Thursday, December 13, 2007

This is your Cy Young award on drugs . . .

So seven MVPs and one Cy Young Award winner, a pitcher who happens to be the most winning pitcher still in baseball and eighth most winning pitcher of all-time (and the second most winning pitcher of the modern era) and numerous other solid major league players were implicated in former U.S. Senator George Mitchell's report on steroid use in major league baseball. Yes, there was Barry Bonds again, joined now by Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite, the Giambi brothers, Mark McGwire and Miquel Tejada, who just about burst a blood vessel denying former Orioles teammate Rafael Palmeiro's allegations that he used steroids.

By now, no one can dispute that a culture of denial enveloped MLB during the late 1990s and early-to-mid 2000s on illegal drug use by players. Last spring and summer, I wrote that the owners were as much to blame as the players and their union for the introduction of steroids into baseball and their subsequent use by players looking to prolong, enhance or, in some cases, save their careers. Mitchell holds owners and players accountable for their bad behavior, but does not offer any specific suggestions for reform, other than to institute an independent drug testing program.

Roger Clemens has already denied the allegations made against him, joining Barry Bonds, who joined Pete Rose, in the Hall of Fame of Cheaters, Liars and Deniers years ago. Of course, none of us who watch the games and read the stories about professional athletes and their bad behavior have any way of knowing who did what. Clemens and Bonds are not especially well-liked by their peers or fans outside their home teams, and so guilt or innocence generally forms around an impression, not evidence. Really, is there anyone licking their chops to see Andy Pettite disgraced or embarrassed? Brian Roberts? Mo Vaughn?

Baseball is the greatest game of all time, for me anyway. But the sport walked willingly into the fire of steroids and now the players, owners, union officials and sportswriters who let it happen have no choice but to deal honestly with the Frankenstein they created.

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