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Pete Abe Speaks Out Against Baseball “McCarthyism”

By Mike Silva ~ December 27th, 2011. Filed under: Hall of Fame.

Back in the 40s and 50s the United States was facing a huge threat - communism. During this era, thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government. Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy led the brigade with the “Hollywood Blacklist” and investigations by the House and FBI.

A similar fight is going on today with the Baseball Writers Association of America. Upset they didn’t uncover the use of performance enhancing drugs (watching some of these guys in actions it’s not a surprise to me), they have decided to make up for that mistake by punishing anyone who lockered next to a steroid user. Have big muscles or improved your game? Guilty. At least McCarthy’s ambitions were meant to protect the country during the Cold War. The BBWAA’s actions are more an example of what happens when you give powerless individuals some responsibility.

Everyone knows I have been critical of the BBWAA and the writers who use suspicions and allegations of PED use to deny deserving Hall of Fame candidates a vote. I don’t think PED use should impact someone’s analysis of a player’s career, but if it must, then you better be sure there is a direct connection between said player and PEDs. One such example has been Jeff Bagwell.

Bagwell has been a topic of discussion here since Jeff Pearlman came on my radio program last year and said he is “so certain Bagwell used steroids from being around that team, era, and researching his Clemens book that if Bagwell didn’t use then the world is flat.” Pearlman also lumped Craig Biggio into that category.

Many voters felt the same about Bagwell as he collected just 41.7% of the vote his first year on the ballot. Earlier this month, I went on record saying I don’t believe anyone will be elected y the BBWAA this year. Mainly because of their steroid witch hunt and the fresh wound opened up by Ryan Braun‘s failed drug test.

There does appear, however, to be a glimmer of hope. Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe revealed he voted for Bagwell (along with Barry LarkinTim Raines, and Alan Trammell).

“Ignoring drug use seems unconscionable,” Abraham said earlier today in the Globe. “Voting for Barry BondsMark McGwire or Manny Ramirez would cheapen the Hall of Fame. But not voting for somebody based only a hunch is worse. It’s baseball McCarthyism.”

Kudos to Abraham for at least acknowledging the silliness of PED suspicions as reason to keep a player out of the Hall of Fame. There is something wrong with a writer that holds baseball to a higher standard than society. If blatant murderers are “innocent until proven guilty,” then how to treat a suspected steroid user is a no brainer.

I still don’t understand how Abraham and company can justify keeping Bonds or Ramirez out- at least with McGwire there is some performance justification- but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Jeff Bagwell’s vote total this year will go a long way in telling us if other deserved Hall of Famer’s surrounded by PED allegations - such as Mike Piazza and Craig Biggio- will have a chance going forward.


In case you are wondering, I would vote for Jack MorrisEdgar Martinez, Mark McGwire, Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, and Tim Raines.

You can see detailed explanations by reading my full ballot here. 


Want to cast your vote? Tell us who you would elect in our very own NYBD Hall of Fame Ballot.

Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
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19 Responses to Pete Abe Speaks Out Against Baseball “McCarthyism”

  1. Chuck Johnson

    Do you think OJ killed his wife?

  2. Kurt

    You’re a true Obama liberal.

    The dirty little secret about McCarthyism is that most of those involved were communists…as are most of the democratic politicians today.

  3. Mike Silva


    I never denied the issues with the 40s and 50s, I just think it’s silly to have the same type of process when voting for the HOF

  4. Kurt

    Fair enough, point taken.

  5. Stu B

    “as are most of the democratic politicians today.”

    You have proof of this, Kurt? If not, you have no business making such a blanket statement. What’s your problem?

  6. sanford

    I can see good reason for all your votes except for McGwire and Palmiero. Both are steroid users. Palmiero has never admitted it even though he was tested positive. While McGwire finally admitted it I think it is a little too late. You can hardly use McCarthyism in their cases. As for Kurt saying all those Democrats were communists, one should have a little proof. And even if they were, so what. As far as I know there is nothing in the constitution that says you can’t be.

  7. Brien Jackson

    “Do you think OJ killed his wife?”


  8. Stu B

    “Do you think OJ killed his wife?”

    Old news, but absolutely.

  9. Chuck Johnson

    Right, Brien.

    And Bagwell is guilty under point #2.

  10. Brien Jackson

    Ah yes, the old “the only way professional athletes could possibly get thicker as they mature and have access to world class strength training and nutrition is by using anabolic steroids.” Because, you know, the human body just does not get thicker between the the ages of 20 and 30 any other way.

  11. Brien Jackson

    And for what it’s worth, I tend to find that such “look at his old baseball card” arguments tend to lack legitimacy on their own terms. In Bagwell’s rookie card, for example, the man is absolutely built. Granted he’s well built for a skinny-ish 20 something year old, but he’s still quite well built. Later on he’s quite well built for a 30 something year old man.

    This argument probably says more about the warped view of the aesthetics of the human body held by the proponent than about anything else.

  12. Brien Jackson

    “Old news, but absolutely.”

    Also a total non-sequitor, as O.J. was indicted and had a trial in a real court with actual evidence presented against him by the state. Bagwell has had nary an actual allegation leveled against him, which is a pretty good indication that no one has a shred of evidence to back up any such claim. Given that it’s virtually impossible to sue a journalist for slander/libel in the U.S., you can rest assured that if any writer had anything approaching evidence that Bagwell used they’d be writing about it.

