Saturday, February 7, 2009


At this point, no revelation in the Major League Baseball steroid scandal can come as a shock to anyone at all familiar with it. In fact, the parade of new names being linked to performance enhancing substances in sports has drawn on to the point of tedium.

So Sports Illustrated's breaking news about Alex Rodriguez testing positive for anabolic steroids and testosterone in 2003 (and this is breaking news . . . really?) has failed to unearth the foundations of my own personal grasp on reality. The guy used to be a bean pole, albeit a very talented one. Then he turned into a very talented hulking specimen of a man. Judging by the photos and the stats, it's not at all difficult to believe A-Rod was on the juice. And Jose Canseco warned us it was so; we'd be fools to ignore his word.

Perhaps the biggest news of all in the report is the simple fact that the 2003 drug tests were supposed to be anonymous. That was the agreement between the players' union and MLB--nobody gets named. It was a drug test test, supposedly. MLB wanted to gauge how many players were raging with 'roids, and if it was more than 5% of guys on the major league level, both sides would agree to mandatory testing across the board.

But when federal investigators searched the lab containing the records, they were able to name names--this never should have happened. In a true anonymous test, there should be absolutely no record of whose sample is whose. Both MLB and the union should have insisted on providing their own clinicians to monitor the analysis to ensure accuracy and anonymity. They should have stipulated that the results of the tests be destroyed after a judgment was made on their results.

They should have, if they wanted to get away with their organized criminal fleecing of the sports world, been a little bit more organized in their crime.

Alas and alack, just like any crime movie worth its bloody betrayal scenes, the players, their trainers, and the owners and commissioner of Major League Baseball never really trusted each other enough to collude effectively on the steroid issue. They tried, though. 

As SI's story points out, Union chief Gene Orza allegedly tipped off A-Rod about upcoming steroid testing, just in time for him to get clean when it was his turn to step up to the cup during the 2004 for-real-this-time tests. And who tipped off the head of the players' union? Only MLB people knew about it, so . . .

And the idea of anonymous testing in 2003, that was a brilliant bit of PR chicanery. "Hey, we're working together to get a program in place . . . one that gives everybody one last chance to use substances that have been banned since 1991! Yay for us!"

Because let's face it: the steroids era worked out for everybody for about 15 years. More homers. More fans. More money. Same primo level of zero accountability, as long as we stick together. They almost got away with making the public believe testing was serious while allowing it to continue (as long as you were a Messiah-level hero who, with a little chemical assistance, had the talent to rescue baseball from the anabolic mire, of course).

But they didn't stay together. MLB had the testing done . . . nymously. Several people armed with either a conscience or a monetary motivation have leaked all kind of information: about Bonds' grand jury testimony, about the NY Mets clubhouse, about A-Rod's name being on this list of 104 players who tested positive in '03, and about everyone Jose Canseco ever shared a stall with . . . the leakage goes on and on. Many people were smart enough to document their roles in the conspiracy that likely included everyone from the commissioner of baseball to the beat writers covering the Royals. There is a paper trail, a syringe trail, a urine-filled vial trail, that tells a story much more detailed than the Mitchell report. 

This is a Clint Eastwood film where no one is clean, but not everyone will bear the consequences. So why does this Cubs blogger care about it? Because it's only a matter of time before some Cubbie names show up on someone's records somewhere . . . probably starting with that list of 104 positive tests from 2003. The players' names will continue to generate the buzz, distracting our attention from the really wicked ones who continue to get away with their sins.

The writers are the cowards . . . they're about 10 years too late with this story that has been bulging for the taking, untouched for far too long. The government . . . idiots. They have allowed baseball and the sporting world in general a colossal free pass that has just pulverized the trust of fandom in general. And the owners . . . oh, the owners are the evil geniuses (comparatively) and Bud Selig is the mastermind. To hear him say it, MLB came down swiftly on the steroid issue the moment they first sniffed the clear on Barry Bonds' breath. But I'd be shocked if he wasn't pulling the strings of the entire operation a la Vince McMahon, the WWE CEO who practically forced his superstars to juice up--and got away with it, free, clear, and rich.

The only members of that group who could possibly redeem themselves are the writers. If they could somehow expose Bud Selig for who he is . . . if they could stop bowing down to his throne long enough to investigate his and the owners' roles in allowing and even encouraging substance abuse . . . then I would forgive them. Then the Hall of Fame credentials they bestow on former players might have some meaning. Then, and only then, would I begin to trust a single word written or spoken by a Baseball Writer of America.

Maybe then, when baseball's terrorists are brought to justice, I could begin to trust this game for the first time since I was a boy. 
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