The steroid issue is obviously becoming the "hot button" topic for the game. However, it is important to note that these hearings on Capitol Hill are in no small part due to the ranting of one Jose Canseco. Was it only a week ago that I mentioned the comedic styling of Mister Canseco and his co-writer? Seriously, how is it that such an utter buffoon can sow such discord and destruction? How is it that our highest-ranking elected public officials can be sucked into the sewer hole opened by Canseco's smear campaign?
While it is important to go on the record now and state that I am 100% against the use of any kind of performance enhancing drugs in the game, dragging the players to Washington with threats of contempt and arrest unless they complied is the wrong thing to do. For better or worse, there is no law against steroid use - no laws were broken by any of the people summoned to Washington – and yet they were treated like the guilty.
Before dragging the reputations of baseball players through the mud, how about writing legislation to make the use of these substances illegal? How about calling the commissioner and the team owners to Washington and make them dance on the jig of public opinion at the hands of sharp-tongued legislators.
Calling Mark McGwire is like calling Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, or even Babe Ruth to the stand – ultimately pointless. At least if the players questioned were all active, you could argue that the proper authorities are finally trying to do something about an issue that is a huge problem. Going back to the fact that this is a case where no laws were broken, the poking of McGwire with sharp sticks for the sake of revisionist history is simply shameful.
Heck, you can bet Babe Ruth drank alcohol – a controlled and illegal substance – during prohibition, and he remains a legend of the game. Meanwhile, a great man who was done with baseball was destroyed for the sake of politics and photo-ops. Does anyone truly believe that the steroid hearings of 2005 will be on any politicians' re-election scorecard? The shame of it all comes back to Jose Canseco, and the sad little politicians who want to capitalize on the hype.
Knowing that the issue is not going to go away, the big question is what does the future hold? It is likely that steroid use in baseball will fall precipitously, simply because testing is on the rise and the issue is so hot in the court of public opinion. It is also likely that this issue will not go away, so the commissioner, owners, and the player's union are all going to have to bust their butts to fix this issue before Washington steps in even more than it already has. While you have to believe that laws will appear on the books in the near future banning these substances, the airing of the current laughable major league testing policy will lead to a harder line for the players.
Simply put, the commissioner and owners, and even the union now have no choice but to drop the hammer lest their gravy train get derailed. The upside is that the future stars of the game should be putting up numbers for the record books that will be closer to truth than these statistics have been in perhaps twenty years. The pall of suspicion will remain, however, particularly as sports writers look for targets amongst the legion of aberrant stats that have been put up by players like Brady Anderson, Luis Gonzalez, and perhaps even Barry Bonds.
The public will probably be quicker to forgive and forget, and chicks will still dig the long ball, so some things will return to a semblance of normal. Baseball will continue, vast sums of cash will still be made, and there will still be the random career year that rekindles talk of doping and steroids. I, for one, remain optimistic that more players are innocent than not, and that guiding forces behind baseball will finally get their anti-drug policy right.
There may be no crying in baseball, but my heart goes out to Mark McGwire. It is completely possible that he did use steroids, but I have greater faith in Big Mac than I do in Jose Canseco. For those who interpreted his words before the congressional hearings as an admission of guilt, there is a spin I choose to put on them that no one seems to have championed.
What I choose to believe, and each of us baseball fans gets to make their own choice, is that Mark McGwire saw a witch hunt taking place, and did not want to be someone who threw more wood on the fire. I like to think that he saw the words of a desperate and embittered onetime teammate as a frantic attack on the institution of baseball that he did not want to buy into. I like to think that Mark McGwire will still be a favorite of the fans.
Until next time, try not to throw more wood on this fire.
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