tour de france.

let someone break Roger Maris' home run record the honest way. Maris was of course unfairly stigmatized by the asterisk because he played more games than Ruth. what was not considered in that case was that the game had changed in many other ways than just more games. but please no sticking your head in the sand and hoping no one will notice

Posted by: johannesrolf | March 17, 2006 08:20 PM

If they cheat, their records are based on cheating. Is the US morals/ethics so low now to give cheaters a "second chance", and leave their dishonest ways on the record books?

Nope, and why folks want to keep baseball clean. A national pastimes needs to be clean and untarnished.

Strip them of their records and send them packing like any other cheat.

They'll die early from abusing the steroids and other chemicals, anyway.


Posted by: SandyK | March 18, 2006 01:29 AM

Considering the only drugs the true record-holders did (like Ruth), was abuse their bodies with alcohol and cigs, which arguably weakens performance, it is quite amazing what they accomplished.

True Redskin fans: remember Pat Fisher? An outstanding individual. No steroids, but was able to take on guys that seemed twice his size. I still have season tickets, but don't go any more.

Posted by: johnnyg in NE DC | March 18, 2006 01:45 AM

As far as I'm concerned, The single-season homerun record is still held by Roger Maris.

Posted by: Aodhan | March 18, 2006 08:41 AM

I am amazed by the posting of individuals who think that STEROIDS are the only performance-enhancing drugs, and that steroids only became available in the 1990's. Amphetamines have been rampant in baseball for decades....ask Jim Bouton about the Yankees over 40 years ago. And yes...amphetamines are performance enhancing drugs. Steroids have been around for decades as think the Guvinator just got big pumping iron? Think again. What is, is. We will NEVER know who in baseball has been using performance enhancing drugs in the past 50 years AT LEAST. Baseball now has a fairly strict testing regimen. Let the records from the past 50 years stand. Move on. There are many more important issues facing this country than the cream Barry Bonds smeared on his body.

Posted by: Baseball Phan | March 18, 2006 09:10 AM

Funny how the NFL, the NBA and the NHL have all largely escaped scrutiny in this whole steroids mess. Football especially, with all of its large mountains of players and low post-career life expectancy, seems to have been rampant with illegal performance-enhancing drugs during the '80s and '90s. Fair or not, Major League Baseball seems to be taking the brunt of the criticism for professional sports here and abroad.

Posted by: Phil | March 18, 2006 11:18 AM

the dustballs underneath of your bed are what the president and his heroes...

the thugs want you to be afraid of...

as they sell the furniture in grandmas' house to support their addiction...

street punks have taken over grandmas' house...

lieing, theiving, street punks addicted to money...

and Sandy K's their man, aintcha?

Where's operation Swarmer in the news?

When we went into Bagdhad last time there was 24/7 coverage....

perhaps they're dropping bombs in the desert.....and telling everyone later "how hard it was"

notice that there's no coverage here....all of a sudden it's "all about baseball."

alex ham and sandy sure feel the same way to me...

pissants.....licking the hind end of poppie.

Posted by: Al Queata is the CIA.... | March 18, 2006 12:07 PM

it's all right to theive lie and steal...

business as usual, Al Capone style....

he's all for it, he's "part of the team."

he's getting paid to post, create the background noise....

you know, like New York, before Guilliani started arresting people for petty crimes....

once the petty crimes started being prosecuted then the big crimes stopped too...

the thugs, Sandy K. Alexander Hamilton and others of that ilk couldn't commit murders as they were behind bars on charges of having done petty crimes...

thugs have no compunction about "civilized," putting them away when they do "any crime" takes them out of the system...

that's what needs to be done here, not excuse them, the congress, the president, the CIA, NSA....

collusion is a crime, anyone in the chain of command can refuse, no one has...

when the nazis went down, it was similar.

the solution is the same that Guilliani used, arrest them for any crime....

Make the United States a safe place for your children, arrest them for any crime.


Posted by: notice Sandy K's selling you.... | March 18, 2006 12:08 PM

The issue everyone seems to be ignoring here is that steroid use did not officially constitute 'cheating' until 2 years ago. You can't punish someone for breaking a rule if there was no rule to break. So comparing Barry Bonds to Pete Rose just doesn't make any sense. BTW I wonder how many people now venting thir righteous indignation over steroids are at the same time (stupidly and wrongly, in my opinion) lobbying to get Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame.

That said, Barry Bonds is a hideous monstrosity, whose head is now about 3 times its normal size, and whose physique and life have been completely transformed with the 'aid' of drugs.

But that is not typical steroid use; the fact is it is simply not possible for a normal 40-year-old person to play 9 innings of baseball every day for 6 months without excruciating, debilitating pain.

