Who am I?

I'm from Houston, a graduate of the University of Texas, a fan of the Houston Astros and Houston Texans. But this blog will be about the "greater sports", whatever that means.

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Monday, December 27, 2021

PEDs and the Hall of Fame. The final judgment.

Credit: National Baseball Hall of Fame

Nothing seems to get baseball fans, especially those who focus on the history of the game, more invigorated in disagreement than the annual Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) vote for recently retired players eligible for the greatest honor in the sport, induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  And over the past 10+ years, there has been no more polarizing an issue than how to handle players who were known to have used Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs, a.k.a. steroids) during the 1990s and early 2000s until testing began in earnest in 2002.  The debate has probably reached its crescendo, as two of the most famous (or infamous depending on how you look at it) PED users enter their 10th and final year of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot.

Iconic facade of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

The two players of debate are, of course, Barry Bonds, the all-time and single season home run king, and Roger Clemens, who won a record seven Cy Young awards and sits third on the All-Time Strikeout list (trailing only Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson).  Both have been on the ballot for nine full years, the last three voting results sitting stagnantly at between 59% and 62% of the writers' votes well short of the 75% needed for induction and no meaningful indication of increasing.

In addition to the final stand for Bonds and Clemens, two interesting cases in their first year of eligibility are Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz.  The former was once suspended for an entire year for PED violations, the latter never suspended but admitted to a positive test prior to enforcement with suspension.  How will voters who omit Bonds and Clemens from their ballots treat A-Rod and Big Papi?

The NBHOF has provided no guidance in terms of how they expect voters to handle the PED complexity specifically, which shouldn't be a surprise.  But this stance draws the ire of BBWAA voters who want to do the right thing but aren't sure what the right thing is.  The complex nature of PEDs with relation to a vote for induction brings about polarizing opinions that will be explored below.  

This Blog is not intended to pick a side or draw a conclusion. There's no perfect answer and arguments can and are being made on both sides.  I seek to clarify people's thoughts and hope to get respect for opinions other than your own.

Before we delve into the logic behind voting for, or withholding a vote for, a player who either tested positive for PEDs or is beyond a reasonable doubt to have used PEDs, there are some clarifications about the Hall of Fame and its voting that should be introduced for context.

Clarification #1) Major League Baseball does not own/or operate the NBHOF.

Major League Baseball has no official authority over the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which is a non-profit (unlike MLB) governed by a Board of Directors (of which MLB has no oversight or input).  It is worth noting that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is on the Board but not in a Chair role.  So, the NBHOF operates independent of MLB and has its own authority to decide on how it governs itself regardless of what MLB desires or wants.  MLB certainly has influence and an overwhelmingly collaborative relationship, note that it is the NBHOF that does not allow individuals banned from baseball (including the deceased) to be inducted, not a decision that MLB imposed.

Clarification #2) The NBHOF (and its museum) ignores the PED issue altogether

A good chance to note the separation of the entities of the NBHOF and its museum.  The NBHOF is the community of players inducted by various means (not the least of which is vote of the BBWAA) which are celebrated by plaques in the Hall of Fame Gallery of the museum.  The museum proper is the co-located space spanning multiple floors celebrating the achievements of the sport, including countless items of memorabilia, various media (photos, jerseys, gloves, hats, videos, narratives, statues) that provide fans context to the history of the game dating back to the Mid 19th Century.  It would be highly unlikely that at any time a reference to PEDs would be included on a plaque of an inducted member.  However, the Museum contains a display case in its history showing the controversy, with numerous artifacts and items as a lesson to fans of what took place, who the characters were, and how it played out. 

NBHOF display telling the story of PEDs

Barry Bonds Home Run #756 on Display with historic Clemens strikeout memorabilia in the background

Clarification #3) By not inducting PED users, the full story of baseball is not presented in the museum

The NBHOF museum shows all the great players, moments, records, regardless of whether plaques are included in the gallery.  It would make no sense to only show things by those inducted.  In fact, Pete Rose has a very prominent place in the museum with jerseys, videos, etc. showing his all-time hit record.  The hit king is in the Hall of Fame.  Museum.  No, his plaque is not in the gallery because of other reasons.  But he is not ignored.

Pete Rose full display of hit record

Barry Bonds HR record celebrated 

Clarification #4) The BBWAA voting members are at fault for keeping PED players out

A majority of BBWAA voters are checking the box FOR Bonds and Clemens.  There isn't some big conspiracy that the writers don't want them in.  Most of them do. However, 75% is a difficult threshold under these circumstances.  As will be discussed below, there are rational reasons to exclude known PED users (however you determine what defines "known").  A reaction from fans is recently "I hate the writers".  No, you hate 40% of the writers, not most writers.

