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Part II: Highly Conditional Love (A Mockumentary)

W. Ross Clites
Your City Sports-Cleveland


Saint Louis, MISSOURI--Are we that naïve to believe that a confession of “past” usage in a press conference or 60 Minutes segment signifies that the player is currently clean? This country is too quick to forgive. If someone says “I’m sorry, I did it” the smoke screen goes up for that player to go right back to cheating.

You think Jason Giambi is not back to using some type of performance-enhancer? Do you think Alex Rodriguez has ever stopped using? Short of an angel on their shoulder, there is nothing in place for them to change.

What needs to be put into perspective is the behavior that drives these people to cheat. We are talking about people that have very limited roles in society after baseball. Professional athletes have a small window of relevance. Their careers are essentially a cash grab; stockpiling as much fame, notoriety, and millions--like a squirrel nearing winter--to hopefully last for decades to come.

If some drug-assisted records accompany this time spent in the money booth, so be it. It really does not seem to bother people like Roger Clemens that they effectively killed baseball for fans who love the numbers. They looked at the hallowed record book, spilled their morning coffee on it, and expect us to clean up the mess.

Let that be a lesson to us. Maybe we all need to reevaluate what we cherish about baseball. Cheating is not going to stop. Today’s kids have grown up with ‘roid abusers as role models. And their message has been simple: most of the time, cheaters win.

If Roger Clemens was approached by Major League Baseball with a proposition: give up $20 million and in return, you will be a Hall of Famer. Most people would agree that he would keep the money. The Hall of Fame is for the fans. These players took PEDs to boost their stats for the monetary compensation, not to see their plaques in Cooperstown.

With that being said, we--the fans--need a resolution. Whether they care or not, the Hall of Fame needs to continue inducting players.

Sportswriters, with Hall of Fame ballots, are waiting to make a judgment on the Steroids Era until more information becomes available. The problem is that when it does, and more PED usage emerges in the current “clean era,” they will either have to let everyone in or shut everyone out.

Current stars could be taking more drugs than Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire combined. They should not get a pass because the media tells us the Steroids Era is closed. If they want Miguel Cabrera, they should have to give the Hall Rafael Palmeiro first.

It was well chronicled in Part I that the cheating is now stitched into the fabric of baseball so tightly that PED users in Cooperstown are only a matter of time. Let's do it now and move on. As long as their entry is not graceful, every baseball fan should be on board with the following proposal.

All eligible Hall of Fame candidates linked to PEDs, whether hearsay or admission, will have a Steroid Era Lottery.

Yes, this is a direct shot at the NBA. For if you think that this idea sounds ridiculous--which it is the intention--just remember that there is a prominent American professional sports league that uses such a childish system to handle some of its postseason business. Baseball is not going to be the only sport whose closet is cleaned here.

Just like the NBA variety, ESPN could cover the event and players could select ridiculous representatives. Roger Clemens could have his best buddy, Andy Pettitte, sit at the podium for Team Rocket. That is, if Pettitte isn’t busy showing Clemens the underside of a bus.

The rules of the game are simple. Regardless of total games played, every season a player accumulated in their career is given an individual ping pong ball. So, using the example of Clemens, 24 balls (labeled 1984-2007) would be placed into the transparent machine upon his turn.

Then, here comes the kicker. Five balls will be drawn; five seasons in his illustrious career that are now banned from consideration in his Hall of Fame candidacy. Forget asterisks, a little game of chance seems like a better fit for men that have disgraced the game.

It would be fun to watch them sweat it out in the humiliation of a nationally-televised spectacle. Their once-proud careers would be reduced to an embarrassing side show. It would be refreshing retribution for fans to see the "greats" give back their charade years. The funny/sad part is that some of these former players have egos big enough to agree to it.

For those that think this is cruel and unusual punishment, remember that the odds are still there for each Steroids Era candidate to get in. That is more than they can currently say.

It would be so degrading to agree to this invitation, but some would definitely jump at the opportunity. These blacklisted players would recognize it as their only hope left. A lottery would actually be an upgrade in Hall of Fame probability for people like Mark McGwire.

But if these Steroid Era stars do make it to Cooperstown, the fans will still have peace of mind. The lottery takes those five years away regardless; its best effort to take back some of their drug-aided stats. The attempt is to let some air out of the balloon that is their inflated records.

This way, Clemens would only enter the Hall by the skin of his teeth, not as the third greatest pitcher in the history of the game. The lottery will skim off some numbers that could be directly attributed to HGH.

So if the baseball equivalent to Adam Silver draws 1984, 1985, 1994, 2006, and 2007 then Roger Clemens would close the book on his career with 316 wins. He would be a 7-time Cy Young Award winner, with one MVP.

The Rocket would get his day in Cooperstown, and no one could argue. There is no appeals process (regardless of outcome) after this one-time event. His only punishment would be the forfeiture of 38 wins.
Can you imagine the made-for-television drama that would unfold on Andy Pettitte’s face if Team Rocket is dealt a crushing blow instead? Chris Berman would be perfect to call, "Here comes the next number for Clemens. Whoop! He just lost his MVP season of 1986. This is really going to hurt his chances."

If ping pong balls numbered 1986, 1987, 1990, 1997, and 1998 emerge from the lottery machine, Clemens would hit rock bottom. This worst-case scenario would leave Clemens with 248 wins and just three of his Cy Youngs. That is a rock bottom many pitchers would love to hit.

With those numbers, Clemens would likely say goodbye to his Hall of Fame chances. As a consolation prize, however, he would not see any jail time. There would be no further action taken by Major League Baseball or Congress, as long as each eligible candidate--present at the Steroids Era Lottery--attests the adjusted career totals.

For a perspective on what five ping pong balls would mean to an offensive player, we bring in Mark McGwire. Best-case scenario would leave him with 516 home runs--likely Hall of Famer. If he rolls the anti-perfecto, McGwire would be left in the rubble of a monstrous career being torn down. Over half of his home runs would be swept away, leaving only 289 for his career.

Neither McGwire nor Clemens would likely have their five best or five worst statistical seasons all join together like this. The result would be a mix of both good times and bad. It would put the numbers right where they belong; where they would have been if they never took illegal drugs, squarely on the fence.

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