Thursday, December 30, 2010

Shoddy and Irresponsible Journalism: Dan Graziano Edition

This article in its entirety can be found on MLB FanHouse. My initial impulse was to offer a point-by-point rebuttal of Graziano's rant, providing the same sort of snark that I have generally afforded to other instances of questionable journalism. However, I found myself uncomfortable dignifying this with any sort of comedic routine. The crux of Graziano's argument is as such:
No, I didn't vote for Jeff Bagwell for the Hall of Fame. Yes, it's for the reason everybody loves to hate. I don't know for sure that Bagwell took steroids or any other performance-enhancing drugs to help him attain his Hall of Fame-caliber numbers. I don't have evidence, like we do against Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. But I'm suspicious. And this year, that suspicion was enough to make me send back my ballot without the Bagwell box checked. I'd rather withhold the vote based on suspicion than vote the guy in only to find out later that he cheated and I shouldn't have.
From that point forward, Graziano offers no reasoning as to why he is suspicious of Jeff Bagwell. There are a few references to the 'Steroid Era,' a mention of Bagwell's statements regarding his innocence, and a great deal of intellectual dishonesty. In short, Graziano preaches something akin to McCarthyism - no evidence, not even the vaguest murmurs or accusations, is necessary to paint a player with suspicion. The Hall of Fame is certainly a far cry from the moral hysteria of the McCarthy days, but the implications are clear and dangerous.

Perhaps the greatest point one can make against Graziano lay in his own lack of knowledge of and/or research into the matter. This may be a baseless assumption, but I would hazard a guess that Bagwell is "suspicious" due to his fantastic offensive numbers and abrupt decline and retirement (despite the fact that an arthritic shoulder had plagued Bagwell for the better part of a decade), given the context of the era. However, Graziano later states that he voted for (among others) Roberto Alomar and Tim Raines. While nothing concrete has been released, Alomar is rumored to be among the names listed in the infamous 2003 testing report. He was notorious for having a short temper, and made headlines for spitting on umpire John Hirschbeck. I am curious to see where he made the distinction here. Raines, while never linked to steroids, admittedly abused cocaine during the first several years of his career. This included keeping the cocaine within his uniform and using it in the locker room, before games, and even in between innings. Where is Graziano's moral outrage?

Several blogs have rallied against Graziano's lack of journalistic integrity in this matter, and I applaud those that have done so. This is the sort of schlock that hinders Major League Baseball's progress, while simultaneously alienating fans young and old alike. Here's hoping that Bagwell, perhaps the greatest first baseman between the heyday of Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx and current superstar Albert Pujols, is able to rise above the matter and sail into Cooperstown with ease.

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