Friday, March 31, 2006

Drug drag

by Andrew Swift, DI editorial writer

For baseball diehards (such as myself), the news that Major League Baseball is going to investigate steroid use comes as no surprise. Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell has been tapped to head the inquiry.

I, for one, think this "investigation" is a sham, a crock, and an insult to the integrity of the game. If Bud Selig was even mildly concerned about steroid use in baseball, he would have ordered this investigation in the mid- to late-90s, when home runs were flying out of the ballparks left and right. It was obvious to any baseball insider that steroid use was increasing at dramatic rates.

But the game was still struggling with the aftermath of the 1994 strike. Selig realized that offense was a huge pull and could potentially bring back the fans alienated by the strike. Selig cynically turned a blind eye to the growing steroid problem. Indeed, the strategy proved correct: Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's chase of Roger Maris' home-run record enraptured the country.

The real victim of the entire steroid controversy has been Barry Bonds. Bonds was a Hall of Famer before he ever took steroids (he allegedly began after the '98 season, in response to the massive attention McGwire and Sosa reaped from their huge seasons), and he is a Hall of Famer right now. Bonds has been turned into a scapegoat and wrongfully so. He is this generation's premier baseball talent, with or without steroids. If Bonds' individual accomplishments are going to be scrutinized, every single statistic of the '90s and early '00s should be called into question. Bonds is no more guilty than any other user. It is unfortunate that the real problem has been shelved aside: Selig's cowardly refusal to take action until public demands forced the issue.

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