Thursday, July 30, 2009

Manny & Ortiz were on roids?!?!

A report came out today that Manny and Ortiz are on that 2003 list of 104 anonymous users who were surveyed by MLB. This is the same list that A-Rod confessed to being on earlier in preseason. The big deal with Manny and Ortiz is simply that 2003 is the year that the Red Sox won the World Series after 87 years of suffering from the curse of the Bambino (- the hilarious sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees in order to finance a play). So what are we to think of those dominant Red Sox years? Do they deserve those accolades any less now that we know this new info?

The uproar from baseball people over steroid usage in baseball is laughable. Ken Caminiti admitted in that 2002 SI article that he believed 50% of all major league players were on roids. Then Canseco stated in his book that the number was as high as 80% and now believes it was more. Experts discounted those claim at first. Nobody's laughing now. So how did this steroids run so rampant in the game?

After the damaging strike of 1994, which was caused by a buildup of the player's mistrust of baseball owners after years of collusion, baseball needed the proverbial shot in the arm to gain back the public's interest. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa provided that in 1998 during their historic and now infamous chase of Roger Maris' 61 homer season. Essentially, the commissioner, baseball owners, baseball management, baseball media and baseball players all overlooked the obvious performance enhancing drug usage because baseball was popular again and they mattered once more.

Since then, much has been documented about Canseco's allegations, the 2003 "anonymous" testing, the Mitchell report, the embarrassing moments before Congress, the Barry Bonds federal saga, the Roger Clemens federal saga and Alex Rodriguez's "admission".

The truth of the matter is that baseball did not protect itself, the players or their records by not implementing steroid testing early on. Canseco clearly had not been hiding his steroid usage since the early 1990's but nothing happened. All parties here are culpable for the steroid era - the owners for caring more about admission numbers than what was right, the players for caring more about their numbers than what was right, and the commissioner for not doing anything right. Baseball writers were so enamored with the stories they could write while the fans were so starstruck by the numbers and records that nobody could see the big picture.

While all these parties are culpable, some were victims at the same time as well . Many players felt the need to use steroids just to keep up with the baseball majority, if Canseco is to be believed. For those players who saw users stay in MLB while they were in danger of being sent to the minors, roids must have been a powerful temptation. Pitchers saw their numbers skyrocket during this power era and must've been tempted to respond with roids as well. Barry Bonds was a hall of fame hitter in the 90s but never gained the notoriety or publicity that McGwire and Sosa "cheated" their way to during the 1998 chase. Barry probably felt anger and jealousy knowing that he was clean but was being overshadowed by these inferior sluggers. So what happens when one of the greatest hitters of all time decides to use PEDs? Greatness like we've never seen before.

Steroid usage is so heinous to the baseball media and fans simply because baseball is all about the numbers. (The game itself would boring otherwise.) Who has more home runs or a higher batting average or a lower ERA? The answers to those questions are now trapped in a murky haze and the greatness of individual feats can never truly be measured. In its greed, baseball did not protect its own history, its past players and its records. How can we ever tell which records are legitimate and which were broken with the help of steroids? We can't and we may never be able to. The idea of adding astericks is laughable - you can't change what you failed miserably to protect in the first place.

And it all really comes down to this question: Who deserves to get in the hall of fame? Baseball is so in love with immortalizing the great ones in their hall of fame. My guess is that it is darn near impossible for most players to win the World Series, so the hall of fame is like their championship. The hall of fame voters, many of which are players from previous eras, are not likely to vote for a PED user who have put up numbers acquired through cheating. The debate will rage on for years to come.

So what do we make of all this? There have been endless bouts of finger pointing and blame shifting. I think everyone needs to point at themselves. They need to admit their own failures during this era and then move on. The owners and the player's union have been flogged by Congress and the public, so together they implemented a PED policy. Good. The baseball media has recognized that they can't both worship the game and its players and still report on it professionally and accurately. Yes, it is their job to report the players who have still yet to admit to PED usage. That's fine. But reporters and commentators don't need to vilify these players as the bad guys, because everyone had a hand this. Players need to admit what they did and not continue to maddeningly deny what was obvious. And the Hall of Fame voters need to recognize that the Steroid Era will always be a big part in the history of the game. It will be impossible to tell who used steroids and who didn't. There's likely already members in the HOF who have used PEDS now. Ultimately, since the greatest hitter and greatest pitcher of the last 2 decades, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, are PED users, the entire era is tainted anyway. I say let their numbers into the hall, and let their actions determine their fame.

David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez used roids? Big deal. Its baseball's fault as much as it is their's. They were baseball's fitting champion.

Major League Baseball, in 1994 your game almost sank into obscurity so you used steroids as a way to gain relevance again. Now that you've been caught, don't get all self-righteous. Admit it and move on.

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