Steroid Investigation: Where's the Line?

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Steroid Investigation: Where's the Line?
IconI'll just get right to it: how much further will the media and Major League Baseball take their investigation into steroid allegations? I'm not talking about not doing the testing...but I mean, where exactly is their rationale coming from? Whether they test positive or not, players are getting branded; is it fair? How much further will it go?

Is there anyone in the country who doesn't think Barry Bonds took steroids? And while I'm on it, is there anyone in the country that thinks that O.J. Simpson is really innocent? The parallel is obvious: never found guilty in court, but judged nonetheless. Is it fair? Hell no.
 
I'm not going to plead innocence on this one. I'm not going to sit here and say that I don't think Bonds ever took performance enhancers. He probably did, but frankly I don't care. Mark McGwire took Andro (a then legal substance) and I didn't care then. In fact, I have made my view that the McGwire/Sosa Home Run Race was the best thing that has happened to the modern game of baseball a matter of public record. Nothing can ever take away what Roger Marris did. But he has been surpassed now several times; does that make him less of a player? If anything, it makes him even better, because he did it without the option of using the chemicals that we have today. Notice I said option - just because the stars of old did not have performance enhancing drugs doesn't mean they wouldn't have used them should they have been available. It's not really a noble thing if it's never an option in the first place.

Even before Mark and Sammy, we were watching out for anyone who was getting anywhere close to 50 home runs in a season. Home runs are what non-fans love. That's what they got, and that may have indeed brought baseball back from the brink that was ever widened since the season-ending strike of 1994. I don't condone the means, but the ends are unmistakable.

Ever seen the pictures of Bonds as a rookie versus how he looks now? Pretty damning evidence if you ask me. And I don't care how much flaxseed oil you're taking; those pictures are night and day different. You see the same thing when you look at Sammy Sosa or Rafael Palmeiro (McGwire was always a tank - juicing since birth?). A picture is worth a thousand allegations, and Palmeiro's admission of perjury hurts those who never tested positive.

As long as we're on that note - does size matter? Big guys are often the first to be suspected of juicing, but only if they are in good shape. For instance, David "Big Papi" Ortiz doesn't seem to be on anyone's list. Maybe the Buddha belly provides Babe Ruth-like power as well as freedom from assumption. And I know the game has changed incredibly in the last 70 years - but Babe Ruth wasn't as big as John Goodman. Ruth was 6'2", which is plenty tall, but was listed at only 215 pounds. Sure he was probably heavier than that most of the time (if not all of the time), but compare his size to that of Bonds and Ortiz - both of whom weigh about 230 - and suddenly home runs and size aren't parallels anymore. This is especially true when you consider the size of Alex Rodriguez (190), Ken Griffey Jr. (205) and the man himself, Hank Aaron (180). Even though average sized guys are clearly more than capable of hitting dingers, the big guys always get the accusatory finger pointed at them.

Steroids are here; it's a reality we can't avoid. Future Hall-of-Famers or not, there are players out there on all kinds of juice that you and I have never heard of. It's a dark side of the game for our generation. We may never escape it, but we can get a little smarter.

There has to be some way to get the kind of protection from steroid use that the MLB and the nation seem to be petitioning for. It took me about a minute to come up with this (admittedly weak) solution: test them all. New contract clause: you all get tested! That's just a part of the contract. Normally getting $400,000 a year, if you subtract the cost of testing from their paycheck (I did some searching and testing costs range from about $75 to $200, give or take, each. Okay, let's go high end in case I'm way off: $200 x 162 games = $32,400)  they're left with $367,000. I could live with that.

Let's cover the first two BIGGEST flaws in this theory. The first is cost to players. Call it "cost of playing" tax. Yeah, it would suck for all the pure players to have to pay for the crime of the few, so we have tax refund day. No test failure = team reimbursement. Sure, the team eats the cost, but so what? So player salaries go down a little. Still doesn't bother me.

Second flaw - daily testing. I don't know about you all, but I pee like six times a day. And I'm sure that a lot of these guys must be taking a wiz before suiting up. Just think of it as a superstitious routine - warm-up, batting practice, pee in a cup, and take the field. Of course, none of this matters if we can't handle that kind of volume. But you could just do as many as possible, that way there is no telling who will who will tested and when. Everyone pees, after all.

Ah, what the hell am I thinking. There being anything like this instated in baseball is about as likely as a salary cap. It's not going to happen, because we are focusing all of our efforts on guys that we can't condemn with any certainty, and settling for catching a few small fish along the way. But maybe just catching players is enough. Of course, they could stop with the baseball metaphors. Stop the whole "three strikes you're out" crap. It's a drug. It's a controlled substance. I don't care if they are professional athletes or not - you got steroids in your blood that your doctor hasn't administered? YOU'RE FIRED! One chance! See how many keep it up. And if it doesn't stop anyone? Fine, let them disappear when they get caught. If some bag boy at Wal-Mart tests positive for ANYTHING he gets canned...and he's only making minimum wage. These guys get small (often large) fortunes; if they can't appreciate what they have, let them learn the hard way.
 
I spent as much time as it took me to write the first three paragraphs of this article to come up with a possible (though improbable) solution. It's one weak idea - but it's an attempt at getting through this.

Bottom line: leave Bonds alone. If he breaks the career home run record it will never change who Hank Aaron was and what he did. It's not like people have forgotten who Babe Ruth and Roger Marris are. If Bonds is guilty then you have to find a better way of catching him, because (and I don't think I'm alone here) the current strategy has gotten old. Is it baseball that's America's favorite pastime; or has spreading rumors and accusations taken its place?

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