This past weekend wasn’t particularly short on festivities. On the one hand, you had St. Patrick’s Day on Friday, replete with all the parades, parties and pubs your merry little heart could enjoy.
On the other hand and for the activist in you, there was Saturday’s Anti-war protest to yet again voice your displeasure with the U.S. invasion of Iraq – three years later and counting.
But for fanatics of the baseball world, Friday marked the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Congressional hearing against steroid use in Major League Baseball, which set the wheels in motion to implement strict laws that now govern the sport.
Talk about voicing your displeasure.
On March 17, 2005, the tenacious lawmakers of Capitol Hill weren’t celebrating St. Patties or even the color green. In fact, the color of choice was red – as in the red-faced baseball players and flustered MLB commissioner Bud Selig, who were lambasted by Congress for their roles in the steroid scandal that rocked the baseball community.
One year later, Selig again finds himself in the vortex of a black cloud that hangs over America’s pastime.
This time, however, the cloud of doubt is cast over none other than San Francisco Giants’ star slugger Barry Bonds, after two major books: "Game of Shadows," by San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, and "Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero," by former Sports Illustrated reporter Jeff Pearlman, are set to release in the coming weeks.
According to excerpts distributed to ESPN and Sports Illustrated, both publications will outline Bonds’ purported steroid use and illuminate his motivations for crossing over to the “dark side.”
Bonds, who already despises the media, is now being vilified in almost every news outlet in the nation for his alleged steroid use. The backlash is so strong that Commissioner Bud Selig is being pressured into conducting an independent investigation on Bonds.
This is where the issue becomes even more problematic.
Where does Major League Baseball draw the line? How far does the investigation have to probe before it becomes counter-productive for – gasp! – MLB’s own self-interest?
Any half-assed investigation would uncover that not only Barry Bonds was linked to performance-enhancing drugs (PED), but a slew of other players as well. On the Giants team alone, names like Benito Santiago, Marvin Benard and Armando Rios have already been implicated to the Bay Area Lab Co-Operative (BALCO). Those names don’t even begin to scratch the surface.
Let’s assume that all the big names who have been documented in the media are guilty of some form of steroid use. That would include Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro. Shouldn’t they be investigated as well?
And let’s not forget that sluggers aren’t the only suspected steroid users. Last year when MLB finally instituted a drug policy against performance-enhancers, names like speedy outfielder Alex Sanchez and relief pitcher Juan Rincon were suspended 10 games each for a failed drug test.
Read that again. A light-hitting outfielder – all 5-foot-10, 180 pounds of Sanchez – tested positive for steroids. And Rincon? He’s proof that even pitchers are looking for an edge in today’s “juiced” game.
Both Sanchez and Rincon failed their tests after Major League Baseball announced to the world that they would finally test for steroids… and those two bozos were still caught. Imagine the number of players who would have been caught before the new laws were implemented?
Again, this brings us to the fine line that Bud Selig needs to cross and rid baseball of all the doubt surrounding steroids. He needs to clean out the closet and expose all the skeletons – not just Barry Bonds. It will be baseball’s version of Watergate.
However, does Bud have the necessary wherewithal and integrity to launch such an investigation?
Of course not. Especially not when, as we mentioned, it will turn out to be counter-productive.
You see, the commissioner and the majority of Major League Baseball are part of the problem, not the solution. This is an establishment that turned the other way when critics questioned the veracity of McGwire and Sosa’s accomplishments during their great 1998 homerun chase.
This is the same establishment that did not institute a drug policy and stringent penalties until Congress basically put a gun to their heads last year, issuing an ultimatum…seven years later!
Now the media and fans alike are pressuring Selig to call for Bonds head? That Bonds be suspended, or worse, be banned from baseball and consequently erase all his records?
Not only is that cruel and unusual punishment, it’s scapegoating at its truest form. To pin all that troubles Major League Baseball on its star is weak and irrational. It solves nothing and would only open the door to a major lawsuit from Bonds and a trickle-down effect not worth getting into.
To be fair, Bonds in all likelihood may have used performance-enhancing drugs. He cheated. He cheated the fans, his teammates and the sport itself, which has withstood many trials and tribulations for decades.
But Bonds isn’t the only one who cheated and since we’re all adults here who know there is no Santa Claus, let’s all agree that over the past decade, steroid use is as much pervasive to the sport as owners and investors profiting from these “juiced-out” sluggers, who draw a massive following of fans to the ballpark.
And therein lies the real problem.
Baseball is a business first and therefore this steroid scandal is as deeply-rooted into the powers-that-be as it is to the players they employ. Everyone in the sport has benefited from the past decade or so – from the executives in the luxury suites to the fans crossing the turnstiles to witness records being broken.
If Bud Selig opts to launch an independent investigation on Barry Bonds, he may just as well be opening Pandora’s Box, bringing the entire sport down with him.
What a sight that would be, though. The pressures from protesters against an administration’s inability to prove its real agenda will finally consume its leader to do what is right.
I’ll drink to that.Wait, never mind, we’re talking about baseball. For a minute there, it was too good to be true.
Phil Delacruz was a transplanted Giants fan, buried in the Southland. After four strenuous years in College, studying (read: partying), he's back in the beautiful "City by the Bay" – San Francisco. Do you think he should move back to LALA land? Or do you like him where he is now and appreciate the good reads? Either way, send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to air out your frustrations or, more likely, songs of praise.
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