Cleaning up the game is probably worth shortening a few great careers (Palmeiro), but the distinction should be recognized between therapeutic steroid use, which is NOT illegal BTW, and the type of self-mutilation Bonds has apparently been practicing.

Finally, cheating was not invented in the 70s and 80s. Ask Sheinin about this. The assumption that our old heroes, they of the black and white film reel highlights, were all squeaky clean is just plain dumb.

So forget about asterisks. Accept and enforce the rules as best you can and move on. If you just can't take the fact that your beloved game has been sullied, get into Little League or something. Pro sports, like a Vegas casino, exists to suck money out of your bank account, not as a reflection of your ideals.

Posted by: Stank McNamara | March 18, 2006 12:10 PM

Baseball Phan,

Massive doses (enough to kill) of steroids once saved my life. But during those weeks in the hospital, I noticed point blank the dangers of them. Not only will you look like Jerry Lewis (it attracts water and fat, and puffs you up like a dough boy), it's well known to make you incredibly angry ('roid rage).

It's not a drug to brush off like candy, or pooh-poohed as not important. It's a drug like OxyCodin which has serious health effects. Kids have no business experimenting with the junk.

If MLB can't clean up it's act and enforce their own rules on not using drugs, the government has to intercede, as kids look up to MLB players as role models. Look at the dismal statistics of junior and high school players of their abuse of such drugs. Do you want your kids to be dopers at 11 (when they're introduced to the drugs, usually medically for sports injuries)? If so, you have zero business having kids, as you'll push off onto society another burden for OTHERS to clean up.

Drug abuse has no business in MLB. Those who partake in the junk should never be excused, nor should their egos catered too by fans who'd rather trade their lives for their own cheap thrills. It's also part of the fans fault, it's craving for more hits and more entertainment (i.e., bread and circuses straight out of ancient Rome), that help egg on players to trade their bodies in for some cheap statistic (or fame in Cooperstown). So, yeah, it's not all the players fault, it's the rooting fans in the stands who are as morally/ethically corrupt as the players they excused for being "boys".

When society looks the other way, excuse the behaviors that plagues it's very foundation, this is the result: lying and cheating athletes, with it's fans who want them to be worse off, even after retirement.

Want congress out of MLB, MLB and the fans need to get their act together so another generation of the walking dead isn't pushed on society.


Posted by: SandyK | March 18, 2006 03:56 PM

where's the coverage of the latest incursion into the hateful territories of Iraq?

what happened to the rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air?

perhaps they're committing atrocities or dropping bombs in the desert and doing nothing....

we wouldn't know would we?

why is that?

...the first time and second time it was 24/7 coverage...

or perhaps it's like pakistan, we throw a couple of missles in and the president of pakistan tells us "we were successful," got to keep those ratings up!

see yah.

I'll see if this is showing up anywhere else.

Posted by: thanks for making our world a better place to live in Emily! | March 18, 2006 11:22 PM

So where do we draw the line? I got LASIK and now my vision is 20/15, which is better than perfect. If I were a baseball player, I would certainly consider that performance-enhancing, and many MLB players HAVE undergone the procedure. A similar argument could be made about Tommy John surgery - many players come back stronger and better after it. Why are these procedures different from steroids? Not everything that enhances performance is considered "cheating" but I don't understand why not. Because steroids are chemical? Craig Biggio admits to taking 12 Advil a day and no one cares. Because steroids are illegal? Not all of them are, and illegality never bothered anyone either. Babe Ruth was a huge illegal drug user. Remember, this country had a little something called Prohibition from 1921-1933, so alcohol was illegal for most of Babe's career.

Posted by: Adrock | March 18, 2006 11:42 PM


It maybe performance enhancing until 10 years from now, when the stats come in from complications (why Lasik was approved without a long-term health study is, again the FDA's fault in not protecting citizens -- no one knows the long range outcome of that surgery).

The difference between medical treatments and drug abuse is: one is used for medical purposes to improve LIFE; the other to destroy it and cheat.

Biggio is destined to a bleeding ulcer. Like pneumonia (the #6 killer) no one seems to care as it's common. Even though it may kill more people than AIDS and the pending Bird Flu combined.

It's all about perceptions. Pill poppers don't think of the consequences of guzzling down 12 pills a day, because chances are their neighbor is doing the same. Does it make it right? No. Like mom used to always say, "If Johnny rides his bike over the cliff, will you join him?" Same applies here.

Making excuses for the consequences illness/desparity brings to society as a whole, is expanding the very ills/despair society is trying to control/cure.

One thing that's lacking in this debate is: consequences. In a society now that wants it both ways (like a spoiled child), when confronted with consequences of actions, the kid stammers and cries, "unfair". Point is, it was unfair in the beginning to go down that route, and hoping society to pick up the bill (socially, financially and morally/ethically).


