Tony La Russa is one of six men who will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame today. Now that he’s got his ticket punched, he thinks all the heavy hitters from the steroid era should be let in—but with an asterisk.
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.”
Stunning, isn’t it? A perfectly reasonable opinion sounds so absurd when there is zero self awareness attached to it. (In addition to managing the Canseco/McGwire-era A’s, remember, La Russa profited from the talents of Rick Ankiel and Larry Bigbie and Jason Christiansen and Ryan Franklin and Kent Mercker and Fernando Viña, all named in the Mitchell Report, when he was in St. Louis. Maybe his plaque should have an asterisk on it.)
Anyway, there’s a perfect opportunity here for someone to go scorched earth during his induction speech and just go up there and talk about how everyone from fans to writers to players to managers always knew what was going on, and how it really only became an issue once owners figured out that the drug issue could be used as a tool to extract concessions from players in labor negotiations, and how it’s a real fucking shame that the Hall of Fame is being held hostage by a bunch of miserable phonies holding on for dear life to a Pollyanna vision of capital-B baseball. Tony La Russa would actually be the perfect guy to do this! He’s a no-nonsense winner, almost universally beloved and respected by Baseball People, and he’s in the machine.
“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.’ “
We don’t know who he’s talking about, or when, but the idea here is that while the heroic La Russa wanted the game cleaned up, gutless higher-ups were just shaking their heads in deference to their well-known respect for the players’ sacrosanct right to privacy in the workplace.
This may be true, though the earliest mention we can find of the Players’ Association referring to drug testing as a privacy issue is in 2002, when, with the threat of a player strike looming over the All Star Game in Milwaukee, Donald Fehr briefly mentioned the players’ concern for the privacy implications of random drug testing. The important part is just how perfectly and cravenly La Russaesque it is. To the extent that it was an actual problem, drug use on his teams was apparently the fault of absolutely everyone—players and general managers and owners—but Tony La Russa. Convenient, that.
Alderson, for his part, seems pretty miffed but won’t rain on La Russa’s parade. “I’m not going to comment on that until at least Monday,” he told the Daily News.