It’s All in the Game

Courtesy of Yankee Analysts

It’s about the purity of the game, we’re told. It’s about correcting the mistake of the past, they insist. It’s about integrity and looking out for those with the guts to not break the rules. These are the pat lines we’re often fed by pious writers, driven by their intense love of the game and desire to right wrongs.

Except, of course, most of it is garbage. Every Hall of Fame piece is an opportunity to promote one’s brand, one’s twitter account, and better represent the company they keep. Jon Heyman is a veteran reporter who catches a lot of crap from every corner of the internet. Sometimes, he winks at us but most of the time it is just breaking trades and half-baked opinions.

Jon Heyman left Sports Illustrated last year to join CBS Sports. Along with his direct line to Scott Boras, Heyman brought his two hundred thousand twitter followers and his notorious trollish persona along with his hard-earned reputation as a good reporter and well-connected baseball personality.

One thing that fell off the moving truck when Heyman made the switch to CBS Sports? His previously held opinions on Barry Bonds.

Barry Bonds doesn’t belong in jail. He belongs in the Hall of Fame.

This is the opening line of a Jon Heyman piece from 2011 on baseball’s all time home run king. Heyman goes to great length to explain why he will be voting for Barry Bonds when he becomes eligible, using reason and thought and rationale like a big boy.

If there’s a reasonable chance that player would have fallen short of the Hall without the extra help, I won’t vote yes. I vote no on Mark McGwire, who I like much better than Bonds. While I believe McGwire’s achievements are clearly Hall worthy (it’s a copout to say they aren’t), I have strong reason to suspect the drugs helped him reach those heights.

As for Bonds, I don’t think anyone could reasonably make the case that he needed drugs to be a Hall of Famer.

Fast forward 20 months and Heyman sings a much different tune, though the only thing that changed is the masthead under which Heyman writes.

If someone wants to point out that steroids weren’t specifically disallowed in baseball before 2002, well, I can buy that, too — to a degree. But I will point out that steroids were illegal even then, and that everyone understood it was a no-no to the point where everyone except Ken Caminiti who took them and was asked about them, even back in those days, lied about it.

Well well! That is a man singing a different tune, indeed. Which is his right. But something doesn’t sit right…perhaps what is really going here is a Heyman toeing the company line.

Heyman’s CBS Sports contemporaries were unanimous in their scorn for “steroid users” in their Hall of Fame votes. Scott Miller wrote a column which fell directly in line with Heyman’s “no drugs” school of thought. Danny Knobler — The Knobler, if you prefer — followed suit, opting for a “not now” on suspected steroid users. Suspected steroid users is a very large umbrella in The Knobler’s world, as it includes Jeff Bagwell (guilty by association) and Mike Piazza.

In the crowded online media world, it isn’t crazy to consider a big spender like CBS taking an official position in the name of eyeballs, getting their high profile talent on-board. Perhaps there is actually nothing to this, just three national reporters who all feel similarly. The editorial oversight enforced here at theScore is pretty much “none”, there is a good chance CBS Sports is no different.

But Heyman’s change of tune is very peculiar. What caused him to take a new position? Is he as shameless as we all want to believe, shifting with the winds of popular opinion and carving out a position with appeal for a certain segment of readers? Is CBS Sports using their big names to stake out some anti-stats nerd ground with inflammatory and public Hall of Fame ballots?

Everybody has kids that need feeding and those pages aren’t going to click themselves. If Heyman arrived at this position all on his own, sure. But if CBS pulls the strings on their big name guys…well that is a conspiracy theory worth investigating.

Comments (9)

  1. Wait…is that Jon Heyman or Lionel Messi?

  2. Why? Look at the other CBS writers ballots. I think the Eye On Baseball blog (Dayn Perry, etc) gave Bonds their vote, but the rest of the primary writers — Heyman, Knobler, Scott Miller, etc — all wrote scorn-filled columns about steroid users and why they weren’t voting for them. That smells of company policy to me.

  3. For what it’s worth, Dayn Perry is employed by CBC and tweeted his “non” ballot which includes bonds, clemens, etc.

    Of course, even if it was a company wide policy the chances of Dayn following it are pretty slim…

  4. Jeff Bagwell (guilty by association)

    Then – why did Larkin get in? He was on the Reds when Rose was betting on the team?
    Or Rickey Henderson – he was in the Canseco / McGwire clubhouse?

  5. There have been many whispers that Ricky being Ricky had more to do with steroidal assistance than his unprecedented ability to sustain elite speed and power well into his forties. If you follow loveable La Russa’s career path in MLB you will find a trail of breadcrumbs (read by some to mean syringes) that always gave his teams a boost. When asked about Canseco, Macguire (as an A and a Cardinal), Pujols, Ricky et al, La Russa is said to have expressed complete and utter surprise that his players would do or consider such a thing and that what happens in the clubhouse beyond his view only the players would know. Coming from this control freak of epic porportion I find that response sort of credible… Sort of.

  6. Barry only played with Rose, Barry’s rookie year. You really think rose and Larkin, being almost 20 yrs apart, had so much in common that they hung out together going over odds on MLB games? Maybe it was the next few years when Rose was just manager that he and this kid willed away all those hours in rose’s office or at the local bar drinking boubon and picking winners. Sounds credible…

  7. What is sad is that – it would have been a nice story to see Biggio & Bagwell inducted together this year as a tribute to the Astros National League time (since they are moving to AL ) as both deserve to be in (and they already punished Bagwell for a couple years)

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