Saturday, February 9, 2013

3 comments Murray Chass Decides Tim Raines Is a Cheater Too

Murray Chass has taken the Internet by storm on his non-blog in the past by attacking Mike Piazza for being a cheater who used PEDs, he won't vote for Jeff Bagwell because somebody told him one time that Jeff Bagwell used PED's, and it is pretty much the fault of either (a) immoral assholes or (b) new-age statistics lovers if any accused, proven, or hinted-at steroid user ever is inducted into the Hall of Fame. Not satisfied with randomly attacking Mike Piazza for his bacne and using rumors to keep Jeff Bagwell out of the Hall of Fame, Murray has now decided Tim Raines is a junkie and that's why he doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame. Don't get me wrong, Murray has a vote (for one more year, just one more year) and he can vote for or not vote for any player he wants. It's not about voting to Murray though. It's about being able to attack players publicly on his non-blog. Murray is all about being moral and if he doesn't considered a baseball player to be sufficiently moral than that person doesn't get a vote from Murray Chass...unless that player is named Jack Morris. Jack Morris could use steroids and then do cocaine off a hooker's ass and Murray Chass would still vote him to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. 

While this week’s results of the Hall of Fame election have prompted widespread discussion about Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza, I prefer to discuss Tim Raines.

Because the Hall of Fame waters aren't muddied enough, and with Murray Chass being bitter his second best friend forever (his first best friend forever is Fay Vincent) Jack Morris didn't get into the Hall of Fame, he takes a stab at pointing out why Tim Raines doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame either.

A 23-year major league outfielder, who had 70 or more stolen bases in six successive seasons in the 1980s, 

I'm going to ruin it for everyone and tell you that Murray doesn't think Raines deserves to be in the Hall of Fame because he used drugs when he played in the majors. At a certain point, Murray is going to state a player doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame because he passed gas too often in the clubhouse and this hurt team chemistry.

Unlike Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and Piazza, Raines was untainted by the admission or the suspicion that he used steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs. Raines, however, made a different admission and had his own special taint.

Other than his biggest taint being that he is not Jack Morris?

With Raines’ vote total rising, the voting members of the Baseball Writers Association are either forgetting or ignoring that Raines admitted in 1982 and in subsequent years that he used cocaine.

I would assume the voters are ignoring the fact Tim Raines used cocaine since it didn't have a positive effect on his baseball career and generally voters haven't considered a player's personal life as a reason why that player should not make the Hall of Fame. Mickey Mantle chased women and abused alcohol. I realize neither of these activities are illegal, but he is in the Hall of Fame and wasn't the most moral guy. Plenty of baseball players have used drugs or not been the model or morality off the field. This hasn't stopped Hall of Fame voters from voting these players into the Hall of Fame or using this off-the-field issue as a reason the player should not be in the Hall of Fame. Murray is going to try to lump Raines in with the steroid users and he shouldn't. Tim Raines' cocaine use was an off-the-field issue, and even if it bled on to the field periodically, it didn't necessarily enhance his performance.

At one of the drug trials in Pittsburgh in 1985, Raines testified that he kept cocaine in the back pocket of his uniform pants during games and that when he had to slide, he slid headfirst to make sure he didn’t break the glass vial in which he kept the illegal drug.

Very salacious and informative. So if Dock Ellis were good enough to be elected into the Hall of Fame should he be denied induction because he pitched while on LSD?

That was Raines himself saying that – on the witness stand under oath in a federal court room. That wasn’t Clemens denying to Congress that he used steroids. That wasn’t Bonds telling a federal grand jury that he thought the substances he was using were flaxseed oil and arthritic balm.

Exactly. This wasn't Bonds or Clemens being questioned about using a substance that would enhance his performance and inflate his statistics. This is a case of a player having a drug problem and testifying to this fact. I'm not sure if Raines' cocaine use made him play baseball better or run faster. Comparing Bonds and Clemens to Raines isn't exactly the most accurate or reasonable comparison.

It was 30 years ago that Raines confessed to using cocaine, but there’s no statute of limitations on using illegal drugs in Major League Baseball.

Well, naturally he should be immediately arrested. 

Why aren’t the writers holding Raines as accountable for his transgression as they obviously are, and as they should, in the case of the steroids studs?

Mostly because these are two separate issues. Raines' use of drugs is an example of him having an off-the-field issue that didn't enhance his ability on the field and therefore most likely didn't have a positive effect on his statistics. Steroids arguably can make a baseball player's performance better and can positively affect his statistics. I say "arguably" because I have seen articles about how steroids may not really help baseball players, but either way in this situation these are two separate issues that should not be lumped together.

Raines first appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot for the 2008 election. He received 24.3 percent of the vote that year, then slipped to 22.6 percent the next year. But his numbers have risen every year since and now have more than doubled, from 30.4 to 37.5 to 48.7 to 52.2.

It seems to be obvious from his percentages in the last two elections that some voter who refused to mark their ballots for Bonds and Clemens put an “X” next to Raines’ name.

