The View From Wisconsin

Just a random set of rants from a Sports Fan from Wisconsin.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ex Post Facto

There is a legal term for trying to make something that happened in the past illegal. It's called ex post facto, or (literally) "from after the deed."

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy defines an "ex post facto law" as "A law that makes illegal an act that was legal when committed, increases the penalties for an infraction after it has been committed, or changes the rules of evidence to make conviction easier. The Constitution prohibits the making of ex post facto law."

Article I, Section 9, clause 2 of the Constitution is the prohibition noted above.

Why would I mention this? Well, it is something to consider in the whole issue currently facing MLB and steroids.

Even if Barry, Gary, Jason, Mark, Raffi and Sammy all took steroids, it wasn't against the rules of Major League Baseball.

Depending on the steroids they took, or the precursors or whatever, yes, the drugs they took could have been illegal. Then again, cocaine, amphetamines, and marijuana (which, by the way, killed Darryl Kile) are also all illegal - and there are documented cases where players used those in the past. And, of course, let's not forget that during the 1920's, alcohol consumption was illegal under the terms of prohibition. That didn't stop Babe Ruth from consuming, though.

The idea that any player who used steroids in the past should be banned or otherwise have their records taken away because of their use is an example of ex post facto legislation.

Should Barry Bonds manage to come back from his knee surgery to play again, and should he manage to break Hank Aaron's home run record, the concept that it should be "taken away" from him is ridiculous.

Now, don't get me wrong; if Sammy or any of the active players get caught testing positive for steroids, they should be suspended and shamed big-time.

But, once a player holds a record, it's theirs forever - regardless of the stream of "experts" who say that steroid use helps batters drive the ball an additional 10-20 feet.

I still believe Mark McGwire is a Hall-of-Famer, and that Barry Bonds should just walk right into the HOF as soon as he's done with his career - whenever that may be.

Do not, however, tell me to throw out the record books because of steroids. Because I'll be demanding you knock the Babe from his pedestal - along with every other player who ever did anything illegal during his career.

That would leave two people in the Hall of Fame: Alexander Cartwright and Branch Rickey.

And it'd be iffy on Cartwright.