July 19, 2010
In just a week I will be riding my bicycle across Iowa on RAGBRAI XXXVIII. I wanted to write about RAGBRAI, but this is a baseball website; not a biking website. And then it dawned on me that I will go right past the site where the movie "Field of Dreams" was shot. Since this bike ride gives real meaning to the saying "Is this Heaven? No this is Iow," I thought that I would name some players who would probably be featured if they ever made a Field of Dreams 2.
In my new version of Field of Dreams I focused more on disgraced players, and players who had their time in the spotlight ruined for one reason or another. These players had the heart, however some cheated, some lied, and some were just victims.
Barry Bonds- Barry Bonds oh Barry Bonds, what a legacy you could have left if you didn't take Performance Enhancing Drugs. (Unfortunately this will not be the last time I talk about PEDs on this list.) You can indeed argue that Barry Bonds was going to be a hall of famer without all of his records. (I used Bonds' first 10 seasons as a baseline for his stats. It is rumored that he first started using PEDs in 1997.) He hit 334 home runs through his first 10 seasons. (He never hit more than 46 each in those 10 years.) He had 380 stolen bases through 1996. He won the rookie of the year in 1986, Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers in 1990, 1991,1992,1993,1994, and 1996, and MVPs in 1990, 1992, and 1993. He made All-Star appearances in 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1996. Bonds had done everything in those years except go to a World Series.
But then... Bonds, allegedly, took PEDs and the rest... well is history... Or ruined history. Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001. Manny people don't know that the Disgraced Home Run King hit 762 career home runs, and frankly most people don't care. Will Barry Bonds be a hall of famer? I don't know. But I know that there is a place for the young Barry Bonds in Field of Dreams 2.
Sammy Sosa- Yes, I have to go here! One thing, Sammy Sosa wouldn't fit in with the other Field of Dreams players because he can't speak English... Oh wait... He can. Sosa was one half of the 1998 Home Run Race. In the end Sosa hit 66 home runs in a year that saw two players break Roger Maris's mark of 61. Sosa may or may not make the final cut of Field of Dreams 2. Before he, allegedly, started taking PEDs in 1993 Sosa hit just 41 HR in 452 games. Towards the end of his career we saw how Sosa played when he didn't take PEDs, and I wasn't impressed at all.
Mark McGuire- The first disgraced player to break Roger Maris?s single season home run record was BIG MAC! He was the other half of the historic 1998 home run race. And he has also admitted to taking steroids. Mark McGuire also played for the Oakland A's of the 1980s. These teams are noted for being the "Ground Zero" of PED use in the 1980s, so is it really a shock to anyone that Mark McGuire took PEDs? Even though Mark said that he took steroids from 1993-1998 just to recover from injuries and not hit home runs; should we believe him? And even if it is correct didn't they help him build muscle mass? And even if he did build any muscle by taking steroids, isn't taking steroids for health reasons worse? As Keith Olberman said on his show "Countdown with Keith Olberman," "You cannot hit home runs from the doctor's office". By taking steroids just to recover from injuries Mark hit home runs that he would not have hit if he didn't take steroids because he would not be playing!
You can argue that baseball wouldn't be at the level it is today without Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa. Both were very important in bringing baseball back into relevance after the strike in 1994. The truth of the matter is that Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa probably saved baseball. So should history really be kind to them since they cheated, but saved the game?
Having said all of that, I do believe Mark McGuire loves baseball very much. And I believe that people deserve second chances, so I am very happy that he got a job with the St. Louis Cardinals. Still, I find it very ironic that Mark is the Cardinals hitting coach. But for loving baseball like he does, we will give Mark a chance to play the game cleanly in Field of Dreams 2... and yes we will talk about the past.
Alex Rodriguez- A-rod has always had the talent, but never had the game in the clutch. He may go on to break Hank Aaron's home run record. He may also break the less important record set by Barry Bonds. A-rod makes the Field of Dreams 2 for using steroids. Though he may not be banned from the game, it remains to be seen if he will be banished from history. Will writers vote him in to the Hall of Fame when he has admitted to using PEDs? How will historians judge the records he set? Will he be disgraced from the game like Barry Bonds? Or will he be treated as one of the greats of the game? That is for history to judge. When he retires the young Alex Rodriguez, before he used PEDs, will have a spot in Field of Dreams 2.
Roger Clemens- Roger Clemens is the final player on this list to, allegedly, take PEDs. Just 3 years ago we were saying that Roger Clemens was probably one of the best pitchers ever. Now those words are not even said in the same sentence. In 22 seasons he played in 709 games (4916.2 Innings Pitched) he had a career ERA of 3.12, 2.96 SO/BB ratio, 2.9 BB per 9 innings, .7 HR per 9 innings, 4672 SO, and an overall record of 354-184. He was an 11 time All-Star making it in 1986, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005. And he won seven Cy Young Awards and one MVP.Those are really impressive numbers, and the guy clearly had talent. But in late 2007 allegations of Steroid use came out. His former trainer Brian McNamee has revealed many things damaging Clemens's reputation. Clemens testified to Congress. His performance was poor to say the least. He looked nervous, anxious, and he looked like he was hiding something. Even though he has not admitted to using steroids it is clear that Roger Clemens is not totally innocent. Just like the rest of the players in the Steroid Era, we can only wonder how history will judge Roger Clemens. But for being disgraced by many people in baseball Roger Clemens will also get a second chance in Field of Dreams 2.