Right, and this isn't a contradiction or hypocritical because Bonds'/Clemens' steroid use is a different issue and problem from Tim Raines' cocaine abuse. And of course some voters who refused to vote for Bonds and Clemens voted for Raines. Some voters who refused to vote for Bonds and Clemens voted for Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, and Fred McGriff. Those are three players who haven't been shown to use steroids, but there are suspicions about 1-2 of these three guys. There is a diversity of players on a lot of Hall of Fame ballots.

Yeah, he used cocaine, those voters might argue, but cocaine doesn’t help a batter hit home runs or help a pitcher recover faster from his last start.
 
But if a voter follows the BBWAA rules in regard to steroids, he should realize they also pertain to drugs such as cocaine.

I like how Murray dives deep into the BBWAA regulations to make sure Tim Raines doesn't enter the Hall of Fame. He's entitled to his opinion of course, but I don't see the reasonableness of leaving Raines out of the Hall of Fame simply due to his drug use. It doesn't seem like Raines used drugs for fun, but had an actual drug problem that was difficult to kick. It's hard for me to hold this against him when it comes time for Hall of Fame voting.

“Voting,” reads rule No. 5, “shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

Voters might not think about it consciously, but when they decide not to vote for a steroids user, they are invoking the “integrity, sportsmanship, character” clause. The same clause applies to Raines.

I'm not going to get in an argument over drugs and if someone who has integrity or character uses drugs. It's a losing argument with no winner. It sounds silly to me to point to Tim Raines and say, "You used drugs and have no character. Your contributions to the game will be ignored because you had a personal issue that shows you lacked character off-the-field."

Some people reject use of that clause, arguing that there are plenty of bad guys in the Hall of Fame and usually cite Ty Cobb as the poster boy for that group. But that’s not an excuse to put more bad guys in.

Very true. This is no excuse to put more "bad guys" in. This is proof the Hall of Fame voters have ignored the "morality clause" when a player has Hall of Fame-worthy statistics and made a big impact on the game of baseball. Tim Raines beat drugs nearly thirty years ago, but to Murray Chass he is still a "bad guy." Nice to see Murray is so forgiving and hasn't ever had any personal issues that would have kept him out of the "Crotchety and Bitter Old Sportswriters Hall of Fame."

I’ve never bought the argument that a player should be elected to the Hall because his statistics are as good as or better than a player who is a member.

That's not the case here. Tim Raines is comparable to several Hall of Fame members, including Lou Brock. It's fine if Murray doesn't think Tim Raines deserves induction, but the members of the Hall of Fame that Tim Raines is comparable to aren't among the worst players in the Hall of Fame.

Raines, the former Montreal Expos’ all-star is the last player left on the ballot who was involved with the Pittsburgh drug trials. Dave Parker’s last year of eligibility was 2011, when he received a meager 15.3 percent. Keith Hernandez fell off the ballot in 2004 when he didn’t gain the requisite 5 percent but a minuscule 4.3 percent.

Both Parker and Hernandez were judged for Hall of Fame induction based entirely on their merits on the field. It's not too much to ask that Raines also be judged by his play on the field and not be lumped in with steroid users simply because it is convenient for Murray to do so. I can't get in the head of Hall of Fame voters, thank God, but I would imagine Hernandez and Parker didn't make the Hall of Fame because their performance didn't merit induction as opposed to their participation in the Pittsburgh drug trials.

Incidentally, Kevin Koch has never made the BBWAA ballot. Koch was the Pittsburgh Pirates’ mascot, the man in the parrot costume, who moonlighted as the cocaine delivery man to the Pirates’ clubhouse.

Murray may not want to do a nationwide standup tour. Humor is not his strength.

In this election, Raines fared better than Clemens (37.6 percent) and Bonds (36.2) and much better than Sosa (12.5). I suspect the disparity among the three first-timers came from the view held by some writers that Clemens and Bonds had established their Hall of Fame credentials before they resorted to steroids.

Which, if I am being honest, I don't see as an entirely wrong viewpoint. It is difficult to determine when a player used steroids or not, but I can see why some voters would try to separate out the steroid and non-steroid years for a certain player.

The votes for first-timers Craig Biggio (a ballot-leading 68.2) and Mike Piazza (57.8) as well as third-timer Jeff Bagwell (59.6) indicate that writers either haven’t caught up to the latest reports of their alleged steroids use or, more likely, are willing to overlook the reports because the players were never caught using anything illegal.

Because God forbid there are open-minded sportswriters out there who refuse to convict Piazza, Bagwell and Biggio based on circumstantial evidence and their own personal belief these players used steroids. These writers probably have caught up to the latest reports but don't think it is fair to lump Piazza, Biggio and Bagwell in with Bonds/Clemens/Sosa. It is probably shocking for Murray to realize there are those willing to consider the idea their own preconceived notion about these players isn't a set-in-stone fact.

