Baseball Historian Lockhart: Game Hasn't Recovered From Steroid Scandal

Monday, 06 May 2013 06:12 PM

By Jim Meyers and Kathleen Walter

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Baseball historian and author Harry Lockhart tells Newsmax that Major League Baseball still hasn't fully recovered from the steroid scandal, which gave users an unfair statistical boost compared to earlier greats who didn't use the drugs.

Lockhart's new book "The Beef" offers an historical view of "great hitting combos" during baseball's so-called "Age of Pitching" in the 1960s.

Story continues below.

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, Lockhart says those hitting combos were so great that they overshadowed some players who might otherwise have made it into the Hall of Fame.

"The Giants had three Hall of Famers in the middle of the lineup, Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, and Willie McCovey. The Cubs had three Hall of Famers in the middle of their lineup, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, and Ernie Banks. And the Yankees had Maris, Mantle, and Berra. There were a lot of combinations during the '60s.

"But what I write in the book is that a lot of ballplayers that maybe should be Hall of Famers were kind of overlooked. Had they been in a different era, they probably would have been in the Hall of Fame.

"One player in particular is Vada Pinson, who played for the Cincinnati Reds. He played in the lineup with Frank Robinson and the bad part about that was he was overlooked."

Fast-forwarding to today, Lockhart was asked what kind of shape America’s national pastime is in today and has it recovered from the steroid scandal.

"No, I don’t think it has," he responds.

"And I hear so many people that say, well, [steroid users] get a few extra homeruns because they're bigger and they're on steroids and things like that. But being so close to the game back in the '60s watching the Willie Mayses and the Hank Aarons, they would hit fly balls to right center that might be caught at the warning track, whereas had they been steroids, it goes 10 rows deep into the seats.

"And everybody says, well, they get a few extra homeruns. That's only part of the story. They get more total bases. They score runs that they shouldn’t have. Their batting average goes up. Their on-base percentage goes up and their RBIs go up. And if you do this over 15, 20 years, now you've got a huge, huge difference in an enhanced ballplayer versus one back in the day that wasn’t on it."

Lockhart also says advanced statistical analysis — otherwise known as Moneyball — "really has changed the game dramatically," and so has free agency.

"The sad part about it is one of the players that is responsible for free agency — I write about it in the book — was a St. Louis outfielder named Curt Flood. Flood refused to be traded. He was a premiere ballplayer, probably would have gone on to the Hall of Fame, and he wound up not reporting and was just drummed out of the game.

"He took his case all the way to the Supreme Court and many ballplayers today don’t even remember this guy. If you ask who Curt Flood was, many of them can't even tell you, and that's the reason they're making the millions."

As for what teams he thinks will go to the World Series this season, and which team will be baseball’s greatest surprise, Lockhart says: "The greatest surprise, and I had an opportunity because I've seen them a couple of times in spring training, although they really got off to a slow start, were the Toronto Blue Jays. They got so many of their ballplayers from the Miami Marlins and they have a great ball club and they're going to surprise a lot of people. They're one of the underrated teams out there right now.

"The Washington Nationals — I thought that they were going to win it last year and they are still a very strong contender this year."

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