Comedian Daniel Tosh Persuades Me That Barry Bonds and Other Roiders Are HOF'ers

Categories: MLB

Daniel_Tosh_SC.jpg
Courtesy danieltosh.com
Daniel Tosh
​As a big fan of Tosh.0 -- a 30-minute show on Comedy Central featuring YouTube clips and jokes from comedian Daniel Tosh -- I set my TiVo for Sunday's premiere of Tosh's stand-up special Happy Thoughts. Finally got around to watching it last night. It sucked. Laughed maybe once.

Nevertheless, there was one sports-related joke that was actually thought-provoking in a way I never expected. Speaking to a crowd in San Francisco, Tosh addressed the steroids controversy surrounding former Giants outfielder Barry Bonds.

"Forget Barry Bonds," he said. "Babe Ruth deserves the asterisk. He played before black people were even allowed."

Apparently, Tosh issued the same joke back in 2008, so I'm sure I'm not the first to bring this up. But it's actually a pretty solid point.

Ruth played from 1914 to 1935 and faced exactly zero black pitchers. His gaudy stats and records were accumulated when there were no other black position players around to which Ruth could be compared. Jackie Robinson wouldn't debut until 12 years after Ruth retired, and the final team to integrate (the Boston Red Sox) wouldn't field a black player (Pumpsie Green) until another 12 years had passed.

For as long as I've followed baseball, I've always viewed Ruth as the best player to ever play the game. And, honestly, I'm not ready to back away from that belief just yet. It's not exactly breaking news that Ruth didn't play against blacks.

What I am willing to do is reassess how I feel about Barry Bonds and the long list of sluggers (Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire just to name a few) and hurlers either busted for performance-enhancing drugs or caught up in the steroids cloud.

For a while, I've been in the camp who thinks Bonds and others don't belong in the Hall of Fame for cheating, but I've changed my tune after pondering the Ruth issue.

For 39 years, Ruth held the title of baseball's all-time home run king. That is, until a black man, Henry Aaron, hit career homer No. 715. And, during that span of nearly four decades, no one questioned Ruth's record because he didn't compete against blacks.

Does that put him in the same boat as players cheating the rules to gain an advantage? No. And is Ruth's situation different because he had no control over his opponents, while steroid users made a decision to cheat? Of course it is. But it does force you to put Ruth's numbers in context.

So I say let Bonds, A-Rod, Raffy and Big Mac into the Hall of Fame, as long as we all put their accomplishments in proper context.

Folks will always wonder what Ruth's numbers would have been had blacks been allowed to play, and they'll also wonder what Bonds' numbers would have been had he not been juiced up. But no one will ever wonder if either were among the game's greatest players and worthy of a bust in Cooperstown.

Follow the author on Twitter @SamMerten.

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BaseballFan11
BaseballFan11

Babe Ruth would still be a hall of gamer, but his numbers would have been less if he had faced minority players, for sure.  

Ruth was even rumored to be searching for performance enhancers, goat testosterone.  It didn't work, but it shows even back in that ERA players would looking for an extra edge. 

Bob Job
Bob Job

Except he mispronounced it "asterix".

Flag Football Playbook
Flag Football Playbook

...no one will ever wonder if either were among the game's greatest players and worthy of a bust in Cooperstown.

I agree with this statement 100%. The people who make the morals argument need to grow up.

Dalz0007
Dalz0007

It sucked? I thought it was hilarious! But you are someone who thinks baseball is a sport and not a game so thats understandable. Lol

Babe Ruth was also on a shitton of cocaine that he would use DURING the game, if that isnt as bad or worse then steroids then i dont know what is...

F. Martin Hume
F. Martin Hume

PLUUUUUSSSS, Babe Ruth was a regular cocaine user and would often bat while doped up. Seriously. Don't try and tell me being high on cocaine wouldn't help you hit a ball further. Seriously. Cocaine...while playing games. That's a fact, give and biography a read. Greatest player ever? MEH.

CubsWin1982
CubsWin1982

Ruth also never faced a Latino, or a nasty slider.

j h
j h

Yeah well the air quality used to be much cleaner back when Ruth was playing ball and now a days the air is so much worse than it was back then so technically,,,, WHO CARES!!!!

