Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Erasing the batters box 

Watching the Twins-Sox series this weekend, one thing I noticed was on Sunday, when Tony Graffanino was leading off for Boston. Most every lead-off batter starts the game by kicking away the chalk that defines the batters box. They want to step back an extra six inches so that they can have a split-second longer to look at the pitch before swinging or not. Technically, it's illegal to bat outside the box, and it should be illegal as well to kick away the chalk. But everyone does it. (The reason Graffanino didn't was either because he isn't usually a leadoff hitter so he didn't have the habit, or because he wanted the Twins closer to the pitchers mound with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield pitching. I can't tell you which explanation is true.)

I'm reminded of this hearing more and more about how people do not want to vote for Rafael Palmeiro for the Hall of Fame because he now has a positive steroid test, or because he may have perjured himself before Congress. To me, this is trying to rechalk the batters box in the seventh inning. They're part of the game; "greenies" have long been part of the game.

Let me put this differently: It's 2003. Suppose I know the Yankees are using steroids. It's not being policed by MLB. I run the Red Sox. Will I go out of my way to discourage the use of steroids? Will I ask questions about, say, Todd Walker if he shows up with 30 extra pounds and 'ripped'? No, and if he does this and hits 35 home runs will I give him a smaller contract because I suspect he got muscles from a bottle? Did any baseball writer not vote for Bret Boone for MVP in 2001 because of the suspicion he had juiced up?

As Jayson Stark points out, nobody kept Gaylord Perry out. Did he "cheat the game"? Yes; what he did was illegal at the time he did it. But there's a difference between suspecting Gaylord doctored baseballs and knowing it.

If you keep Palmeiro out, isn't that ex post facto? Your comments, sanctimonious or not, welcome.