Editorial: Baseball needs to correct its record books

Published 9:16 am Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What is the strangest thing in baseball?

It’s not that the highest-paid player who was supposed to save the cherished career home run record from the taint of steroids turned out to be a cheating steroid user just the same. Of course, that is strange and ironic.

But what’s stranger — maybe “more shocking” is a better term — is that the active and retired players in the sport have not demanded that Major League Baseball and the players’ union scrub the sport’s record books. The league ought to remove names of Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and other cheaters who used steroids, human growth hormone or performance-enhancing drugs from the records altogether, as though they never even suited up to play the game. And tainted MVP and Rookie of the Year awards could be rightly given to the runners-up.

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Not all players are quiet. All-time great Frank Robinson had this to say:

“Where do you go back, stop and say, ‘OK, when did he start using steroids?’ To eliminate all that, and get the players’ attention, you wipe the whole thing out,” Robinson told MLB.com. “Why put the burden on baseball to try and figure out where to go, and maybe put an asterisk? Just wipe the whole thing out.”

That’s what the Olympics does. That’s what the Tour de France did to Lance Armstrong. Why can’t baseball?

But the excuses thrown up to keep cheaters on the books are many: The drugs weren’t against the rules at the time. The drugs don’t enhance eyesight or timing. There have been cheaters in every era.

These are easily dispelled: Using performance-enhancing drugs is morally wrong. The drugs enhance arm and leg strength, turning fly balls into home runs, thus tainting the records. Cheaters in other eras were barely capable of busting up the record books. A spitball is not the same level of rule-breaking as a doper.

The American League has records going back to 1901, and the National League has records going back to 1876. That’s 155 years of cherished American history tainted by steroids and other drugs.

Because sportswriters determine who gets into the Baseball Hall of Fame, it’s doubtful any of them will be enshrined in Cooperstown, N.Y. Thank goodness.

If MLB Commissioner Bud Selig won’t correct the record books, one of his successors eventually will. The fans demand it. It’ll happen, even if it is 20 years from today.