Last week I was really busy, with the Winter Meetings and moving to a strange, semi-fictional land and whatnot. So I didn't get around to reading Rick Reilly's latest screed until today.
Man. Man, oh man.
I'm so pumped up for next July in Cooperstown!
I can't wait to see who's going to be in the crowd at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony for new members Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre.
Maybe Mark McGwire will show up? It might be as close as he'll ever get. La Russa managed him for 15 seasons in both Oakland and St. Louis and says he never saw McGwire do a single steroid. Imagine that.
In all, the three managers being inducted oversaw at least 34 players who've been implicated as PED users and never noticed a thing wrong.
Boy, that's some damn-fine mind reading! Somehow, Rick Reilly is able to sit in his office or his favorite coffee shop and divine, some years after the facts, that La Russa and Cox and Torre were completely ignorant about everything.
Oh. Right. Sarcasm. Got it.
My guess is that La Russa and Cox and Torre never did see players "doing" steroids, but that all of them knew something was going on. Hell, it wasn't long before everybody knew something was going on. Reilly saves most of his opprobrium for La Russa, presumably because of the Bash Brothers, and also because La Russa's always mounted the most vehement defense of his players (and his own ignorance) ...
He spent eight hours a day around these guys, eight months a year, and yet he never saw a thing. Maybe he dressed in a different clubhouse?
But he goes into the HOF and those players never will. Maybe he can send them some Instagrams.
You won't even have to be in Cooperstown to smell the hypocrisy. Even the faintest scent of a rumor of PED use is enough to sink a player now.
Take Houston Astros great Craig Biggio. He had more than enough career to get in, and even though there isn't a stitch of evidence against him, the writers have kept him out because they have a niggling hunch he might've used.
Remember, kids: If you play the game under even a single cloud of suspicion, you're out. Manage it under one? Come on in and pull up a plaque!
That's cute. Reilly's a cute writer. But once you get past the cuteness, what's left?
He doesn't come out and say it, but Reilly is clearly implying that not a single manager of the last 25 years belongs in the Hall of Fame. He says that Clemens and McGwire shouldn't be there, because "they're tainted beyond any reasonable doubt." And further, "for the expansion error committee to let these three managers in -- unanimously, no less -- after winning hundreds of games with better chemistry is the gold standard of double standards."
Am I reading too much into that? Isn't he saying that if Clemens and McGwire don't belong, then neither do their managers? But what about the era's other top managers? Would anyone care to make a reasonable case that Lou Piniella and Jim Leyland and Davey Johnson and Dusty Baker haven't all managed dozens of players who were using illegal sports drugs?
If that's what Reilly believes, okay. I just wish he would have the courage of his convictions, and say that. I wish he would say that Jim Leyland behaved immorally. I wish he would say that Dusty Baker shouldn't ride Barry Bonds' drugs' coattails all the way to Cooperstown.
I don't know why he didn't say that. But maybe because if he says that all the great managers of the last 25 years were terrible people who don't belong in the Hall of Fame, it naturally follows that ALL MANAGERS of the last 25 years were terrible people, since none of them did anything about sports drugs or just quit in protest. I would even argue that Reilly's line of reasoning leads to the conclusion that all managers of the last FIFTY YEARS were terrible people, since we know that players started ingesting illegal amphetamines, in bulk, in the 1970s (if not earlier).
Somehow I can't see Rick Reilly writing a column about what a terrible person Tommy Lasorda was. Or Yogi Berra. Or Sparky Anderson. Yeah. I really, really, really want to read the Sparky Anderson column.
Reilly' is holding Cox and La Russa and Torre -- and by extension, all other managers -- to an impossible standard. He's asking each manager to behave as managers and coaches have never behaved, in any sport. He's asking each manager to betray his players and quite probably give up their own careers, all in the service of a crusade that was bound to fail without a groundswell of support from all quarters. He's asking for the impossible
Frankly, Rick Reilly has an unhealthy obsession with this subject, which leaves him unable to think clearly. He's far from a stupid man. But even the smartest men have blind spots. And for Reilly, this one's a real whopper.