Sammy, why did you have to do this to us? Let's wind back the clock to 1998. I was nine years-old at the time and was becoming a big fan of America's pastime. I had paid attention to baseball before that season, imitating players like Ken Griffey Junior and Cal Ripken in the culdesacs of my youth. And yet the historic homerun chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa brought the game to an entirely new level. On the television people would talk about who they liked more, Big Mac or Slammin' Sammy. For me it was always Sammy, having grown up watching Cubs games on WGN with my mother because of her love of former Cubs announcer Harry Caray. Just as a side note, people often forget that during that season Ken Griffey Junior was also on pace to break Maris' record. Junior had to drop out of the chase due to injury concerns but finished with 56 home runs on the season. Hindsight tells us that he is the only one to have legitimately gotten close enough to break Maris' 61. I remember sitting on the couch watching as Mark McGwire stepped into the batter's box at old Busch Stadium against Steve Trachsel of the Chicago Cubs. It was probably one of the weakest homeruns ever hit by Big Mac during his 70 homerun season, just getting over the left field wall. The game stopped at that time to celebrate what everyone believed was one of the most historic moments in baseball history. Slammin' Sammy came in from right field to congratulate McGwire on his accomplishment. Somewhere up above Roger Maris was shaking his head. Sosa eventually broke 61 finishing with 66, four behind McGwire. Many in the game in the years following 1998 credited those two men with bringing baseball back to the forefront of American sports.
Let's wind the clock forward to today, June 16, 2009. It has since come to the attention of the sporting public that many players during that time period, in what is now known as the Steroid Era, used performance enhancing drugs to break records which were thought to be unbreakable. McGwire and Sosa both went before the U.S. Congress in 2005 and testified that neither of them had used the drugs and neither wished to discuss them.
"Asking me or any other player to answer questions about who took steroids in front of television cameras will not solve the problem," said McGwire. "If a player answers 'No,' he simply will not be believed; if he answers 'Yes,' he risks public scorn and endless government investigations.... My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family, and myself. I will say, however, that it remains a fact in this country that a man, any man, should be regarded as innocent unless proven guilty."
When asked about his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself, McGwire said, "I'm not here to talk about the past. I'm here to be positive about this subject."
"I have not broken the laws of the United States or the laws of the Dominican Republic," said Sosa said to the same committee. I have been tested as recently as 2004, and I am clean."
At the hearing, Sosa testified that “everything” he had heard “about steroids and human growth hormones is that they are bad for you, even lethal” and that he “would never put anything dangerous like that” in his body.“To be clear,” he added, “I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs. I have never injected myself or had anyone inject me with anything.”
As it turns out for Mr. Sosa, he has been proven to be another bearer of falsehoods. Today the New York Times reported that Slammin' Sammy (or Juicin' Sammy) was one of the players who tested positive for steroids in the first test conducted by MLB in 2003. This is according to lawyers with knowledge of the drug testing results from that year.
Sosa could face charges for Perjury for lying under oath.
As a baseball fan, allow me to take that back, as a human being I do not apperciate being lied to nor taken for granted. For all of the players who have been outed for using performance enhancing drugs, they are receiving the just deserts of their actions.
Many of them carry on maintaining their innocence. Only a person with no prior knowledge of baseball would ever believe them. Players like Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez demand the respect of the sporting world in spite of clear evidence that they cheated. Bonds expects us all to respect his homerun records.
It is truly a slap in the face to players like Hank Aaron, Roger Maris, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Warren Spahn, etc. that players in the modern era eclipsed their records not through legitimate means, but ones which were illegal. Palmeiro's finger wagging to the same committee proved to be as much of a load of tripe as Jon Kitna's guaranteeing the Lions would win ten games in a season. How can we trust anyone anymore?
It is an amazing thing that MLB has done a pretty good job in catching those who have violated its substance abuse policy. Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games after it came to light that he used steroids. While the testing system is imperfect and surely more players have used than we have even guessed, the future of baseball is brighter thanks to the drug testing that MLB refused to do for too long. It is my hope that kids sitting on their couches with their parents watching a baseball game can watch history happen in front of their eyes without the taint of steroids.
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