That Ball’s Outta Here

As happens each July, the eyes of baseball fans and sports aficionados turn toward the yearly induction ceremonies for the Hall of Fame.  This year’s honorees will be on site at the veritable Mecca of baseball to watch their plaques be unveiled.  But once again, one of the major topics of discussion surrounding this annual event will be the controversy it brings with it.

Just as performance enhancing drugs have tainted the records of professional baseball players for the last two decades, the discussion has now turned to players with PEPs, or ‘performance enhancing powers.’  This year marked the second in which admitted super-human Lou Yates was eligible for the Hall of Fame.  Yates, who hit 722 career home runs, had votes on only 61% of the ballots this year, while 75% is necessary for inclusion.  Nonetheless, this is more than double the percentage he received from voters last year, in his first year of eligibility.

Hall of Fame voters are torn on this subject.  The purists argue that, just like steroids, PEPs are a form of cheating, and should automatically disqualify a player utilizing them from entering the Hall.  For others, the decision is not so black and white.

Lou Yates, a slugging first baseman for the Kansas City Emperors, was highly regarded within the sport, even up until his emotional confession a few years ago to having unnatural strength augmentation.  His powers were bestowed upon him as a boy, during an incident in which he and his friends snuck onto the grounds of a power plant in their home town, when he came into contact with hazardous materials.  He underwent early-onset puberty a few weeks later, and eventually grew into one of the most powerful home-run hitters the game has ever known.

Many Hall of Fame voters believe Yates should still be admitted.  They argue that Baily had no intention of gaining PEPs, having received them completely by accident.  In fact, Yates was not even aware of his strength augmentation until the age of 28, when abnormal blood results led his personal physician to discover his genetic modification.  By then, he was already a superstar in the league, and saw no way to easily out himself.

“By the time I knew, it was too late,” Yates said in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated.  “It was either come out and admit that I had an unfair advantage, or keep it quiet, and maintain the integrity of the game.  I made my choice.  Maybe it was the wrong one.”

And yet some of these same writers who say Yates still merits inclusion in the Hall have double-standards.  They maintain that players, such as Rodrigo Ramirez, who currently holds the home run record with 778 career home runs, and Chad Burgess, the former flame-throwing pitcher for the New York Sentinels (it should be noted that ‘flame-throwing’ in this instance is metaphorical), should not be admitted entrance to the Hall.  Ramirez is still playing, but is a suspected super-human, though no allegations have stuck.  Chad Burgess is facing federal charges, having lied under oath during Senate hearings that allege he paid millions of dollars to a science institute in Geneva to grant him the strength that made his average fastball speed jump from 89 miles per hour in 2003 to nearly 98 miles per hour in 2004.  Similarly, Rodrigo Ramirez, now 38 years old, never had more than 15 home runs in a season prior to the 1998 season, his sixth in the league, but has hit at least 40 home runs in each season since.  Theories as to how Ramirez managed to gain PEPs range from the black market drug super-max to completely illogical conspiracy theories involving a Cuban space program.

Whether or not super-human powers should disqualify a baseball player from the Hall of Fame is not a question for me to answer.  The fact of the matter is, the entire scenario could not matter less from where I stand.  Still, this perennial debate seems to raise an important question for our society.

When the topic of federal registration or licensing of super-humans arises, so many people instantly decry these discussions as ‘discriminatory’ and ‘unconstitutional.’  But when it comes to PEPs in our national pastime, well now all of the sudden having powers is called ‘cheating.’

Since when did statistics in pro sports begin to matter more than personal safety and national security?  I’m not advocating for registration of powers, but I do have to question why our leaders continue to avoid making the hard decisions about these vigilantes.  If professional sports leagues begin regulating PEPs while our own government issues intentional walks to the topic as a whole, then eventually someone’s going to have to call their lack of action what it really is.

A balk.

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