I have to say that (mercifully) my recording cut off after the players made their initial statements to the Committee. First off, watching Jose Canseco simpering and crying for immunity was classic. The only thing he didn't do was offer to give them autographed copies of his book in exchange for immunity from prosecution, but then again the idea of bribery is to offer something of value in exchange.
My major impression of the proceedings had nothing to do with the players assembled, but the audacity of the Committee to spend taxpayers' money for the sole purpose of speechmaking. Some of the witnesses called by the Committee also seemed baffled by what conclusions the Committee wanted them to make for them. The most mind-bending connection they asked their hand-picked panel of experts was that the national methamphetamine epidemic could be linked to steroid use in athletes. Dr. Nora Volkow seemed befuddled by the implication until the Committee member opted to dilute his question by rephrasing it and completely changed its meaning—although it was clear that the impression they were fishing for was THG in MLB = Meth in kids.
Also, how hard is it to remember that it's Major League Baseball and not National League Baseball? It seems unlikely that such devoted die-hard baseball fans—as many of the committee members claimed to be, that they'd know what the league is called. What's more, it was clear that the poor parents of the boys who both committed suicide because of their steroid use would be free to, along with Committee members, make inferences and speeches that were often little more than conjecture (for instance that a stronger stance by MLB against steroid use would have actually prevented the death of one of the boys is a nice thought but seems routed in a reality that is not our own…) but as soon as Dr. Pellman (MLB's Medical Advisor) was asked to respond to rather complex issues of medicine and law (even though he repeatedly stated he was not qualified to comment on the legal ramifications of contract law…) he was treated as if he were being belligerent, uncooperative and was repeatedly not allowed to so much as answer the question—let alone make speeches comparable to his fellow panel members.
I'm not ragging on the parents—they have every right to be hurt, upset and at least they're trying to be proactive. However it's clear that they are being used as a back door way to come after baseball in the name of "what's good for the kids." Commentator George Will pointed out in a piece dated March 14th:
"The Government Reform Committee, formerly Government Operations Committee, took today's name in 1995, during the Republican revolution to restore limited, modest government. The committee claims ‘broad jurisdiction,' meaning a license to rove whither it will in the name of ‘oversight.'
Fine. It can grandstand to its heart's content in the name of informing itself -- about government operations. But not to inform the rest of us about whatever the committee thinks we ought to be told."
In light of the clearly antagonistic position that Committee took ("This isn't [MLB's] game, this is ours…") I was actually proud of Mark McGwire when he told the committee that he would help them work towards a solution but he wouldn't help them with character assassination by inference, he wouldn't rehash what couldn't be changed and he would not participate in the validation of Jose Canseco. I was exchanging e-mails with a reader who was concerned about my take on my Rick Ankiel piece and I assured him that I'd take McGwire to task if it came out that he used steroids. Now I have to say that he stood up in a way that showed more character by refusing to muckrake for this witch hunt.
What's more, Curt Schilling proved he was a stud last year in the World Series and in front of the Committee he showed why he's a class guy. After McGwire's emotional statement and the defiance of Rafael Palmeiro, Schilling spoke clearly and eloquently and quietly chastised the committee which had all but anointed him and Frank Thomas as "the good guys" in its investigation. In part Schilling responded that these hearings risked "glorifying the so called author scheduled to testify today or by indirectly assisting him to sell more books through his claim that what he is doing is somehow good for this country or the game of baseball. A book which devotes hundreds of pages to glorifying steroid usage and which contends that steroid usage is justified and will be the norm in this country in several years is a disgrace, was written irresponsibly and sends exactly the opposite message that needs to be sent to kids. The allegations made in that book, the attempts to smear the names of players, both past and present, having been made by one who for years vehemently denied steroid use, should be seen for what they are, an attempt to make money at the expense of others."
Let's be clear: I want steroids out of baseball. I want those who cheat to be dealt with swiftly and harshly. But I can only take so much hypocrisy and the House Committee on Government Reform has pegged my meter. The sheer absurdity of a government entity that is consistently rocked with scandal launching an investigative hearing entitled "Restoring Faith in America's Pastime" when they have no inherent credibility or jurisdiction on the matter is headache-inducing. Washington's track record for fixing problems is comparable to the Washington General's track record in basketball. Something needs to be done in baseball, but not this way and not by Congress.
Note to Washington: this isn't your game, it's ours.