Technically, this jarring description would be correct: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a pioneer is “one who begins, or takes part in beginning, some enterprise, course of action … a forerunner.” These cons are certainly the ones who began the movement — we don’t know who Player Zero is, but we know that if the steroid movement continues then these current cozeners would have helped pave the way.
Both James and the OED seem to miss the fact that pioneers, colloquially, are wrapped in a moralistic blanket. Those who are considered pioneers (Neil Armstrong, Jonas Salk, Jackie Robinson) bore untold burdens and achieved their success for the good of others, not themselves. Granted, there was surely a part of Armstrong that sought glory, or Salk that sought profit, but these whims were drowned out by the valor with which they accomplished their goals.
But ‘roiders are not pioneers. To call them such is to sling mud on the legacies of those who cleanly achieved such heights. These are frauds, much like the earliest tax evaders, bank robbers, and on-the-take New Jersey mayors. No society will ever hold them in esteem.
Misnomers and misjudgments aside, James believes that the future inevitability of steroid usage will land “some players” in the Hall. Bonds, McGwire, Sosa — all will eventually be enshrined. Failing that, he believes that a player currently in the Hall will one day admit to being a card-carrying contributor to the Steroid Era. And when that day comes, the dominoes will begin to fall in the direction of inclusion: “Once some players who have been associated with steroids are in the Hall of Fame, the argument against the others will become un-sustainable.”
James’s lands his readership on a dichotomous, two-way street. On the one hand, baseball writers will preclude all steroid associates from the Hall. On the other, the steroid issue will become as immaterial as Lima Time. No room for gray, not in James’s mind. Once the first user is admitted, stigma is erased, and all others deserve fair shots.
Of course, this second point can’t exist without the success of James’s first point, that one will eventually make it in. Thus, we can move on to his third notion: History is forgiving. This is James’s most salient, sound argument; if justification is needed, look no further than the sympathy George W. Bush has encountered in only a few short months. In the case of these steroid users, future-America will see these druggies less as villains and more as victims. Perhaps they will have broken bodies. Perhaps they will have pleaded for forgiveness. Or perhaps, writes James, we will just look back on them like we see Pete Rose or Shoeless Joe Jackson.