Lowell Cohn's "Logic" May Make Sense, But He's Still Dead Wrong

Barry Bonds

Photo: andertho via flickr

Lowell Cohn says that he compares PED users in baseball to murderers because we would never let one murderer go free just because we can’t catch everyone who has killed somebody.Cohn continues:

“It’s not like a defence lawyer walks into court and says, ‘Thousands of murderers get away with their crimes, so you should let my client, who wiped out an entire family, go free in the interest of fair play.’ That would be absurd.”

That would be absurd. Almost as absurd as this argument.

First of all: Why murder? He could have used any other crime to make the same argument, but he chose to draw a parallel between longer home runs and slaughtering humans. Tough to carry any argument beyond that analogy. (But we will.)

Even just taking his premise at face value — that we shouldn’t reward McGwire just because we can’t punish anyone else — it reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the way baseball and the Hall of Fame works. (That’s unfortunate, since we’re dealing with a Hall of Fame voter.)

The Hall of Fame was built to honour players who rose above their peers. It’s not a punishment or a reward. It’s an recognition of greatness.

Assuming there are MANY PED users who played with and against McGwire (which Cohn does), the entire basis of his candidacy is not that he was great, it’s that he was better than other players, including those also using drugs.

We don’t need to know who was on the juice to know that Mark McGwire was better than they were. His Hall of Fame statistics were not a threshold to be reached, they are a comparison. To only judge the “cheaters” you know about, is to not judge fairly.

Or to go back to Cohn’s original thesis: We don’t compare murderers before deciding whether to put them in jail or not. We also don’t give awards to non-murderers for not murdering people. (Hey, it was his metaphor.)

We also don’t base convictions on “gut” feelings as Cohn plans to do with Barry Bonds. Or convict people with the knowledge that they have the safety net of appeal, as he considers the Veteran Committee to be.

Does any of that make sense? OF COURSE NOT. Because this is such a stupid argument, my brain has stopped working properly.

But what do you expect when dealing with an organisation that still uses fax machines to hold elections?

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