Coming Sunday: An extended Q-and-A with Hall of Famer Robin Yount, the former Taft High star and 20-year Milwaukee Brewer shortstop and center fielder who will be honored next week by the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation in Century City wit their “Scout’s Dream Award.”
Among the topics we ran past Yount was this week’s Baseball Hall of Fame vote — one that saw Bert Blyleven get in after 14 tries, and sent another loud message about steroid users (or those even suspicious of it) with the deflated votes cast for players like Mark McGwire, Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmiero and Juan Gonzalez.
Yount, ahead of the curve on the power-hitting shortstops of his time due to working out with weights and strenghtening his 6-foot, 165-pound frame with large forearmsk, was asked how he would make a statement if he had a Hall of Fame vote:
“We do eventually have a vote when it’s left to the veteran’s committee and not through the sports writers, but as far as what everyone sees in voting now, that’s a tough call.
“We’re just seeing the start of these guys coming up for election, and to me, it looks like (the writers who vote) are holding that era up to a standard — either higher, or lower, I’m not sure which way you’d phrase it — considering the stats they’ve put up. I’ve never looked at the stats — does McGwire have enough home runs to make him a Hall of Famer? And most came later in his career?
“That’s a tough period to judge, and personally, I hold it against us, the players, as an industry for not getting together on a drug testing policy that worked quick enough. The players who played prior to when steroids were illegal now have this held over their head. Let’s face it, we are professional athletes performing as we’re expected to be at the highest levels, and there were no rules against the stuff. So how to do you hold that against them?
“Now that drug testing is in place, and you’ve had guys found guilty because they’ve somehow beat it, then you can hold it against them. But even there, there’s a gray area. Like with Barry Bonds. He’s never been found guilty and he did so much early in his career.
“McGwire is in that gray area, too. Personally, if it’s just me, if the player did it prior to testing — and you can adjust the stats because they were all inflated — the baseball historians know there are different eras in the game. Stats have changed dramatically over time. The baseball people know about this era having drugs, and everyone hitting the ball out of the park. So, that was that time … now hopefully we get that cleaned up and can move on to getting back to a level playing field.
“But if we’re saying this is the era when this happened, it’s not fair to hold it against some players when we didn’t police it.”
Yount insists that his Milwaukee Brewers’ owner, Bud Selig, can’t be blamed for how this has all evolved in the role of commissioner, either.
“I can tell you, he was trying to get testing done much sooner, but the biggest obstacle was the players’ association. Let’s face it, I still look at myself as a player, but we were a union and that was the biggest stumbling block to getting (the union) to agree.
“The way Bud is perceived is the same as being the president of the United States. He’s just the president of baseball, and he takes the heat for all the things that go wrong.But the fact was that as hard as Bud tried to get things done, it took more time and went years further than it should.
“The game is as strong as ever and more successful than it’s been with any other commissioner. He can take all the heat you want to give him, but under his watch, the game has grown leaps and bounds. It’s not been all positive, but there’s still far more good than bad.
“And nobody loves the game and more passion for it than Bud. I’ve known him some 30 years now, and I know he lives and dies baseball. Maybe we’re totally opposites. I love the game, but I don’t die with it like he does.”