Making Contact: Writing baseball's wrongs

Yahoo! Sports' MLB analyst Ryne Sandberg steps to the plate every week to respond to readers' emails.

To be considered for next week's "Making Contact" column, be sure to include your first and last names as well as your city and state.

Ryne's comments are in italics.

PALMEIRO SUSPENDED

Pete Rose was suspended for betting on games and got banned from the sport that he loved. The Chicago "Black Sox" were eternally removed from the sport for their throwing of World Series games. Now, Rafael Palmeiro is caught red-handed using a supplement to enhance his performance. Do you think a player who was suspended for creating an unlevel playing field will even make the Hall of Fame ballot?

Bobby Capo
Long Island, N.Y.

Almost every era of baseball has faced a different issue. In the '20s, baseball had to deal with the gambling issue. Then there was the "dead ball" era. Some of the greatest players in the history of the game were alcoholics. These are all things that baseball has had to overcome. I'm assuming that 1998 to the present will be remembered as the "steroid era" of baseball.

I see it like this: In the case of a player who has hit 500 home runs then gets caught taking steroids, we'll never know how many he would have hit if he never took steroids. That said, I don't think it's fair for fans or media to point fingers at a player who they think has taken steroids just because they are bigger than most players or have hit more home runs. Players should be innocent until proven guilty.

Are ballplayers really this naive about what they are ingesting or rubbing into their bodies? It makes no sense that these hard-working, professionally conditioned athletes make comments such as, "I didn't know what it was" (Sheffield) or, "I didn't know how it got into my system" (Palmeiro). I personally find these comments to be insulting to the intelligence of the fan.

Rich Kellner
New York, N.Y.

How could a player "accidentally" take the chemical that showed up in his test? Is that a valid excuse, or is he blowing smoke?

Jim Revelos
Troy, Ohio

Actually, this is a valid explanation. Many times, players will take a substance because they read about it in a health magazine and it starts to give them better results. I, for one, wouldn't put anything into my body that wasn't given to me directly from the club's trainer. Players get into trouble when they take a substance without consulting a trainer. Players aren't pharmacists, so they won't be able to read the ingredients that go into a pill or powder. My advice to any young athlete: Consult your trainer before starting to take anything. They'll be able to suggest which product is safest and most effective.

Why is it that when a mid- to high-profile player has something happen to him, the sport itself is ignored by news columnists? Case in point: Rafael Palmeiro. OK, so he's a future Hall of Famer that popped steroids. I understand this is big news. But here we are on Day 2 of the "Palmeiro Steroid Chronicles" and there are teams like the Houston Astros and Oakland A's staging comebacks and playing amazing ball. … I know news loves scandal, but what about the game itself? It is still being played.

Jacob Gearhart
San Diego, Calif.

I do not think that the cloud that hovers over Palmeiro and Giambi and Bonds has lifted. And Mark McGwire? My disgust is too deep for words. We were conned. There are other injustices in our society that run deeper than the game of baseball, and as an academic and a father, I work tirelessly to work with my students and my family. If cheating is just a game, I will never talk to my son and daughter about baseball again. There are other more deserving sports.

Martin Murphy
Sapporo, Japan

HALL OF FAME SPEECH ("Respect the game," Aug. 1, 2005)

Did you base your induction speech around respect because you feel that some of today's players have forgotten that word altogether?

Jeff Ripley
Spokane, Wash.

I wasn't saying that all players have lost the respect of the game. However, there are some players in the game who forget that they are some of the most privileged athletes in the world. To make a living from playing a game is one of the greatest professions ever. I think that baseball has taken a turn over the past 10 years where individual athletes have become "bigger than their team." They've forgotten that it's the team that wins games, not individual players.

Never before have I been so touched by comments of a professional athlete. In a time when the credibility and respect for the game of baseball is at an all-time low, Mr. Sandberg cleared the bases.

Lorry Davis
Vancouver, B.C.

Your Hall of Fame induction speech was incredible. I wish the players of today would "get it" and understand what you were talking about with respecting the game. If they respected the game more than their fame and money, baseball would not be having the troubles that it is facing today.

Stacey Phillips
Midvale, Utah

The irony in all of this is that a day after two of the most respected, hard-working and likeable players are inducted into the Hall for playing the game the "right way," Raffy is slapped with a suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. The messages kids are receiving today with performance-enhancing drugs in baseball emphasizes how much we need players like yourself – players who played the right way.

Michael Byhoff
Tempe, Ariz.

I just finished reading your Hall of Fame induction speech. It rings so true. I'd like to think that a copy could be given to each pro team (major leagues and minor leagues) so players could derive some inspiration from it.

David Decker
Dallas, Texas

Why weren't you a speechwriter? Great job – you said what had to be said.

William Goldman
Lincolnshire, Ill.

The part where you mention Andre Dawson brought a tear to my eye this morning. I always thought that the Hawk was the best baseball player I have ever seen. And I wonder what he could have done with good knees playing on a grass field for more than a couple of seasons.

Jeff Moser
Regina, Saskatchewan

Andre Dawson the best ever? Of course not, but it's understandable in the context. But to use the name Pete Rose and the phrase "respect for the game" in one column? I think not.

Michael Bogen
Agawam, Mass.

I was telling the truth when I said that Hawk was the best player I played with. He was a complete player. He hit for average and power and had a cannon for an arm – all of this while he had horrible knees.

Pete Rose was an unreal hitter. He made his mistakes, but his mistakes were off the playing field. Nobody will ever be able to prove that his gambling ever affected an outcome of a game that he played or managed. He realizes his mistake and it would be a shame to not allow him in the Hall. And to talk about "respect for the game" – nobody loved the game more or played the game "the right way" better.

Coaching kids really isn't about baseball, is it? It's about preparing them for life. And if they can respect their teammates and coaches and their game, they can learn to respect their teachers and schoolwork, and, later, their bosses and co-workers. Thanks for keeping the torch alive. Rest assured that there are thousands of us coaches throughout the country who are trying to fight the battle against lazy, inattentive and self-centered players. Now that we have you as our standard bearer, the job is a lot easier.

John Dresslar
Berkeley, Calif.

I am sitting here with tears in my eyes having read your induction speech. … I intend to read your speech to my two grandsons when they are old enough to appreciate what baseball can mean to them.

Frank Wright
Suwanee, Ga.

Thank you for this. I will give this to my 9-year-old son for inspiration.

Jane Thompson
Albuquerque, N.M.

Magnificent! The genie joke is a classic!

Eric Dale Smith
Baltimore, Md.

I think you said everything there is to say about the game and, well, basically about life itself.

Fer Felix Redes
Monterrey, Mexico

Your speech at your induction was inspirational. … I'm sure your parents looked down from heaven and were very proud of you.

Nachum Chernofsky
Bnei Brak, Israel