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The long-awaited Mitchell Report on steroid usage in professional baseball has come out, and it includes names of players whom the authors found suspect. Reputations have been shaken, fingers have been wagged, Hall of Fame recounts have begun before players even approach eligibility; but to what purpose?
The evidence cited by the report’s authors is largely third-hand hearsay. Other than eyewitness accounts of steroid injections taken by Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite, players are mentioned as possible abusers on the basis of “He told me that he heard that so-and so saw…”. This is certainly not courtroom evidence, and verges on slander.
And what of players not named? Should we assume they are cleared by not being indicted by this massive investigation? Not according to Jose Canseco, the man who first blew the lid off the steroid mess (for personal financial gain, of course). He wants to know why Alex Rodriguez is not among the players named. It’s as if he thinks baseball would release a political document, attempting to nail players gone from the game while soft-shoeing inquiries into current and future stars.
Is not the whole and sole purpose of the Mitchell Report to assuage the public wrath, allowing the growth of the game to continue unimpeded by steroid suspicions? If one reads between the lines, the truth can be found: steroid usage in baseball was as common as weight training and nutritional diets.
Competitive athletes have always attempted to find the slightest of edges over the competition. This is as true in baseball as any sport; after all, this is the sport of the corked bat and spitball. But at least altering the bat or ball is against the rules. At the time players are accused of shooting up, steroids were not prohibited. So, the best answer for which players dabbled in steroids or HGH is… pretty much all of them.
The hard question in every discussion of this issue is how to address the records posted by Bonds, Clemens, and others suspected. The only answer is to honor those numbers. The reason not to would be because the suspects took advantage of an uneven playing field; but the field was evened by the vast numbers of guilty parties, essentially rendering steroids as part of the playing environment. Great players still achieved greatness, while mediocre players faded from memory. Just check the names on the report that make the reader ask , “Who?” Obviously, steroids were not a guarantee of greatness, or even goodness.
Baseball’s owners and operators should quit trying to find scapegoats to publicly hang and admit their own compliance in the performance-drug era. There is now a policy in place to prevent future abuse, and a testing program to verify legitimacy. The past is behind us, and anyone who cares to assign blame might as well start by looking in the mirror; fans, owners, sponsors, players, trainers, and coaches all had a part. Let’s forget reviling the accomplishments of the last several years, and move on, accepting that hitting a pitched ball is still the hardest feat in sports… and if the hitter is juiced, well, so is the pitcher.…