5 the hard way: An optimist's view of 2005

Now that Barry Bond's interview, Jose Canseco's book and Jason Giambi's "apology" can all be put on record next to the Dowd Report, I only have one thing left to say. Isn't it a great time to be a baseball critic? The damning allegations about the men with the incredible growing heads has Jose throwing down the gauntlet with a primetime lie detector test, and the game's cynics preparing for the demise of our National Pastime.

If I may bite a rhyme off of Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friends." Every cloud has at least one silver lining, and that includes the funnels hanging over MLB.

Actually, baseball's rush to get buff could open some doors for a few select groups and players involved with baseball. No, I'm not talking about the sports talk jocks like Dan Patrick, great show, but I miss Dibble, or Jim Rome who now don't have to worry about booking guests, or blowing something out of proportion for at least two weeks. I'm talking about the players whose careers and Hall of Fame credentials will be reevaluated, and the fans that now have new verbal weapons to use in their continuous plot to taunt, provoke and hopefully sue the players in an attempt to build an addition to their trailer/meth lab.

Here's what I've cooked up so far.

1) Looking for the Hall: It's safe to say the one stat most damaged by the steroid craze is the home run. The elevated numbers might have gotten fans back into the seats, but they're also keeping some of the best players, from the past 10 years, out of Cooperstown because their numbers just don't compare to the bloated, video game-type stats being put up by their genetically enhanced peers.

Two players who top this category are Harold Baines and Joe Carter. Both have arguments that can be made against their Hall of Fame induction, Baines spent most of his career as a DH and Carter's numbers aren't quite HoF worthy. But let's be objective about this. Baines' 2,866 hits ranks 38th in MLB history, he batted .289 over a 21-year career and drove in more runs (1,628 RBIs) than Hall of Famers George Brett, Mike Schmidt (1,595 each), Rogers Hornsby, Harmon Killebrew (1,584 each), and Al Kaline (1,583).

As for Joe Carter, his numbers might not have been the greatest, but they are a heck of a lot better than Billy Mazeroski's. How much better? How about 258 homeruns and 592 RBIs better? I know Maz hit the ‘Shot heard round the World,' but I'm guessing Carter's bomb to end the 1993 World Series is still ringing pretty loud in Philadelphia.

2) Current Players looking to Cooperstown: Both Fred McGriff (461 HR, 1,446 RBIs, .283 AVG) and Frank Thomas (439 HR, 1439 RBIs, .308 AVG) should get a little slack when it's time for their Hall of Fame votes because they've played the right way. Jeff Bagwell 446 HR, 1,510 RBIs, .297AVG) could probably be put on this list also, but I wouldn't be surprised to find that he and Ken Caminiti were caught in the bathroom stall, needle in hand and face to salad, at least a couple of times.

3) Ken Griffey Jr: I know he's a current player and therefore logic would dictate that he'd fit under numero dos, but his 501 home runs and MLB record 10 consecutive Gold Gloves already guarantees him a place in the all Hall. So now he's looking for the title: Greatest Player of our Generation. I think it's fair to say that the ‘Kid's' recent injuries have taken some of the shine off of his career, but I guess that's what happens to the body after a certain amount of time, unless of course your Barry Bonds. With that aside, look at what he did before those injuries. He was better than Bonds during his prime (or at least what should have been his prime), he saved baseball in Seattle and his 1989 Fleer rookie card is still sweet to look at. Also, knowing how good Griffey is, just imagine what he would have been like if he did juice?

4) The Kings: Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays: We'll never have to put an asterisk by their names.

5) The Fans: It's hard to turn on the TV every day and see that another player is doing something to keep you from the game you love, but I plead with you to turn that frown upside down and say awhile. Especially if you are one of those fans who likes to buy a seat near the left field wall, or behind the bull pen. That's because you've got a whole new arsenal of insults to throw at the men you love to hate in an attempt to get that big fat settlement check when they come over the fence to make you eat your words. Bond's might love it when 53,000 Dodger fans tell him that he sucks, but I wonder how he'll take it when they start chanting "You stick?" Or what's going to happen when some polished English fellow bumps up to one of they accused and asks, "Pardon me, but have you stuck anyone in the bum today? You chicky monkey." All I can say is chu ching. Seriously, league-wide guilt should translate into some good baseball in 05. Just remember what we got the last time baseball gypped us off: Ripken passing Gehrig, the Yankees reign and even Sosa V. McGuire. I'm guessing baseball's new drug policy will ensure that Bond's single season home run record is safe for at least another year, but I do expect the players will do what ever they can to give us great baseball which is all we've ever asked for.

Chad Jones can be reached at FutureBacks@cox.net



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