Mitchell Report Reaction
This was going to go at the end, but I'm putting it up front because it's the most important thing I'm going to write on this subject. My enjoyment of baseball was not affected in any way, shape, or form by today's events. I loved it growing up, and I love it now. I don't look back at all those games I watched and feel as if I were cheated -- because plain and simple, I wasn't. The game is magical regardless of whether the star players are on steroids or just plain aspirin.
As for "purity," I ask you how a sport that is much more about generating money than about what happens on the field has anything to do with "purity?" You want purity, go watch little league. Major League Baseball is about men playing a game -- a beautiful game, but a game nonetheless. For the reasons mentioned below, I don't support the use of performance enhancing drugs. That doesn't mean I'm going to get offended if someone uses them. ESPN can have all the day-long scandal specials they want, but I'm not buying it. No, I'll hang onto my fond memories instead, thank you very much.
I can't dismiss the use of performance enhancing drugs as irrelevant, but I find it hard to get worked up about the issue. The use of many of the substances that baseball has banned is illegal, and I don't condone the blatant disregard of the law. However, while I think it's idiotic and short-sighted to take illegal performance enhancing drugs, I don't think it's immoral, and I have a hard time even finding it to be unethical.
Without a doubt, there are ethical ramifications to the use of these substances. For one thing, there's the whole "purity of the sport" issue. There's the role-model issue. There's the "stealing a job from a young up-and-comer" issue. But is the use of performance enhancing drugs that much different from other things that we find perfectly OK? Players try to cheat regularly, and always have. We usually don't have a problem with it -- stealing signs? No problem. Scuffing the ball? No problem. Convincing the umpire you caught the ball when you know you actually trapped it? Par for the course. Not to mention the fact that players load themselves up with as many legal supplements as they can find. Or the fact that modern surgeries can allow players to return to action with more velocity than they had before going under the knife.
So what is it, exactly, that makes the reaction to steroids and HGH use so incredible? Is it the fact that they're illegal? Or is it the fact that they're effective? Isn't this just a matter of degree? And isn't the burden of use primarily on those who idiotically take these supplements, thus risking their health? As I sat thinking about the report, this is what kept popping into my head. I confess to not having come up with a reasonable answer.
Roger Clemens has been implicated for a long time, and I would be rather surprised if anyone in baseball was caught off guard by his inclusion in the Mitchell Report. While this will probably torpedo his Hall of Fame chances, it shouldn't. The same is true for Mark McGwire, or Barry Bonds, or any other big name player who gets implicated from this era. Baseball was so rife with performance enhancers that it's impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff. On top of that, I'm not convinced that Clemens, McGwire, or Bonds wouldn't have been Hall-of-Fame caliber even without the PED's.
I think the Hall of Fame should prominently state that the statistics of the steroids era are tarnished, but that players should be voted in on the basis of the numbers they put up on the field. Roger Clemens is just as much a Hall of Famer today as he was yesterday. So is Bonds. McGwire -- well, I'm not convinced about McGwire's credentials even without steroids looming over him, although I'm softening on that front. We shouldn't ignore that these players used steroids, but we also shouldn't suggest that steroid use was wholly responsible for their incredible performance. Simply put, the Hall of Fame will become completely irrelevant if it fails to include players like Clemens and Bonds when they become eligible. Then again, maybe baseball doesn't care, since it already keeps out the great Pete Rose when he, too, should have a plaque. A Hall of Fame that includes Bill Mazeroski but not Pete Rose is awfully close to a joke. A Hall of Fame without an eligible Clemens and Bonds would be something far sadder.
The one thing that makes me favor significant punishments for the use of PED's is the absurd denials issued by player after player. Occasionally a player comes clean, and I respect that even when it's been preceded by continuous denials. I find the lies and cover-up more distasteful than the original use, especially considering the pressures to perform and stay healthy that lead so many players to the use of PED's in the first place. I may not find PED use to be immoral or unethical, but lying about it fits the bill on both. I didn't lose respect for Roger Clemens when he was fingered in the report -- but the denials (by his lawyer, no less!) disgusted me. This probably isn't fair, because it remains possible that Clemens did nothing wrong and is being unjustly named. It's awfully hard to be fair, though, when all of the evidence (including the denial-by-lawyer) so strongly suggests guilt.
Is there a more ridiculous angle to the steroid story than the idle speculation on several prominent media sites suggesting that (1) the Miguel Tejada trade was driven by the impending release of the Mitchell Report, and (2) that the Red Sox somehow were tipped off by Mitchell, as evidenced by the non-tendering of Brendan Donnelly? Please. Find something better to write or don't write anything at all. Considering that the Orioles have been trying to trade Tejada for, oh, about 2 years, I'm going to guess that the timing was coincidental rather than causal. As for Donnelly -- well, it's not all that suspicious that a player coming off of a significant injury would be non-tendered so the team cutting him doesn't have to worry about arbitration issues. Good grief.