Posted by: SandyK | March 19, 2006 12:44 AM

So much of baseball is about the flow of history and the numbers are part of the continuity. In the long history of the game however they're hiccups in which not all the numbers can be pure. For example, the pre-integration years. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb and so on where not competing against the best players in the country.

Also, for the past fifty years many players have survived the rigors of the long schedule by taking "greenies." Amphetamines are as much a part of baseball culture as spikes. That too has impacted the numbers of the game.

So I say, qualify the numbers if we must with asterisks but they should never be thrown out or expunged like it never happened. You can't do that anymore than Ramsey's could pretend that Moses didn't exist. The history of the game will unfold and the numbers will be recorded - tainted or not.

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal Journal | March 19, 2006 01:20 PM

Sports, amateur and professional, have several common features. One is the expectation of fans to witness competition that pits athletes of similar human capacities. Fans most seem to appreciate contests in which inner determination - "grit" - separates contestants.

Introduction of chemical stimulants or body enhancers seriously change the complexion of athletics. Because what "nature" endows the athlete the chemical and pharmaceutical labs can now obscure in radical performance-altering ways, the meaning of the events in which such are used changes beyond understanding. Governing bodies have sufficient difficulty regulating equipment today; leveling the field with "acceptance" of drug and steroid use would be impossible.

Cheating has not been tolerated in sports because the public has understood the meaning of competition to answer the question: who is best today? Rosie Ruiz was roundly condemned because she violated that trust. Most fans care little about the records in sports. Most do care about the fairness of the competitions they witness. However the issues of the record books are resolved, enthusiasts are best served when the rules of fairness are evenly and universally applied.

The "line" is that sport pits the competitor against the challenges of the sport and against the will and athletic preparation of one's opponents. Nothing is proven if the competitor gains an advantage not of his/her own skill or training. Enhancing drugs are such an imbalancing influence, and authorities in every sport at every level are right when they stand against their use.

Would you advocate, in developing the next generation of athletes, that anything is okay if you "win"? Teach that honesty and integrity are "relative"? Professional sports have a good deal to answer for. They cannot today be the example for behavior in sports. Most amateur athletes know that. We can only hope that the rest will start remembering those core principles with which they began.

Posted by: Jazzman | March 19, 2006 02:43 PM

And while I am concerned what messages sports may be teaching our young people, others are quite right that we must not lose focus. Our national government is doing a miserable job of representing our collective interest. The presidential executive is running rough-shod over our precious civil and public rights. We have been dragged into a foolish war in Iraq which costs us in dollars, lives, and the power of national respect. The planetary envelope is warming and the consequences are already beginning. Let's get our eyes back where they belong, on the really serious issues before us.

Posted by: Jazzman | March 19, 2006 02:51 PM


The solar system is warming, not just Earth. NASA just found out Mars is going through "global warming" in it's polar regions, as well. If we have satellites around Venus, it may show the same is occuring there, too.

I knew it was about the Sun, because we went for the pending next Ice Age, to this "global warming" in just 25 years (too short for mankind to mess the climate). In the last decade we've had some of the largest on record X-class flares, which does a number on our atmosphere, irradiating it, with polar fields getting warped (explains the ozone "hole").

While the Liberals rampage (and hijacked science) about the Bush Administration/congress messing with science, they also need to look in their own closet in how they politically charged science into a bunch of ecology nuts, too (knowing full well their datasets don't explain the whole picture <-- a disservice to the profession and mankind in politicalizing it).

The Sun is the giver and taker of life, and we're just beginning to understand her.


Posted by: SandyK | March 19, 2006 04:16 PM

Posted by: | March 19, 2006 11:34 PM

From the article above:
"A Dec. 31 [edit 2002] letter from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals"

That's even worse. PETA are the fringe, and actually kill more cats than Frist ever did.

Read up on the Atlantic City feral roundup. And their KILL shelters (even to the point of buying bigger freezers for the job).

Animal welfare folks stay clear of PETA, with their breeder outright lying scandals, to their belief no human should have pets (their solution? Release house raised animals into the wild -- DUMB!!!!).

Never bring PETA up as anything close to animal welfare. They have NO business to be around ANY animals (including themselves).

Animal Rescuer/ Feral caretaker

Posted by: SandyK | March 20, 2006 02:51 AM


Posted by: che | March 20, 2006 04:28 AM

Che, it sounds like you are sensing irritable bowel syndrome.

Posted by: | March 20, 2006 09:30 AM

As baseball gets globalized (as laid out by George Will on Sunday TV yesterday), will salaries/contracts for U.S. players go down?

Posted by: On the plantation | March 20, 2006 06:20 PM

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