Monday, December 17, 2007

Baseball singled out

How is it that the only professional athletes who have apparently dabbled in steroids or growth hormones over the years are either baseball players or Olympic athletes?
Did the steroid era totally miss all the other sports? No football players or basketball players ever got “juiced”?
Does anyone else find that hard to believe?
And yet, here we are singling out baseball for condemnation and turning a blind eye to every other professional sport.
OK, enough of that whining.
I have a mixed reaction to the Mitchell Report that came out last week. First, I think it was unfair to throw all those names out there when many of them are based on second-hand, hearsay evidence that would never hold up in court. Also, players who were using a controlled substance before it was formally banned by baseball should not have be penalized. That would include players like Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch who were apparently using a human growth hormone to deal with injuries prior to their being banned by the league.
In Knoblauch’s case, it appears that his use of the hormone was part of a desperate attempt to deal with his throwing problem which brought his career to a premature end. Likewise, Pettitte says he was trying to heal faster from an arm injury when he took the drugs, and not trying to pump up and gain an edge on the field.
But what about the players who clearly were juicing up to get that extra little “edge”? I’m torn. I see how the drug would give them an unfair advantage, not just against contemporary players not on the juice, but also compared to stars of the past whose baseball records were broken during that period.
But at the same time, the fact that so many people were apparently juiced also makes players like Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire seem better in retrospect. That’s because it shows that simply taking steroids isn’t enough to turn anyone into a homerun champ. You still have to have the talent.
And finally, this whole steroid mess should make Pete Rose come out smelling like a, well, a rose. After all, no one can claim that his all-time record for most hits was due to anything other than his own natural efforts. Even his gambling addiction which got him banned after he was no longer an active player had any impact on his record.
Clearly if any of these steroid-era ballplayers make it into the Hall of Fame, then Pete Rose should be allowed in too.

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