Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Baseball's See No Evil Attitude About Steroids.

Padres CEO Sandy Alderson was asked at last night's annual season ticket holder meeting what the Padres will do to prevent the shame of drug use affecting the team. Alderson's answer reflects a big part of the problem that Major League Baseball has with the steroids issue.

He touted baseball's drug-testing policy as being the toughest in sports, except for the Olympics. Unfortunately for baseball, the only reason that policy is in effect is Congress stepped in and forced the issue. To Alderson's credit he acknowledged that fact. The Congressional hearings two years ago on steroids were a sight to behold. Major League Baseball executive and Player's Union representatives copped an attitude similar to the mob, basically telling Congress to butt out and mind its own business. (I wrote about this at my old blog Here.) Even sportswriters, who should be covering the sport as outsiders instead of defending the sport, took Congress to task. (Here.) Congress, who makes the rules in this country, won that round.

Alderson then said something absolutely unbelievable. He said there are a lot of allegations being thrown around about players using steroids but that "there is a great difference between suspicion and knowledge." With all due respect to Alderson that is a patronizing statement. We fans are not stupid. We may have willfully denied the evidence in front of our faces during the steroids era and believed all the stories about juiced baseballs and other reasons given for baseball's power-hitting surge. But our eyes have been opened by the Congressional hearings and specifically the disgusting spectacle two years ago of former baseball players trying to stonewall a congressional hearing. (Here.) Baseball needs to come clean about its problem and not try to hide the truth about its steroids history.

Alderson's statement is also embarrassing. How embarrassing that statement is will be revealed tomorrow when former Senator George Mitchell releases his report on steroids use in Major League Baseball. Reports today are that 74 players will be implicated in the report as having used performance-enhancing drugs.

It's quite clear to anybody with any observational skills at all that baseball has a serious problem with performance-enhancing drugs. Barry Bonds is the biggest cheater of them all and he is now baseball's all-time home run leader. The only reason he has that record is because Major League Baseball wimped out and did nothing to stop him. Kennesaw Mountain Landis wouldn't have allowed this to happen and neither would have Bart Giamatti.

Fans who care about baseball as America's national past time can only hope that the Mitchell report finally gives Selig the ammunition he needs to do what should have been done before. Impose a permanent lifetime ban on Barry Bonds. What's good enough for Shoeless Joe Jackson and Peter Rose, is good enough for Barry Bonds.

Baseball fans who really care about the integrity of the sport (a quaint phrase in this cynical era, I know) should also hope that Mitchell's former colleagues in Congress will also read the report. History has shown that only threats from Congress can prompt MLB and the player's union to come together and address the problem of performance-enhancing drugs.


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