Con: Too often, cheating players were enabled by baseball elders hooked on juiced profits
As is often the case with small children who act up, the real culprits are not the spoiled brats themselves, but the adults who enable them—their parents, relatives, coaches and, sadly, all too often their teachers.
So it is with steroid use in Major League Baseball. Enhancement drugs have been a significant part of our national pastime since at least the early 1990s, but the people who should have slapped the miscreants’ knuckles could only see profits in surrealistic home-run derbies that led to totals far-eclipsing such greats as Babe Ruth, Hank Greenberg, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.
If we’re suddenly going to retroactively punish such prime suspects as A-Rod, Roger Clemens, Raphael Palmeiro, Mark McGuire, Manny Ramirez, Sammy Sosa, Miguel Tejada and Barry Bonds, shouldn’t we go after their money-raking enablers first? Someone in the grand old game must have had a clue back in May 1993 when Texas Ranger Jose Canseco—baseball’s answer to the Incredible Hulk—leapt against an outfield wall and had a fly ball carom off his head in a game against Cleveland.
Anabolic rumors already abounded about the muscle-bound Canseco at that point in his career—later embarrassingly confirmed by his 2005 book, “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits and How Baseball Got Big.” Yet baseball Commissioner Bud Selig preferred to look the other way, as did Canseco’s manager, Kevin Kennedy, and Rangers’ co-owner George W. Bush.
Canseco later testified under oath before Congress that steroids were as common in baseball locker rooms in the late 1980s and through the 1990s “as a cup of coffee.” Selig finally mustered the courage to act in 2006, appointing the respected former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, D-Maine, to investigate baseball’s steroid problem. His voluminous report, released on Dec. 13, 2007, strongly linked 90 former and current major league stars to performance enhancing drugs—not just steroids but many other magical custom-blends.
Mitchell’s report gave baseball a great chance to clean up its act by taking strong actions against the offenders, but, unfortunately, it took little.
Indeed, it now seems willing to sweep such past violations of federal laws under an imaginary AstroTurf without ever apologizing to its fans for staging gaudy, but fraudulent travesties on Major League diamonds over the past three decades.
If truth be told, I suspect, it would prefer not even to put asterisks in its record books identifying the recent batch of steroid stars. Let the embarrassments slowly fade away—like the murky mists of human memories. Business as usual seems to be watchword as we approach the 80th annual All-Star game in St. Louis this Tuesday.
With the city’s famed Gateway Arch in the background, the game is assured a record-setting audience across the globe. It will be televised nationally by Fox Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and around the world by Major League Baseball.
Representing the National League, although not starting, will be Houston Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada, who earlier this year pleaded guilty to federal charges that he lied to congressional investigators probing his use of performance-enhancing drugs. His punishment was a slap-on-the-wrist probation.
When Tejada’s name is announced at the start of the game, he’s likely to receive at least a smattering of boos from the crowd in Busch Stadium. Shaming rather than shunning baseball’s steroid users might be the best way to handle a difficult situation.
If that’s the case, Commissioner Selig and the owners, managers and athletic trainers of clubs where steroid-use was rampant, certainly deserve prolonged chorus of catcalls in St. Louis this Tuesday. They, after all, were the prime enablers in this sordid affair.
Such an outburst of righteous wrath—highlighted on global TV—just might signal the world that America’s fans are ready to take back their national sport.
Wayne Madsen is a contributing writer to the progressive Online Journal (www.onlinejournal.com). Readers may write to him c/o National Press Club, Front Desk, 529 14th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20045.