Since it’s been revealed that several Major League stars have used steroids, I’ve started to ponder what the difference is between players who have received bans for gambling and those who have received bans for steroid use.

The penalties for steroid use are:

  • First offense: 50-game suspension
  • Second offense: 100-game suspension
  • Third Offense: Lifetime ban

The penalties for gambling are:

  • First offensse: Ban for life (or whatever penalty the commissioner in office deems appropriate).

There are 27 players, coaches, and an umpire that have been banned for gambling or throwing games since 1865.

There are 117 players that have been implicated, admitted to, tested positive, or listed in the Mitchell Report for using steroids.

Here is a bit of irony for you. Steroid use and gambling have one common denominator: both have a direct affect on the game’s outcome.

There has been much talk about whether players such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, and Alex Rodriguez should be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Of these three players, only Rodriguez has admitted to steroid use while with the Texas Rangers. McGuire refuses to answer any questions regarding steroid use and Bonds is in a state of denial about the whole issue.

Personally, I feel that any user, whether he admits to it or tests positive at any time during his career, should not be eligible for the Hall of Fame.

Harsh you say?

Consider two players banned for throwing games or gambling, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Pete Rose.

The lifetime ban handed down to by Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis to the 1918 White Sox was perhaps the harshest punishment ever. Despite the fact that all players were acquitted by a federal grand jury, Landis banned the eight White Sox players, stating:

“Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked ballplayers and gamblers, where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.”

Landis covered all contingencies, including players who overhear discussions about gambling or throwing a game.

However, there is evidence that casts some doubt about Jackson’s involvement. Jackson initially refused the $5,000, only to have Lefty Williams throw it on the floor. Jackson attempted to contact then Sox owner Charles Comiskey but Comiskey refused to meet with him.

Team attorney Alfred Austrian coached Jackson’s grand jury testimony, which might be considered illegal by current standards. He attempted to get Jackson to admit to the payoff by getting him drunk on whiskey. He also got Jackson, who was barely literate, to sign a waiver of immunity.

Years later, the other seven players implicated in the scandal confirmed that Jackson was never at any of the meetings to discuss throwing the games and said they included Jackson’s name to give their plot credibility.

And let’s not forget the most obvious claim to his innocence—his play during the 1918 World Series, batting almost .400 and committing no errors.

Here was a player that had the talent and capability to re-write the record books. If he had played as long as Ty Cobb, there could have been a very real chance that Pete Rose would have been chasing Jackson for the hit record instead of Cobb.

Pete Rose, three years after he retired as an active player, was placed on the permanent ineligibility list from baseball amid accusations that he gambled on games while he played and managed the Cincinnati Reds.

In 2004, Rose admitted to betting on baseball games but never against his own team.The Baseball Hall of Fame bans players on the “permanently ineligible” list from induction. Rose’s possible reinstatement and election to the Hall have been topics of many debates.

As to the players who have admitted to steroid use, why do they get the opportunity to “rehabilitate” themselves and still be allowed to earn millions of dollars to play a game?

Neither Jackson nor Rose had second or third chances offered to them.

The rules don’t allow players caught gambling to be suspended. And yet, the use of steroids has run rampant for years before someone finally cried, “enough!”

There had to be a reason why players all of a sudden were hitting 40-60 home runs a season instead of 20-35.

There had to be a reason why a player who for most of his career could never hit above .250 all of a sudden was leading the league in batting average at .345.

There had to be a reason why over one offseason, players who previously weighed in at 185-225 lbs. shot up to 230-250 lbs. and actually gained speed, bat speed, and strength.

Aren’t these players cheaters as well? Didn’t they change the outcome of games?

There has been a spate of no-hitters thrown this year. A lot of people seem to think that it’s the age of the pitchers again. I don’t think it’s ability of the pitchers, it’s just that now the players don’t have the bat speed and strength to hit it out of the park like they used to.

Both Jackson and Rose were phenomenal players who achieved their accomplishments without the use of chemicals.

Did they cheat?

For Jackson, I doubt that we’ll ever find out the truth, but I put him in the same light as Jim Thorpe who had his Olympic medals taken away because someone took advantage of him.

Jackson should have his ban lifted and be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

He was one of the best hitters of his time (a career .356 hitter over 12 years) and if he had played as long as Cobb did (23 years) he could have easily had almost 3,400 hits.

As for Rose, the majority of his accomplishments were achieved far before his gambling ever took place. His style of play got him the nickname “Charlie Hustle.” Would that indicate to anyone that he was throwing games? 

Remember, this was the guy that blasted Ray Fosse in an All-Star Game because he was so bent on winning.

Here’s a question for you: Why do steroid users get second and third chances and gamblers get none?

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