Pete Rose- He is arguably the greatest player to not be in the hall of fame. Even though he has been banished from baseball the Hit King still holds many records including most career hits (4,256), Most games played (3,562), most at-bats (14,053), most singles (3,215), most bases by a switch hitter (5,752), (Most seasons of 200 or more hits (10), most consecutive seasons of 100 or more hits (23), most seasons with 150 or more games played (17), only player ever to play 500 or more games at 5 different positions ( 1B, 2B, 3B, LF,RF), and most doubles (746). The numbers alone don't lie; he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame! But unfortunately with Pete Rose there is more to it than numbers. Without getting into the specifics Pete bet on baseball and was banished by Commissioner Bart Giamatti. Pete defiantly said he never bet on baseball, until he admitted to it in 2004. Even when he did admit to his sin he sinned again, in Commissioner Bud Selig's eyes. When he admitted he bet on baseball he also simultaneously his book "Pete Rose: My Prison Without Bars". One day Charlie Hustle might be in Cooperstown with the other greats of the game, but for now he will have to settle for Dyersville, IA. In Field of Dreams 2 Pete Rose will play the long banished gambler.
Roberto Clemente- Luckily, Roberto was never apart of the scandals that rocked most of these players. In 2433 games and 10,212 plate appearances Roberto had exactly 3,000 hits. He got number 3000 in almost a mythical way. It happened on a cold, rainy day in Pittsburgh. The legendary #21 got his 3000th hit in his final at bat ever. Roberto Clemente tragically perished in a plane crash on December 31, 1972 when he was bringing aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua... I think we would all love to see Roberto walk out from behind the corn.
Roger Maris- While Roger Maris is not a hall of famer he did hold one of the most hallowed records in all of sports. In 1961 Yankee teammates Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle had their own home run race to Babe Ruth's famous single season home run record of 60. (Their story is told in the movie "61*") In the end Mantle finished with 54 home runs. Maris hit the historic #61 on in game 162.During his chase of the Babe Maris received death threats to him and his family. The cold truth is Maris was hated by most Yankee fans for breaking another Yankee's record. Most Yankee fans supported Mantle during the race and even went so far to say that Maris was not a "true Yankee" Maris?s record was not honored by the Commissioner Ford Frick either. Frick created a separate record for Maris since he broke it in 162 games instead of 154; like Babe Ruth.
Maris always seemed out of place in New York, and at the end of his Yankee career he was abandoned by the team. (Think about this, the guy who broke Babe Ruth's single season home run record was traded for Charley Smith.)The separate records stood until 1991 when Commissioner Fay Vincent abolished the 154 game record. Maris finally received vindication 6 years after he passed away. As I stated above Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds all broke Maris?s record. (In fact Sosa broke it 3 different times.) Though Maris now stands at 7th on the single season home run list, many baseball purists; including myself; still have Maris?s 61 as #1.
Hank Aaron- The Home Run King endured racism and bigotry, when he broke Babe Ruth's career home run record. Hank Aaron's story is not unlike that of Roger Maris; who also broke one of the Babe's storied home run records. Aaron was punished by many people, just like Maris, for breaking one of the Babe's hallowed records. And unlike Barry Bonds Aaron did not use PEDs. And that is why Henry Aaron makes this list.
Jackie Robinson- The first Non-White white player to play Major League Baseball was a pioneer in the game. Jackie, simply, went through hell to play Major League Baseball. There is no nicer way to say it. And he did more than just play baseball; he was a symbol of the civil rights movement in a time of racism, segregation, and bigotry. Jackie put up with more hate than any of us can ever imagine, and for that we all need to thank him. And even though nobody would have blamed him if he lashed out at anyone, he never did. He couldn't. If he did it would set back blacks the black experiment 10 or 20 years.
Did I mention that Jackie also played baseball? Even though his achievements on the field are sometimes lost to his civil rights impact, Jackie was one of the game's greatest players. He was on 5 teams World Series teams, but lost to the mighty Yankees 4 times. He was a 6 time All-Star making it in 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, and 1954. He was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1947, and won the 1949 MVP. He never finished lower than 7th in Stolen Bases, and won that title in 1947 and 1949. He never finished lower than 10th in Batting Average and won in in 1947 when he hit .342. Robinson was known for driving pitchers nuts on the bases. It is commonly said that Robinson "danced around the bases".
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962. In 1996 MLB permanently retired Robinson's #42 and MLB holds an annual Jackie Robinson Day where teams wear Robinson's 42 to honor the man that broke the color barrier. In Field of Dreams 2 we will also honor Jackie by letting him play without any of the hate.
For me, the Field of Dreams represents a second chance. In the first movie the 1919 Chicago Black Sox got another chance to play when they had been banished. In this movie some will get a second chance, while others will just get a chance to be treated fairly. At the Field of Dreams anything is possible. While it may just be Iowa, it is close to heaven.
Phil Joens is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com and also maintains a Blog.