« Sports

Enough already, MLB purists!

by Nick Vitrano

Well, well, well.  So it appears “The Mick” has officially joined the ranks of the “if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.”

I wanted to let the Mickey Mantle bat corking story marinate a little, let the fans (especially the purists) weigh in before offering up, in writing, what I have been saying for a long time:


Let’s start here: I am a baseball nut…I love the game, respect the game, and tirelessly root for the game.  I think the statistics of the game of baseball tell a more complete story of a player’s overall effectiveness than any other professional discourse.  But I am so exhausted with the sacred treatment of baseball’s stat line.

Major League Baseball statistics often prove as much a sign of the times as legitimate measurements. 

Baseball’s history book (and HOF) is filled with men who played when African Americans could not – men who played when Hispanics could not.  Strike shortened seasons, growth to a 162-game season, the dead ball era, World Wars – just a few snapshots in time.  Oh yeah, and then there’s this not-so-insignificant fact: EVERY BALLPARK HAS DIFFERENT DIMENSIONS! 

I’m pretty sure the 315 foot porch in County Stadium’s left field helped to boost a few Brewers’ home run totals.  I’m sure the lack of foul ball room at Wrigley Field has kept a few hitters alive at the plate over the years.  Venues are labeled “hitter’s or pitcher’s parks” based on the decided statistical advantage afforded that respective side, but let’s not talk about that.  Imagine if the Packers decided to make Lambeau Field 92 yards because it better suited their offense.

Then there’s the issue of performance enhancing drugs.  What are those exactly?  Okay, ‘roids and HGH…obvious.  But what about the dudes who popped uppers back in the day?  The guys who took a cortisone injection just so they could get on the field that day?  What about the dude who burns one in the parking lot because it helps him relax at the plate?  How do we handle drugs that, at present, are not banned, but later we discover that they are indeed giving guys an edge and they are subsequently banned?  Complicate the mere questions with the broad brush of association with which the BBWAA has painted an entire generation of players with its latest Hall of Fame universal omission – dudes like Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza – not linked to anything, but guilty because their fellow ballplayers have been pinched.  And then there’s the case of guy like Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun.  What about a kid who might take something his rookie year, gets nailed, learns a valuable lesson and proceeds to put up 3,100 hits over the next 18 years…cleanly.  Is he not worthy for the Hall, for the eternal mentions among the greats?  Do his stats not count?

It’s not that we halt our attempt to officiate the game, try our hardest to keep it clean.  It’s not that we shouldn’t care.  But this much is certain in sport: the cheaters are always a step ahead of the testers.  It doesn’t make it right.  It just makes it…it.