The last weekend in July was the Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend. In most years, it is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of recently retired players. The ceremonies include speeches from the "presenters" (a kibbud in and of itself), presentations by the HOFers former team, and finally a heartfelt speech by the player who acknowledges his family, former teammates and role models. But not this year.
This year had the ignominious honor of being the first year of eligibility for some prominent suspected (and confirmed) steroid users. Although players with numbers like those put up by Sammy Sosa (609 career HRs), Barry Bonds (762 HRs) and Roger Clemens (354 career wins) had previously been elected to the Hall of Fame during their first year of eligibility, none of these players even garnered 38% of the vote (a player needs at least 75% to get into the HOF). As such, for the first time in more than forty years, no player made it into the HOF.
It has been widely speculated that the fallout from the steroid allegations against the known steroid users has resulted in skepticism towards the career achievements of other players and that this may have been the reason that none of the first time eligible players were elected to the Hall of Fame. But the greater question is, now that baseball has announced the most recent round of suspensions (ranging from 50 - 200+ games) can any accomplishment or All Star ever again be looked at as 100% clean? Will the public ever not suspect a player who has a superior year? Will ball players ever be heroes for our children again?
The mud which has been thrown on baseball's image as America's pastime has far reaching ramifications. Will athletic goods manufacturers offer the same amount of endorsement money to ball players if they know that their investment could be wasted if rumors circulate he is a user? Will the consumer buy jerseys, baseball cards or other licensed merchandise if there is concern that the player could be tarnished by steroid allegations?
That baseball is taking the steroid issue so seriously may be proof that baseball is concerned about the image of the sport. Although previous rounds of suspensions were often met by protests from the professional baseball players' union, they have also been surprisingly quiet about the newest set of suspended players.
The understanding that sometimes tough action must be taken to deal with the public perception of wrong doing has its source in Torah thought. Often times, the Rabbanim enacted rules which served as a geder (fence) to prevent against accidental violation of a Torah law. But the gemara also discusses how certain rules were created so that a person will not accidentally do something which would lead others to believe that something is permitted. Why would the Rabbanim enact a law which bans a permitted act? It is not because they need to create more laws to follow. Instead, these limited Rabbinic rules were created so that a person does not come to do an action which could cause damage to the integrity of Torah law.
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