You can't compare things back then to how they are now and judge them with the same standards. That was baseball then and this is baseball now.

The game has evolved much like how the rest of society and ciilization has too.

Let the poor guy have his records without black baseball players being involved in the game. it was what it was and today it is what it is.

Just saying...

Llotzafun
Llotzafun

Didn't Ruth also hit his HR's in an era when ballparks were monstrous in comparison to those of today? A "hitters park" had 400 foot fences, right? Wasn't it also a time of no maple bats and no technology to allow for a consistently, tightly wound ball? Weren't pitchers consistently allowed to scuff and throw a ball stained from chewing tobacco? How many games were played at night under the lights that help batters pick up the ball out of the pitchers hand, more quickly? Did any pitchers get thrown out for head hunting guys in a time before helmets? This is when a player was so much larger than life than anyone else.

Jaseumalo
Jaseumalo

Wow, I thought his new stand up was amazing.

dk
dk

I think you miss the point of the joke. Babe was more than likely partially black and was playing in an all white league. This is the analogy to juicing - it's not that he didn't have to play against black players.

thetruthhurts
thetruthhurts

It's so funny how the baseball purists forget the steroid of the good old days, greenies.Mickey Mantle was the biggest alcoholic ever, but somehow got up everyday, to play day games! Much like in a fraternity, secrets are handed down and improved upon. There has been cheating in baseball since the beginning, The methods shouldn't matter. And yes, the great and honorable Hank Aaron took greenies and more. And let's not be so niave enough to think Nolan Ryan hung around so long because of Advil.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

so you're telling me methamphetamines give you more strength than steroids? Greenies got them up and awake, it didn't make them superhuman.

thetruthhurts
thetruthhurts

Steroids don't make you superhuman. You still have to hit the ball. There's a reason greenies were banned. Had more potent drugs been available back then, they would have taken them.

Mishon
Mishon

Did anyone happen to catch the audio of RW stiffing a waitress on his show yesterday? I missed it live but just listened to the podcast. If that isn't proof of him being a huge Douche I don't know what is.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

That requires listening. I heard all of two minutes where Richie played Captain Contrarian yet again when he couldn't believe a bruised rib was more painful than a broken one. They went to break, and I bailed. Greggo deserves better than the amateur hour surrounding him.

I have noticed a wonderful lack of Lacey on-air with Josh & Elf, which has me listening more.

Mishon
Mishon

I still prefer RAGE over the Hardline or GAC, but you are right...Greggo is still radio gold and if paired with better talent they could actually really compete. I know there would be a good amount of people that would disagree, but I would love to hear Greggo with BDH everyday. Goodbye Armen. Goodbye Sybil. Goodbye RW.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

Gagree with BDH and Greggo. I went out of my way to listen to them before Greggo Sheen'd himself off of that internet feed.

J
J

The difference: Ruth didn't purposefully keep blacks out of baseball, whereas the others intentionally took drugs to gain an edge.

Cheaters are cheaters.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

One thing you've learned from RW in writing for this blog, throw in racism, religion, or politics and you'll get a lot of responses. That being said, there are points to be taken on both sides. I like how Fatty put the stats side by side. Players in this era, steroids or not, are going to be in better shape than the players of the early to mid 1900's. Better training, better equipment, more research, etc. Hammerin' Hank was great and should still hold the all time record. Could Barry have gotten there? Yeah, but we'll never know.

Segregate This
Segregate This

Here's an idea: Set up an "Asterisk Wing" in the Hall for your questionable types. Put Bonds, A-Rod, McGwire, and Palmeiro in there, maybe Pete Rose, too (you'd never get Ruth in there). A separate-but-equal location for the guys whose stats qualify them for entry, but which come with a "yeah, but..."

Fatty Arbuckle's Tub Stopper
Fatty Arbuckle's Tub Stopper

Ruth hit 705 in 16.5 seasons 42.7 avg (subtracted 9 HR and 4.5 prime seasons wasted as pitcher)Aaron hit 755 in 22 seasons 34.3 avg (24 HR in 2 seasons as DH)

If Ruth plays in the field from the start does he get 900 HR?Aaron plays in integrated baseball but is increased competition offset by pitching dilution by team expansions?My unqualified verdict: Aaron great. Ruth greatest.