Clarification #5) The NBHOF provides no guidance whatsoever to BBWAA voters

I mentioned above that the NBHOF is silent on the PED issue, which is true.  However, there are rules provided which, like any legalese, can be interpreted by the end user (but in this case, not challenged in court).  This is what opens up differing opinions.  Specifically, rule #5 which cites an integrity clause is overwhelmingly cited as contentious.

5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

Bluntly, "Integrity, Sportsmanship, and Character" come into question on the issue and are left to the eye of the beholder.

Sportsman of the Week Ending 12/26/2021

It's getting down to crunch time in the National Football League with just three games left coming into the weekend and log jams at the top of several Divisions as teams vie for playoff berths.  No Division is more tightly bunched than the AFC North in which the best team was 8-6 and the worst was 7-7.  Anybody's division.  The Cincinnati Bengals stepped up on the rising right arm of their top overall draft pick in 2020, Joe Burrow.  The former Heisman Trophy winner torched the depleted Baltimore Ravens for 525 yards and 4 touchdowns in a dominating 41-21 thrashing of their Division Rival.  The win puts the Bengals up a full game on the entire Division including tiebreakers on all teams except the Browns.  They will likely make their first playoffs since 2015 and seeking their first playoff win since 1990.  For the second time, Joe Burrow is the Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Sportsman of the Week Ending 12/19/2021

Nothing less than the most productive season in Division 1, Football Bowl Subdivision history.  That is what our Sportsman of the Week earned in 2021.  Bailey Zappe of Western Kentucky sealed his season with a 422-yard, 6 TD performance in a Boca Raton Bowl romp against Appalachian State.  The Hilltoppers torched the Mountaineers for 52 points through 3 quarters in the record-breaking performance.  overall, Zappe ended the season with 5,967 yards and 62 touchdowns, breaking records of Texas Tech's B.J. Simons 5,833 in 2003 and Louisiana State's Heisman and National Champion Joe Burrow's 60 TDs in 2019.  Zappe's Hilltoppers started the season a meager 1-5 with competitive losses to bowl teams like Michigan State, Army, and Texas San Antonio.  But they then went on a run through the second half of October through the end of the season winning 8 out of 9, dropping only a rematch to UTSA in the Conference USA Championship Game.  Zappe's name is etched in college football lore and he is the Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week! 

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Sportsman of the Week Ending 12/12/2021

What a finish to certainly will go down as one of the most memorable Formula One racing seasons.  Fans around the world were glad to see a full schedule and two drivers dominated down to the last race for all the marbles.  Only once in the past seven seasons did the F1 Driver's Championship come down to the last race.  But in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the 22nd race of the 2021 season (most of any season), 7-time total, and 4-time defending Champion Lewis Hamilton on the Mercedes team and upstart Max Verstappen were level in points.  Winner.  Takes.  All.  And then.  It came down to the final lap.  With Hamilton firmly in control of the race, the safety car leveled the gap and Red Bull Racing's Verstappen took advantage.  The Dutchman loaded up on new tires (not available to Hamilton without losing his position) and passed Hamilton early in the final lap and there was nothing the Brit could do (besides protest some of the decisions on the restart which is beyond the scope of this Blog.  And Verstappen won his first Championship at age 24, just a year older than Hamilton when he won his first in 2008.  Is this a changing of the guard?  Or will Hamilton get the first back to win his eighth championship in 2022?  Stay tuned, that season might top this one.  But in the meantime, Max Verstappen is the 2021 Formula One Champion and the Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Sportsman of the Week Ending 12/05/2021

What a grand finale for College Football as the Conference Championships took center stage, with the best teams having a last chance to impress the College Football Playoff committee, the best players garnering last minute Heisman Trophy votes, and settling the entire bowl season.  No game was bigger than top ranked Georgia Bulldogs going against their SEC nemesis #3 Alabama Crimson Tide looking for their first win in 7 tries.  It will have to wait until the eighth.  Rare underdog Alabama took it to the Dawgs led by their sophomore quarterback phenom Bryce Young.  Already in the conversation for Heisman trip to New York.  Now the odds-on favorite to raise the trophy.  Young rose to the occasion in their biggest game hitting 26 of 44 passes for an SEC Championship Game record 421 yards and 3 TD.  Perhaps better, no interceptions or fumbles lost (he ran for another 49 yards and a fourth TD).  The Tide got the number one seed in the Playoffs and Young looks poised to lead the Tide to yet another Championship after he likely takes home the Heisman hardware.  Young is the Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week~!