Sadly, the news today of a high-level report on widespread steroid use among professional ballplayers makes Major League Baseball seem as phony as televised wrestling, a “sport” unworthy of the name.
Among the big league names in this broad indictment, the once-great Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens heads the list. Ok, so we suspected Barry Bonds all along, and knew about Jason Giambi and Raphael Palmiero — but Roger Clemens? Andy Pettite? Say it ain’t so! [Yes, readers, "ain't" is bad grammer for a college president, but the phrase "Say it ain't so, Joe!" is well known among baseball fans as the anguished phrase uttered by a young fan to the legendary Black Sox player Shoeless Joe Jackson upon learning that his hero was part of a plot to throw the World Series in 1919.]
Debates may rage about whether taking steroids is in the same league with taking money to fix games — from my perspective, it’s all cheating, just a matter of different tactics. The game relies on the integrity of the players, the managers, the entire baseball organization to uphold the simple expectation that the performance of the players on the field is genuine, not fake. Performance-enhancing drugs make it possible for players to exhibit powers they could not achieve on their own merits. Plagiarism for the muscular. Text-messaging exam answers to the clueless synapses. Gaining an advantage over the players who swing their bats clean, bulking-up to beat other teams. Can we trust the W-L records at all now? Should these players be allowed to stay in the game? Will the formerly “great” players now be eligible for the Hall of Fame, or do their tainted records mean that they will be remembered forever for what coulda-shoulda been?
Today’s news came courtesy of former Senator George Mitchell who conducted an investigation at the request of Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. The Mitchell Report is widely available online.
Baseball, of course, is not the only sport with a drug problem. The sad spectacle of Olympian Marion Jones keeps playing out, and the suspicions around Tour de France cyclists remain. Who knows what similar investigations of professional basketball and football might reveal?
Professional sports collectively is a massive economic machine for this nation. Professional and elite amateur athletes, for better or worse, do become “role models” for the young. Perhaps the best result of the baseball scandal will be motivation for other sports to get serious about getting rid of the drug culture.