My favorite, Jack Morris, did not benefit from the absence of surefire first-timers on the ballot. With four fewer ballots cast, the pitcher gained three votes and only 1 percent to 67.7. Next year he could suffer with the addition of Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine to the ballot,

I'm looking forward to next year's Hall of Fame vote because it is going to be absolutely clear what a Hall of Fame pitcher is supposed to look like (Maddux and Glavine), while showing those pitchers who were just very good (Morris) probably don't deserve induction. The 2014 class is going to show the largest difference in guys like Jack Morris and real Hall of Fame pitchers.

or he could benefit if the voters say let’s put all the good pitchers in.

Here's the fundamental problem with Jack Morris being in the Hall of Fame. Even the strongest supporters of Morris will say he was a "good pitcher." Murray Chass is going to turn in a Hall of Fame ballot until Jack Morris is no longer eligibile. He is a huge supporter of Morris and even he says Morris was "good." Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were great pitchers. So if the voters do anything they will see Glavine and Maddux's numbers and realize, "Holy shit, this is what a Hall of Fame pitcher is supposed to be," and Morris will lose votes due to this.

I found the most intriguing to come from Michael Weiner, the head of the players’ union, who issued this statement:

...Moreover, to penalize players exonerated in legal proceedings – and others never even implicated – is simply unfair. The Hall of Fame is supposed to be for the best players to have ever played the game. 

The writers serve as judges of players’ careers but are not restricted as judges are in dealing with the law. We are free to use circumstantial evidence, and there is plenty of that with Bonds and Clemens, all of which points to them as cheaters.

Notice how Murray has absolutely nothing to say about the "others never even implicated" statement in regard to steroids. This is because Murray knows it is ridiculous to convict a guy like Jeff Bagwell based entirely on a rumor that he heard one time. Murray always glosses over why he won't vote for Bagwell because he hasn't seen his bacne and has no idea if Bagwell used steroids. He only relies on rumors when discussing Bagwell. Murray is not voting for Bagwell based on what somebody he trusts told him and I think that is wrong. It's easy to beat the drum against Bonds and Clemens, but Murray's reasoning in regard to Bagwell falls short in my opinion.

But the Hall of Fame voters don’t need any more proof than they used in this election.

I think you do. I think if you are stating Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Craig Biggio don't get your Hall of Fame vote because they lack "integrity, sportsmanship, and character" you better have a good reason for this claim other than bacne and a game of telephone with another sportswriter. To state a player lacks character and integrity isn't discussing his on-the-field exploits, but is criticizing him for his actions off-the-field. I think this is something there should be definitive proof of being true before not casting a ballot for these players. As I have said repeatedly, I think Biggio, Bagwell, and Piazza used steroids, but I have no proof so I'm not so closed-minded as to think my opinion is right.

In searching for something I had written for The New York Times some years ago, I came across an article written by Alan Schwarz in spring training of 2004.
 
Schwarz talked to some young fans about the steroids mess that was just starting to emerge publicly.
 
“It’s cheating,” an 11-year-old Florida fan said while watching an exhibition game.

Because the opinion of an 11-year-old can never be wrong. That's why Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift and One Direction are the greatest musicians in the history of music. That's why every boy band from the past 20 years is still going strong and selling millions of albums. That's why "Twilight" is going to win every Academy Award.

An 11-year-old's opinion is not an opinion I would strongly cite in support of nearly any argument.

”I’m angry,” said another young fan. “I don’t like people cheating in sports.”

”I’d feel bad if Barry Bonds used steroids,” the first fan said. ”Hank Aaron didn’t use steroids, did he?”

Therein lies Murray Chass' argument for why Tim Raines lacks integrity. Cocaine is the same thing as steroids. 11-year-old boys don't like cheaters and so grown adults shouldn't like cheaters. Because steroid users are cheaters and using cocaine is the same thing as steroids, then that means Tim Raines is a cheater and shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame for this reason. How can the opinion of an 11-year-old boy from 9 years ago be wrong or not universally accepted?

3 comments:

Darryl Stwawberry said...

All I can add is that this guy brings new meaning to the word tedious. Hopefully, he'll see something that sets off the alarm klaxon in his hypersensitive-to-cheating brain and stroke out.

Naliamegod said...

It is worth noting that Paul Molitor is in the Hall of Fame and he was also a known cocaine addict (he recovered). Someone pointed this out to Chase and he made some weak reply.


Honestly, the whole cocaine scandal should be a positive on Tim Raines, not a negative. The guy was addicted before he played MLB and managed to kick the habit at age 23. And unlike Molitor, he was pretty open about it. Why ruin one of the good baseball stories?

Bengoodfella said...

Daryl, I think what would set him off is if Piazza admitted to steroid use.

Nalia, I think Murray made the reply that Moliter didn't use on the field or have cocaine in his pocket...I could be wrong, but I think that's how he replied.

I agree it should be a positive. It shows he was able to overcome something that happened very, very early in his career and be a Hall of Fame player. He used cocaine when he was very young. It was long ago and recovered.