Baseball's Mitchell Report: Steroid Use Doesnâ€™t Discriminate, But Our Outrage Does
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The much anticipated Mitchell report, which detailed the scope of steroid use in Major League Baseball, was just released. Conspicuously missing from the headlines about the report was a mention of steroids poster boy, Barry Bonds. Rest assured, had he been played a prominent role in the probe, his name would have been front and center, splashed all over the headlines and gabbed about ad nauseum on talk radio. Maybe there is some credence to his declaration that he did not knowingly use steroids. But this is not the place to debate Bonds's guilt or innocence.
However, the broad scope of this probe does point squarely at Major League Baseball and its role in this. After all, baseball benefited from this scandal. After the baseball strike in the mid-90s, baseball fans were leaving in droves. Fans came back once baseball turned into a home-run fest, partly fueled by some players, like Mark McGuire, Bonds and Sammy Sosa, who are associated with steroids allegations.
Leading the list is revered pitcher Roger Clemens and other MLB stars, including Andy Pettitte and Miguel Tejada. Clemens is truly one of baseball's sacred cows. Years ago, when he cowardly threw a blistering fastball at the head of Mike Piazza and later chucked a piece of a broken bat toward Piazza, no one batted an eye. Instead, baseball writers and fans effused that this only showed his fiery, competitive side. Never mind that Piazza could have experienced a serious head injury or even been killed by the torrid blast to the head.
I'm not going to hold my breath waiting on the calls for Clemens and others to be stripped of their honors and banned from the Hall of Fame. Baseball protects its own, unless his name is Barry Bonds (or maybe Pete Rose).
The hatred for Bonds has been over the top and quite telling. Yet one of baseball's untouchables also has been fingered. According to the Mitchell report, "the Rocket" was 'roided up. Are we now going to call for Major League Baseball to place an asterisk beside Clemens' Cy Young Awards? Are the Yankees' two World Series titles that were won on the strength of Clemens's right arm going to be tainted? Keep him out of the Hall of Fame?
This puts baseball's apologists in a bit of a pickle. Bonds is the guy they all love to hate. Bonds is known for being particularly surly toward baseball writers, (note: I'm a former sportswriter and I can testify, baseball players and baseball writers are notorious jerks) so it was easy for them to pile on and eagerly continue the narrative of Bonds-the-bad-guy. The same is true with baseball fans, who take their lead from ESPN and baseball writers.
When slugger Jason Giambi was outed as a steroid user, he was forgiven because he admitted his sin. Bonds, on the other hand, has been viciously maligned for refusing to admit his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Never has it occurred to the peanut gallery that Bonds maybe did not knowingly take steroids. And for those who poo-poo the racial overtones of the Bonds hatred, the denial doesn't get any deeper. Just as Hank Aaron received death threats for having the temerity to break Babe Ruth's record, the racists came out of the woodwork to spew venom at Bonds as he approached Aaron's home run record. And it was all done under the cover of accusing Bonds of being a cheater. Funny, I haven't seen or heard the same level of outrage directed at other so-called cheaters.
Now I'm not here to take Bonds's side and declare that he did not use steroids. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn't. Hell, I barely care that other players, including Clemons, did. What is at stake here is equal treatment. Let's see how Clemens is treated after the recent revelations. Somehow, I don't see him being vilified in the same manner that Bonds was.