Tony La Russa says that steroid cheats should be let in Baseball Hall of Fame — with asterisks
Is this the best message to be sending to our kids? Really, is this the best we can do?
Maybe the juicers can have their very own wing in Cooperstown.
On the eve of Tony La Russa’s induction into baseball’s Hall of Fame, the legendary manager says he hopes to someday be joined there by the “poster boys” of the Steroid Era — including Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire.
La Russa, whose Oakland clubhouses were an orgy of anabolic drug abuse, told ESPN.com Thursday night, “I might get voted out of the Hall of Fame with that attitude, but that’s what I believe.”
He told ESPN that the game’s most blatant dopers should enter the Hall of Fame with an asterisk attached to their name to indicate their accomplishments were suspect. He reiterated that stance to the Daily News on Friday.
“It’s my two cents, but I think you should let them in, but with an asterisk,” La Russa said. “You can’t place these guys ahead of Hank (Aaron) and (Babe) Ruth. It was a bad period. But if a player has Hall of Fame credentials, I think they should be allowed in — a lot of them had Hall of Fame credentials before all this stuff came out.”
He also told The News that he voiced his “suspicions” about possible steroid use by some of his players with the higher-ups in Oakland — namely then-general manager Sandy Alderson, now the Mets GM — but encountered only indifference.
“I knew our programs in Oakland were 100% clean,” said La Russa, who managed the A’s from 1986-1995. “But we had our suspicions — guys hitting stronger but not working out. I went to Sandy and ownership about this. And they told me flat off, ‘Right of privacy. It’s a collective bargaining issue.’ ”
Alderson, the general manager in Oakland from 1983 to 1997, told the Daily News Saturday morning: “I’m not going to comment on that until at least Monday.”
La Russa may have had private suspicions about some players, but he looked the other way as McGwire and Jose Canseco bulked up with an illegal regimen of hard-core steroids, repeatedly denied for years that McGwire ever used steroids and then hired the slugger as the Cardinals hitting coach in 2010.
He also vehemently defended McGwire even after The News published a story in 2005, based on a 1990s FBI investigation that identified him as a hard-core steroid user.
“For a lot of reasons, a ton of reasons, I believe in Mark. Period. End of conversation,” La Russa told ESPN after The News story was published. “There isn’t anything more I can add to that. I believe in him — and the other Oakland A’s.”
Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are two ‘poster boys’ for steroids.
In the summer of 1998, when McGwire was demolishing the single-season home run record, La Russa barred Steve Wilstein from the Cardinals’ locker room after the then-Associated Press reporter asked questions about a bottle of androstenedione (a steroid precursor), which Wilstein had noticed in McGwire’s locker.
“If any manager had known for sure that his players were doing this and didn’t report it to the league, to me, that’s a breach of integrity and he shouldn’t be let in the Hall of Fame,” La Russa said on Friday.
Baseball didn’t enforce its steroid prohibitions in the 1990s, when Canseco was spreading the gospel of the needle, and didn’t implement a drug-testing program until 2003.
Hall of Fame voters have soundly rejected Bonds, Clemens and McGwire, who set records as distorted as their own physiques in the late 1990s and early 2000s, before Major League Baseball began a crackdown on rampant performance-enhancing drug use.
Clemens, once heralded as the greatest pitcher of his generation, got just 37.6% of the Hall vote in 2013, about half the 75% required for induction. His support dropped this year to 35.4%. Bonds, arguably the greatest slugger in baseball history, received just 37.6% of the vote in 2013 and 35.4% in 2014.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWSMark McGwire makes the back page of the News in 2005 and 2010.
Five people join La Russa in entering the Hall on Sunday: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre. It’s a crowded class one year after not a single player entered the Hall after voters turned away the first generation of players named in the 2007 Mitchell Report on doping in baseball.
McGwire, who made a limited confession in 2010, five years after the Daily News report, received less than 17% of the vote in 2013 and 11% this year. Canseco, meanwhile, received 1.1% of the vote in 2007 and was dropped from the ballot the following year because he fell short of the 5% required to stay.
Glavine, who won 305 games pitching for the Braves and Mets, said it would be OK with him if baseball greats whose legacies have been tarnished by steroids are some day inducted into Cooperstown. But he predicted that would spark a backlash from his older peers.
“I think the bigger issue will be with more of the veteran guys who have been in the Hall for a while. I know they’ve been a lot more vocal against it than a lot of us guys have been, so we’ll see,” Glavine told The News.
“It would make for an interesting situation. It gets to the integrity of the game. If you look at Barry and Roger, both of them were considered the best in the business before there was any suspicion. At least in my mind, I tend to look at those guys a little differently. If you can’t really distinguish what a guy would’ve done (in his career) had he not been one of ‘those’ guys, it’s a tougher argument.”
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