Fresh Squeezed: Juiced Records Put MLB in a Tough Position

Peter BukowskiSenior Analyst IMay 3, 2008

As far as I'm concerned, enough is enough.

I don't care about Barry Bonds and his trial. I am sick of hearing about the Roger Clemens fiasco, whether he cheated or not, whether his wife took PED's. None of it matters to me. Neither Bonds nor Clemens is employed by a major league club, so I don't care anymore. Their sagas no longer affect the future of Major League Baseball. Whether they are found guilty or not, the game has changed. We knew this was going on in baseball and in all sports. It was like we knew artists would lip-synch at concerts. You went anyway because you liked the music and the show.

So what changed everything? The Mitchell Report. It took on a nature of its own when unexpected names found their way on the 300-page packet. Since then, pundits from ESPN to Fox News have weighed in on what is to be done about steroids in baseball. After all, that is why Commissioner Bud Selig had the report financed...isn't it? Curt Schilling said in his blog (wait...really?) that he thinks Roger Clemens should have any numbers from his PED years stripped and the four Cy Young Awards ripped off his mantle.

The famous asterisk discussion returns. What do we do with the records in baseball if it turns out there was foul play?The answer is simple: they ought to be in the books, but only as a footnote.In other words, take a cue from track and field, where numbers are everything.

The fastest 100-meter dash was by Ben Johnson in 9.79 seconds in 1988. But if you look in the record books you'll see Carl Lewis is the Gold Medalist from that Olympics with a time of 9.92 seconds.From there, semantics vary, but inevitably there will be a footnote of some sort. Looking down towards the bottom of the page, you see something to the effect, "Carl Lewis was awarded the Gold Medal after Ben Johnson of Canada, the original winner in 9.79, tested positive for steroids."

Ben Johnson's accomplishment stood as the fastest time on record until recently when Asafa Powell and then Justin Gatlin broke his records, presumably without the help of performance enhancers.

Baseball fans expect, and now HOPE Alex Rodriguez is able to play long enough to break Bonds' record. In the same way, people hoped someone would break Ben Johnson's record without the help of steroids.

This obsession with numbers seems to be a side effect of our culture. We constantly look for ways to measure greatness. If you ask anyone over 40 who the greatest home run hitter of all time, most people would tell you "Hammerin' Hank." The record books say Barry Bonds hit more home runs than any player ever, but since when does that matter?

Nolan Ryan holds a number of pitching records and yet is not considered the greatest pitcher ever, but rather one of the greatest. Records do necessarily translate into greatness.

Until Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl, he was considered "that" QB, who just couldn't get his team to the promised land. We all have our preferences on who the "greatest" is, but we have our own criteria. You can love Sammy Sosa and still suspect he was juicing.

That is the beauty of it. Baseball's fascination with individual stats in a TEAM-oriented game simply proves baseball needs fixing.

One last point has really bothered me about this entire process. I discussed it with a friend of mine and we came to the same conclusion. Athletes are being privileged in a way that is reprehensible.Professional athletes get paid millions of dollars a year to play something that is based on abilities God gave them (I understand it is more complex than that). They have plush locker rooms, access to whatever they need and celebrity status around the world. That is fine....I suppose.

But that does not mean they are subject to the law any differently than anyone else. A stockbroker's job is to make money for himself and his clients. If he breaks the law to gain an edge, he loses his job and faces jail time and federal fines.

Professional athletes get CAUGHT using steroids, and not only do they not go to jail, they play again that season.That is unacceptable, and that we, the fans, do not speak up louder about penalties for such actions is equally wrong.

The stories of Clemens and Bonds have remained headlines because they are two of the greatest to step onto the diamond. However, we must hold accountable every person from little league to the majors to keep the integrity of the game intact.

We have to now move forward and look for solutions, not necessarily punishments. Is putting Barry Bonds in prison going to stop the next person caught in a lie from continuing to live that lie? My guess is no. 

As fans, we want to see greatness. We want to see A-Rod take down Bonds' records and then maybe see Albert Pujols take them down shortly after. When greatness becomes tainted, regardless of lawful guilt or innocence, fans sense it.

The NFL, MLB, and NBA need to stop disrespecting their respective fan bases by underestimating their intelligence. Clean up your games, from performance enhancing drugs to late-night club fights and DUI's. It is your job to make money, but it is the fans who put the money in your pocket.

You owe it us, and to yourselves, to hold your athletes, managers, and administrators accountable.