Three managers were recently voted into the Hall of Fame by unanimous decision – Tony LaRussa, Joe Torre, and Bobby Cox. All three are legendary managers that won championships, coached all-stars, and left legacies for the teams they had the helm of. Another thing they have in common is the fact that all three have managed players that used steroids, PEDs, and other banned substances that have cost players their jobs and reputations.
How is it that players, the essence being the fact that these are the guys who actually play the game, can be punished for their attempts to get bigger and better at what they do? The substances that guilty players have taken may hurt their bodies in the long term, but it is a personal choice and one that has begun to be mandated by Major League Baseball as to what is allowed and what is not. However, the men in charge of these guilty players have not been reprimanded and in fact have been given the ultimate achievement baseball can bestow upon someone; they were selected into the Hall of Fame unanimously on their first try.
This hardly seems fair since a team is made of both players and coaches. Although managers are in charge of many more innocent and natural players than they are of substance users, you would be hard pressed to find a manager who didn’t know about the things that his players were using to enhance their performance. A manager may not know everything, but rumor mills exist where ever you go, including the locker room of a baseball club, especially when there are players who have information on a guy who is in the way of him getting playing time, a roster spot, or a new contract.
Once this information becomes apparent to a manager, what is his role in managing the player? Is he supposed to not play him as a kind of “time out”? Does the player get suspended because he has been cheating? Is there an innocent until proven guilty clause whereas the player can continue to play up until his test results show he has illegal substances in his system? You can go back and see what happened to players that were listed in the Mitchell Report or in other accusations, but it would be harder to find out how these managers reacted to reports or suspicions when they were first brought about in the clubhouse.
I don’t think it is the manager’s responsibility to bench a player based on accusations, and there is a process for testing for a reason. If a player has been involved in allegations, the manager should not be held responsible for continuing to use that player. That comes down to a personal and moral decision by a given manager, although benching a productive player will be hard to explain to ownership and fans since the majority only care about winning and seeing a good game on the field.
Managers should know about their players
Assuming Tony La Russa knew about Mark McGwire using illegal substances, how many fans do you think would have been okay with him benching McGwire because of the allegations? Their would have been pandemonium! The summer of 1998 was one for the ages because of the historical battle between McGwire and Sammy Sosa in the single season home run race. Everybody was in love with that story line and nobody cared that these numbers were so inflated that it might have been too good to be true. La Russa is the last person that should be held liable for the actions of another man. Unless he gave McGwire the PEDs or knew 100% that McGwire was using, La Russa should not be held accountable for playing a player who was cheating.
Joe Torre managed the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi, and Bobby Cox most notably managed Gary Sheffield. While these players have had connections to being “cheaters” in baseball, the same theory applies to them as with La Russa. They may or may not have known about their players’ substance usage, and even if there were rumors or suspicion, there is testing that is done to prove the final outcome. Until a player has been found guilty of a positive drug test, the manager should not have to make a decision affecting his team based on rumors. A player’s performance may decline once they realize they are in trouble or try to get off of the pills they are on, and a manager should continue to make his line up based on which nine players give his team the best chance to win a game.
Players play the game and managers manage it – it doesn’t get much simpler than that. It is surprising that there wasn’t anybody who chose to not vote for one of these managers based on their associations with players who have been accused of (and/or caught) using steroids or PEDs. With such retaliation and disgust against players that have been caught, how was there ZERO dismay for the managers whom they played for? Surely there had to have been some knowledge by these managers in regards to their player’s activities.
If I were a voter, I also would have voted for all three managers, as their achievements have heavily outweighed their unfavorable moments. At the same time, I would also vote for Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens. I believe their play on the field may have been enhanced later in each of their careers, but that they were all still forces to be reckoned with before they became the goliaths of baseball.
A player that has used banned substances and gets caught has no out for his actions. He is SOL and will have his actions forever associated with his name. A manager has much more leeway since they do not actually play the game and have no reason to take PEDs. Could a manager get suspended for taking PEDs even though he isn’t a player? I don’t know, and that will probably never happen. Could a manager get suspended for taking a pill that increased his ability to focus and concentrate to make better managerial decisions? That is another issue, but again one that is probably not going to be discussed anytime soon, if ever. As a manager, there are many outs that can be used when being linked to scandals involving players – enough to get three of them elected to the Hall of Fame unanimously.