Friday, March 31, 2006

Selig's AnalSteroid Probe

Look everybody! Bud Selig is going to commence investigation on the past use of steroids by baseball’s biggest stars! I’m so excited, I can hardly contain myself. Just think: the iron fist of justice will be slammed down on Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Gary Sheffield.

On a more serious note: this investigation is at least part sham. Some – including Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci – believe that this probe is necessary for the present and future of baseball. It somehow proves that MLB cares enough to verify these outstanding drug abuse allegations.

In the end, however, not much will come of this. There is the possibility that Selig and his team of investigators will turn up incontrovertible evidence of certain players using steroids, but where do they go from there? How do you punish Mark McGwire for his past steroid use? How do you levee justice upon the shameless Jose Canseco? And more importantly, how do you deal with convicted current players?

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Hothead baseball fans will lambaste the guilty, calling for their heads – or more likely, a suspension. But in reality, Selig cannot suspend these men. The player’s union, despite their ultimate concession on the steroid punishment issue, is a group more powerful than many realize. The second a suspension is so much as mentioned in this case, their lawyers will be working ‘round the clock to piece together a rather simple case: no dirty test, no suspension.

There is another aspect to this case that warrants mentioning. How can Selig condone punishment now when he didn’t even care about steroids when they were at their peak usage? There’s no doubt he was privy to Bonds’s usage during his record breaking 2003 season, and to deny such knowledge would prove him either 1) a downright liar or 2) a horribly frightening ignoramus. In either case, he should be immediately deposed as Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

This probe is not due to Selig’s concern for the integrity of the game. If he cared about that, he would have been investigating steroid use the minute he was named acting Commissioner. But, because these juiced players brought in the bankroll, he turned his head, ostensibly figuring the problem would rectify itself, which is impeccable logic. “Players are becoming stronger and more agile from these drugs, but I think they’ll eventually stop on their own.” It’s either that or ignorance. Once again, both should be considered incompetence and grounds for termination.

For this probe to be successful, both Selig and investigators need to realize the proper course of action. The intent should be merely to unveil hard and incontrovertible evidence of steroid use. That way, the public will be informed, and the players will be shamed – though I’m sure Jason Giambi has been shamed enough already.

(Aside on Giambi: many weren’t satisfied with his pseudo apology prior to last season. I’ve always defended Jason’s position, mainly because of contractual issues. But remember this: he stood in front of a Grand Jury and admitted knowingly taking steroids. In contrast, Sheffield and Bonds – among others – kept up the “I didn’t know they were steroids” façade. Leave Giambi alone; of all the people involved in this charade, he’s been the most honest and forthright. Not that he’s been completely both, to a greater degree than his peers.)

The sad part about all of this is that with a mere censure as the most stringent foreseeable punishment, many may forget about this consequential period in baseball history. For instance, how many people remember that Bill Clinton was censured following his impeachment trial? And of those who do remember, how many said, “oh yeah, he WAS censured in 1999” after reading the previous query? A censure is like a parent slapping their kid on the wrist for wrongdoing; sure, the kid may not do it again for a week, but since the punishment was negligible, the behavior is apt to repeat.

I’ve hit an impasse in my argument, it seems. I’ve argued that a suspension cannot and will not be levied upon those found guilty in this probe, but I’ve also recognized a censure as too lenient a penalty. My solution: continue the probe and record the results in baseball annals. Attach the scarlet letter to each guilty player’s name for the rest of eternity. For example:

The single season home run record is 73, set in 2003 by Barry Bonds, who was later found to have enhanced his game with steroids and growth hormones.

An asterisk will not suffice in this situation, for an asterisk can mean anything. Roger Maris gets an asterisk for his 61 homers because he hit them under different circumstances than Babe, circumstances beyond his control. Bonds, Giambi, Sheffield – they controlled their situation. Maris’s milestone was reached because of a governing body’s decision to expand the schedule; Bonds’s milestone was achieved because he, as an individual, decided to inject himself with banned substances.

Maybe some good will come of this probe. Maybe the loonies out in San Francisco will cease blindly following the Word of Bonds. Maybe there will be some justice in baseball annals. But ultimately, the best this probe can bring is a hunger for greater athleticism. There are now a host of records set by players unnaturally enhanced. Athletes in the future should keep this in mind, and push themselves beyond their natural boundaries to naturally accomplish a feat previously attained unnaturally. That, my friends, should be what we’re all shooting for.