Any slugger from the steroid era has to deal with an extra set of questions pertaining to their legacy, but what if that scrutiny had always been the case?
Some of the coverage related to Jim Thome and his 600 home runs makes me wonder what has happened to baseball journalism. After all, Thome was generally considered clean, but now that his Hall of Fame candidacy is being mentioned in a timely fashion, all of a sudden, questions need to be asked. This leads me to wonder what baseball journalism would have been like some 50 years ago, with the same mentality ...
Last night, Ted Williams finished a 19-year career with the Boston Red Sox by hitting a home run in his final at-bat. The third pitch is likely to become one of the more famous farewells in the history of the game, as Williams has long been one of baseball's best, and it's hard to imagine anyone both as talented and durable as the Splendid Splinter.
There are questions that need to be asked about Williams, though. For instance, how is it that a 41-year-old, a veteran of multiple wars and someone who has played baseball professionally for more than two decades, is still able to hit home runs at the twilight of his career? I myself don't want to ask these questions, but someone out there is asking them, right now, and I wanted to let you know about it, lest you actually enjoy the beauty of baseball and its records uninterrupted for a moment.
There are those who would theorize that Williams is just a naturally gifted hitter who has worked on his swing and approach for years with the same intensity that he did as a rookie back in 1939. That just because we haven't seen many players dominate to this degree after their 40th birthday doesn't mean they can't - players are getting better all the time thanks to improved training, and due to the use of baseballs that aren't made out of dirty socks, alcohol, Irish cooking, and old lottery tickets.
Those people are naive, though. What if - and I'm just asking a question here - Williams was genetically enhanced, giving him an unfair advantage? Look, I know that Williams is generally considered clean, as is every other player in the majors, but you have to ask yourself, isn't his career trajectory somewhat odd? He leaves for war in the Pacific, and comes back to post five straight seasons with a slugging percentage north of .600? None of that seems ... off?
Is it that far-fetched to believe that Williams, despite being stationed in the Pacific during World War II, was kidnapped by Nazi scientists, who then experimented on Williams by genetically modifying him in the hopes of turning him into a super soldier who could then fight against the country that he loved? If the same had happened to Jimmie Foxx, he would have hit 900 homers, rather than retire in his mid-30s short of 600.
While Williams was far too patriotic to succumb to the mad plans of the Führer, he was now the baseball-playing version of Captain America; instead of a shield, he carried a bat. Hypothetically, I mean.
How else could you explain Williams continuing to hit to this late age? Babe Ruth was terrible the moment he turned 40 years old. It was instantaneous, as it should be. Your life changes when you turn 40, and you are no longer good at anything. That's how baseball works, and since baseball is the American pastime, that's how America works. An America that hasn't been interfered with by Nazis, I mean.
While I have no proof for these claims, I hope my editor allows me to publish them regardless. After all, we can't let the Nazis destroy our hallowed record books.
Somewhere along the way - possibly after no one sounded the performance enhancer alarms during the late 1990s and early 2000s - steroids and questions about them become automatic for any player from that era. There are certain journalists who go overboard with their inquisitiveness, though, who present questions as if they are facts, without presenting any evidence outside of a feeling they may have. They only elaborate on the point enough to draw the eye of the reader, and in the end, all that is gained is the aggravation of those who can read between the lines, and a successful attempt at slander. We should expect more from our sports journalism than idle wondering, especially when it comes to whether or not a player merits remembering, especially when it's the facts that matter most in an era where so little is taken at face value.