  13. Mike Silva

    Better hope the BBWAA doesn’t find this out about Bagwell… another excuse to keep him out


    Judge Jim Wallace did not allow Michael Brown’s lawyers to introduce evidence that the ex-hand surgeon’s wife is banging former Astro Jeff Bagwell in Brown’s assault trial today.

    There isn’t much detail about Bagwell – yet – but since he was married at the time (still is?), this could get interesting in the courtroom in the coming days/weeks. Significantly more interesting than anything the Astros have done on the field in … years?

  14. Mike Silva

    Also - unless you think Bagwell is a flat out liar, this could explain the growth


    “I know a lot of people are saying, ‘His body got bigger.’ Well, if you’re eating 30 pounds of meat every single day and you’re working out and bench pressing, you’re going to get bigger. You can go to every single trainer and they’ll say, ‘He was the first here and last to leave, and that dude worked his ass off.’

    “The heavy lifting all started in 1995. I was going through a divorce and I came to spring training, and I thought everything was good. Then I got to spring training and I’ll never forget it: Mike Hampton looked at me and said, ‘Dude, what’s wrong with you? You’re so skinny, you look like you’re on crack.’ I look back at the stats and they weren’t bad [21 homers, 87 RBIs and a .290 batting average in 114 games]. But I told myself, ‘I’m never going to have somebody say that to me again.’ I said, ‘I’m going to find a trainer and get strong.’

  15. Mike Felber

    Some of those accused were Communists at least at some time, some were merely slandered. Either way being part of a party shows no disloyalty, nor that they necessarily were for Soviet style autocracy…I would hope we would be beyond such vicious paranoia.

    Bonds had an implausible excuse for The Cream/Clear testing results. And was investigated to the nth degree. There is no reasonable way to assume he was not a liar & cheater. I like Big Mac, but even IF good enough clean, could he have been healthy enough to have put up HOF stats clean? Odds seems against it.

    It is baseless slander to say Bagwell must have used. I know tons of guys who had his muscle, some of whom were clearly clean. If you have access to the BEST training, nutrition, other science, have well above average genetic potential, who here thinks his size is impossible?

    If so, WHY exactly? I got much bigger, both muscle & fat, when I hit 30. WITHOUT great genetics, trainers, or any individual help. He COULD have used. Anybody COULD have. That is different from 1) Any credible evidence that he did, & 2) that he reached a muscular size implausible for his genetics & access to the best possible science of lifting & nutrition.

  16. Acoustic567

    I’m bothered by the sanctimoniousness of some of the BBWAA voters, but I disagree with this post, especially the “innocent until proven guilty” angle.

    If you believe that PED use should enter into your consideration of a player for the Hall of Fame, then you have to decide whether a particular candidate was a user. It’s all a matter of inference from the available evidence. McGwire’s admission of PED use supports a strong inference that he used (it doesn’t “prove” it); sudden changes in body shape support a lesser inference.

    Remember, a lot of these writers are guys who feel burned because of their celebratory coverage of players who later turned out to be users, guys who gained an edge that a lot of other players did not have. They are not about to allow themselves be fooled a second time. If they have suspicions, they are going to wait until those suspicions are dispelled. No one has a “right” to someone’s HOF vote.

    No one denies that this is unfair to some worthy HOF candidates. The question is who is responsible for this unfairness. In my view the blame lies with those players who clearly used, and the general conspiracy of silence that has led so many players to lie or at least to refuse to come clean about their use. Had there not been SO MANY instances of dishonesty about the facts, writers would not have become so cautious.

    Some BBWAA writers may be too sanctimonious, but the most anyone has a right to expect from them is an honest assessment of how these issues should affect their vote. if the available evidence makes a particular voter cautious, who am I to tell him/her, “No, you should believe something different from what you actually believe”?

  17. Mike Felber

    Looking at how reasonable interpretations are is a basic critical skill, & all have the right to (hopefully politely & will persuasive evidence) to tell anyone their reasoning is wrong &/or unfair. I would say it is a responsibility if one is fair minded & cares about the issue, though it is not saving orphans!

    How is a direct admission of PED use not “proof” he used? If you mean technically it is not foolproof because he COULD be lying, I would say OK, but it is so unlikely that he would lie in that direction that this is a mere technicality. I agree completely that SUDDEN changes in muscle mass especially (& MORE so when a guy already has a decent physique) supports a lesser inference of guilt.

  18. Brien Jackson

    “In my view the blame lies with those players who clearly used, and the general conspiracy of silence that has led so many players to lie or at least to refuse to come clean about their use. Had there not been SO MANY instances of dishonesty about the facts, writers would not have become so cautious.”

    Witch hunters always do blame the victims, don’t they?

  19. Acoustic567

    Not sure who the “victim” is in your statement, or the “witch hunter.”. If you’re lumping me in with the latter, you’re way off base.

    I have no view on Bagwell himself; I have no idea what he did or didn’t do. I respect the argument that no one should make accusations in print w/o better evidence than body size, etc.

    But deciding not to vote for someone for the HOF is not slander or McCarthyism. It’s not like throwing someone in jail or blacklisting him. HOF election is an honor, not a fundamental human right.

    If there were an option to vote someone out of the HOF when new info came to light, I’m sure some of these writers would be more willing to give players the benefit of the doubt. But since there is no such option and there has been such a lack of candor, I’m not outraged that some writers are taking a wait-and-see approach,even though I don’t agree with that approach.

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