Look at Bonds' rather pedestrian pre-juice stats*. Shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath as Aaron and Ruth.

Bernard McCool
Bernard McCool

Barry Bonds stats were never pedestrian. Period.

Have you ever looked at his pre-roids stats? If, for arguments' sake, you exclude everything after 98:8 seasons over 100 RBI (led league in '92)7 seasons over 100 runs scored (league leading in '92)411 HR- Led league in '93445 stealsLed the league in:walks 5 timesOBP 4 timesSLG 3 timesOPS 5 times

Also, and I think MVP's don't measure shit, buuuuut won 3 MVP's.

GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT DUDE. Barry Bonds was the elite player of the 90's before he ever get near the cream and the clear. The only reason anyone would place someone (usually Ken Griffey- and I'm not knocking Griffey) ahead of him is because of the over-emphasis put on hitting home runs. That's the whole reason Barry got into juicing in the first place- because people dug the long ball over all else, and he had an ego that demanded the attention McGwire and Sosa got. So after '98, he decided to give the people what they wanted, using everything available to him. Ironically, his name now suffers because of it.

Gary
Gary

You're a sucker for an argument from a man with pretty earrings. Did you know players in Ruth's era sometimes referred to him in non-Caucasian terms due to his thick lips and somewhat African-ish features? Think Stevie Ray.

So Richie, do some research. Over the years, have blacks dominated the position like wide receiver and running back? Give us an idea of how many at bats against whitey would've been replaced by ABs against Gibsons and Valenzuelas. Yes, of course integrated pitching would have been better back then. But as Throbuta said, Bonds faced feasted on incredibly watered down pitching of all races and did so before and after the juice. In fact, before the jealousy juicing, Bonds was making a case for being in the argument as baseball's all time best. Now all he did was beat McGuire and Clemens as baseball's best all time cheat.

OldManJam
OldManJam

Gary, unless Richie changed his name to Sam Merten, he didn't write this post.

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Best post since RW's December 17th qb ratings..shitting you Sammy Mo..tell Wilonsky we want you to have your own wing in the cyberworld..all baseball, all the time.

Davy Crockett
Davy Crockett

Never thought of it that way, but I don't put much stock in it. It's one of those things that you sit around with your buddies debating while you're pounding beers.

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Santa Anna or Poncho Villa?

Davy Crockett
Davy Crockett

After the whoopin' the Mexican army put on us, ain't no way I'm sitting around a table with Santa Anna.

Throbuta
Throbuta

Ruth was the best player for MLB before integration so he did not play against blacks and hispanics. This was also before the league had football,basketball and the other sportsiri compete for the best talent or 30 other baseball teams to water down talent. There are arguments for both sides, but the bottom line is Ruth was dominant during his era. Bonds, Afraud, Palmeiro, etc. played in the steroid era against pitching Clemons, Pettite etc. that was also on roids. They were the best of the steroid era and dominated other players on roids, so they are hall of famers. don't forget spitballers, corked bats, and other cheaters are in the hall and it is accepted as part of the game. Hall of fame voters are hypocrites. Gaylord Perry was a notorious cheater, but his exploits are cheered and laughed about as no big deal. A cheater is a cheater.

Bernard McCool
Bernard McCool

Well put, although hispanics weren't barred FYI.

Yea Well
Yea Well

Steroid throwing pitcher never had even close to the advantage that a steroid juiced batter had.

They dominated the game because they hit the long ball on roids. Thus diminishing the significance of HOF players like an Ichiro and pitchers like a Kenny Rogers, who should be HOF just because he pitched so well during that era while most staff eras hovered over 5.

Gaylord Perry leading by example for kids to throw spitters is not the same as Canseco leading by example for kids to permanently mess up their bodies.

Bernard McCool
Bernard McCool

Barry Bonds dominated by having the best eye at the plate in the big leagues. Steroids don't help with that. Cut out half of his homers- still a HOFer.

And Kenny Rogers?!? To quote John McEnroe "YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!!" Kenny Rogers was never dominant. Ever. Career ERA over 4.That would be the worst ERA in the Hall by over half a run. He did have a couple of great seasons (first halves of seasons actually) at the end of his career, but so did Rich Gannon in football. Also had a notorious cheating incident in the '06 playoffs.

