Or maybe not.
My dad, my two brothers and I took a trip up to Cooperstown back in September of 2010. It was the morning after the Jets knocked off the Patriots in week 2, 28-14 disappointing half of our crew. We were doing a round-the-northeast-tour of activities that one can do in that region. Mostly sports related stuff, Hall of Fame's, caught a Red Sox/Yankees game at the new stadium on the way back. Gettysburg was in there. And a cavern called "Penn's cove," which was actually quite cool.
Anyway, as we were driving into Cooperstown, it's almost as though the whole city gave off a certain positive aura about it. A vibe that would make us want to raise our kids there, if wasn't in the middle of nowhere that is. It was really kind to the eyes. And in the midst of the discovery of the small town, we were approaching the history of baseball captured in a single building.
Let's just say the excitement was building. In addition to that, we all desperately needed to use the Hall of Fame's facilities as well, after the fairly long drive from New York city that began at approximately 5 AM.
We found parking easily; slow season. No inductions talking place, and to be honest, there isn't much more that would attract tourists to a place like Cooperstown. Although from the looks of this small town, it seems like it would be a great, quaint and relaxing place to live. If you're into that sort of thing.
As we exited our traveling minivan -- which basically held four big kids anyway -- we walked up to, not necessarily a breathtaking site, but a site that we would remember for the rest of our lives. It stands out in this town. Stands out in such a great way. And it will always stand out in our minds.
We walked up to the ticket counter, handing the older man a stack of cash as my brother said, "Four please."
Actually knowing my brother, the please was probably me utilizing some hyperbole.
But I digress.
So each of us were handed our tickets by the "ticket guy," and we preceded toward the history of baseball, walking awkwardly away from the ticket counter with only one arm and one leg.
We made our way up the steps, wondering what we would come upon once we reached the top. Plaques, pictures; anything and everything involving baseball, were starting to appear before our eyes.
We started by watching 'Abbott And Costello,' which runs on a loop, banter back and forth about who was on first, what's on second, etc. And then as we saw the full loop, we grew bored as the second loop is simply not enjoyable.
This is when the Hall of Fame was still fun, but already skewed. It's almost as if we should have an asterisk next to our visit that day.
Almost instantly once we saw the first of what might be considered the "greatest players of all time," we started discussing who in fact WAS the greatest. I'm confident that anyone who knows anything about baseball will have their version of this discussion while walking through the halls of the most prestigious building in Cooperstown, New York.
There's a black and white picture of Babe Ruth. That picture of him that every fan is familiar with, as his left-handed swing is producing, most likely, a home run while the crowd can be seen above Ruth cheering, as the picture was taken at an angle, and slightly overhead.
"Ya know, Ruth's probably the greatest ever, my brother said." "714 home runs, dominated a league like no baseball player we've ever seen."
This discussion took place before Mike Trout had even graduated high school, just for the record.
My dad chimes in, "Plus he was a great pitcher." And that's when I start firing back at everyone thinking that modern day players are as good, if not better than players from the 20's or 30's. I explain to my dad the about the odds that Ruth could hit AND pitch effectively in today's game. It's just too difficult, was my stance.
He didn't dismiss the idea that it was in fact too hard to do both, since we don't actually see anyone do it anymore (except for the player in the title of this article).
So I bring up Pujols, naturally, after Ruth was mentioned. Since I thought he was comparable to Ruth at the time. Remember again, this was 2010. Pujols was historically great up until this point. He had no weaknesses as a hitter. He wasn't just an overpaid, above-average player playing for an underachieving team.
So yes, I inferred that Pujols might perhaps be the greatest player ever when all is said and done. Or at least in the discussion of "greatest player ever." And at the time it wasn't absurd. I didn't say it with certainty, I just mentioned it. I will never know, nor will anyone know, who the greatest player actually is. No one will, which is what makes these baseball arguments so compelling. So certainty should not exist within a comment like that.
After I said those few initial things about Pujols, my brother instantly chimes in with, "What's that guy on?" My other brother, the oldest of us siblings, basically said the same thing with a facial expression that can't quite be described fully through writing, kind of saying, "Who knows?"
And this is when the Hall of Fame tour took a turn for the worse.
It's still an enjoyable experience, don't get me wrong. You still have plenty of discussions about the greatest players, the greatest pitcher, best team ever, the best base-stealer ever (that last one was a really short discussion).
But the words steroids becomes the word most used throughout the experience. If not steroids, then HGH. And I have to defend my favorite players, my era, by using amphetamines a ton. Talking about the days of "unleaded" and "leaded" coffee, as I believe Jim Bouton put it.
For every Ted Williams or Willie Mays my dad brought up -- and we would start talking about them as though they were clean, we'd get a McGwire or Bonds mention, and naturally a PED mention right after.
According my dad, all the players he saw were clean. And if they used "greenies," they weren't as effective as steroids because as he put, "they don't change your body. They don't make you hit the ball further."
And while that argument might be valid, we don't know if either makes one a better baseball player, and to what degree each one would increase a player's skill level. Obviously, nearly 100 percent of us believe they help in some way, but not a single one of us knows the true effects on a players ability to play baseball.
So Chris Davis is slugging 200! percentage points higher in what we've seen of 2013, versus what he did in 2012. That is extreme. Very extreme. Players don't usually make that kind of jump. Keep in mind though that he has the rest of the season to regress back to the mean, or closer to it. Remember, It's not even the All-Star break yet.
But the near-fact is that Davis has already been more than twice as valuable as we was in all of 2012.
There may be actual reasoning for this jump in production though that doesn't include steroids.
He is 27 years old, just hitting his prime. And although he was decent last year, he was far from "figuring it all out." Maybe all he did was figure it out finally, after years of working with coaches, seeing pitches, and conditioning himself to be the best baseball player he could be.
Or maybe he is taking steroids. Maybe he is using some new designer steroid that is helping him wreak havoc on the league.
Maybe he has found some new undetectable amphetamine that allows him to see a baseball more quickly than any other hitter.
Maybe his drug of choice is like the pill, NZT, from the movie 'Limitless,' where he is now using 100 percent of his brain, rather than just the normal 10 percent or whatever it we normally use.
Whatever the case may be, a large problem with all of this is that we keep talking about it. The wonder will be there. The curiosity, the intrigue, as to whether or not he is using a performance-enhancing drug, all that stuff will reside within our minds. But let's just try and keep it there. Keep it in our heads.
Rather than focus on conjecture, we should just concentrate on the best, most effective testing program that Major League baseball can come up with. Major League baseball should maximize suspensions for being caught, within reason. They should obviously test for more substances, basically do everything in their power to make sure the game is played "clean," with the exception of an intentional cleat to a shortstop's ankle.
We should just assume that we don't know whether a player is using or not -- which we don't, and go from there.
Because if my dad, two brothers and I make another trip to Cooperstown in 20 years. I don't want to talk about steroids or amphetamines or deer antler spray. I don't want to have discussions about whether Maddux or Pedro or Bagwell "cheated.".
All I want during this hypothetical visit twenty years from now is for my dad, who will be trailing behind us using his walker, to say something like, "Mike Trout is probably the greatest baseball player ever."
That is all.