Finally, why even mention Canseco and setting an example? For one, no one serious would mention Canseco in a HOF conversation. And secondly, who fucking cares about being a role model? If the HOF was about being a role model for the kids, then Tony Gwynn doesn't get in either (on field tobacco use).

Throbuta
Throbuta

Rationalize all you want, but cheating is accepted in baseball and celebrated. Pitchers on roids were able to recover quicker or do you think Clemons was clean and that his resurgence after 30 had nothing to do with drugs? Until he was popped no one knew Palmeiro was dirty how many pitchers out there were not? You name K Rogers. How certain are you he was clean? His lousy attitude his last few years here kinda sounded like roid rage to me or at least an argument could be made it was. It was a dirty era and unless you are not going to induct anyone from this era ( since Palmeiro is the only HOF candidate to test positive, while Conseco & ARod have admitted it) the assumption is all who excelled during this era were probably juicing.

do the math
do the math

So does Palmiero wear his non cheating Cubs uniform at the ceremony (1 home run every 35 at bats) or his cheating Rangers uniform (1 home run every 19 at bats)?

Iplayagainstblacks
Iplayagainstblacks

Ruth played drunk and was only allowed to face white players but he wasn't breaking the law. If one day they make steroids legal then we can talk about these guys being allowed intot he hall, until then they are just cheaters who should not be allowed within the Copperstown city limits.

Bernard McCool
Bernard McCool

They weren't breaking any rules by doing steroids. There wasn't a rule against steroid use in place. I'm not saying taking steroids is right, but you can't call someone a cheater for breaking a rule that doesn't (or didn't at the time) exist. Players were illegally using uppers for decades as a "performance enhancer", though it wasn't expressly banned by MLB. Were those players cheaters? Of course not. Not by today's standards, anyway. But their intent was the same as the players who juiced, which is to gain a competitive advantage (and what exactly the competitive advantages of taking steroids or HGH or uppers or whatever are is highly debatable). Cheating's something that's always been understood in baseball, with sort of a wink and a nod. We love baseball players who cheat a little, or at least we did until steroids. Baseball has always been full of "characters", and a little (or a lot of) rule bending has always been tolerated because it gave the game some color. Yes, the modern era has been party to some inflated stats, but stats are just numbers, not the whole story. It also tells you how much false importance we put on numbers. As generations pass, older stats almost always, in any sport, look less impressive, because they reflect changes in how the game is played. To judge these players, just like players from any era, you have to look at them against their contemporaries to decide whether or not they deserve to be in the hall of fame. We don't know who all did steroids- there were tons of juiced guys, most of them marginal ballplayers (steroids don't guarantee you'll be a monster), that we don't know about. Alleged steroid use shouldn't be mentioned in HOF consideration, because it's a level playing field when you consider them in the context of their era. Barry Bods- domination. ARod- domination. Manny- domination. These guys are among the best players of their era, and they faced other players who were also on steroids. Steroids or no steroids they were dominant players in their era, they belong in the Hall of Fame. Maybe not the hall of being a great guy or the hall of citizenship, but who gives a shit? Cap Anson was a redneck bigot dedicated to, and as responsible as anyone for keeping blacks out of the game, nobody's talking about renouncing his hall of fame membership. Because in the end, that side of things gets forgotten. In 30 or 40 years the steroids thing will be forgotten- relegated to documentaries by the frozen head of Ken Burns and seem like kids' stuff compared to the next big scandal.

Wynnfidel
Wynnfidel

So if someone 10 years down the road arbitrarily decides steroids is legal in baseball then you would be willing to let them into the hall of fame? Why not just take a stance now and say they should never be allowed in? Because we all know you probably won't just change your mind later.

WashHater
WashHater

I have long agreed with what you are saying here. Part of the greatness of baseball is its history, and denying the dark parts of that history is a bad idea.

That said, I think the biggest thing keeping these guys out at least while they are alive is that there is a huge financial reward for being able to say "Hall of Fame MLB Player", and the writers are anxious to not allow players to cash in on that title that they earned through less than legitimate means.

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