Saturday, December 22, 2007

Steroid Cheaters Have Trampled Baseball's Record Book With Huge, Ugly Footprints

What would the past decade of baseball history have looked like if Commissioner Bud Selig, the MLB Players Association and MLB owners had not perpetrated a fraud by allowing performance-enhancing drug users to run amok? It is simply pathetic that arguably the greatest hitter and the greatest pitcher of this era--Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens--likely enhanced significant portions of their careers illegally. Just like Marion Jones has had to return her ill gotten gains, baseball's cheaters should likewise be stricken from the record books. Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune listed some possible changes that could be made in the record book to more fairly document recent baseball history.

Boston Red Sox General Manager Dan Duquette famously said that Clemens was in the "twilight of his career" by 1996; in the four previous seasons, Clemens posted a 40-39 record with Boston. In 1997, Clemens signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. He went 41-13 in his two seasons with Toronto and won two Cy Young Awards. Clemens won two more Cy Youngs--one with the Yankees and one with the Astros--to become the only pitcher to have received that honor seven times. That late career surge enabled Clemens to assume the mantle as the greatest pitcher of the modern era, but the Mitchell Report casts serious doubt over the legitimacy of anything that Clemens accomplished after 1996. Rogers notes that Randy Johnson finished second to Clemens in the 1997 and 2004 Cy Young voting; disqualify Clemens and then Johnson becomes the only seven-time Cy Young winner. Pedro Martinez finished second to Clemens in the 1998 Cy Young voting, so he should have had four Cy Youngs instead of three. Also, Martinez placed second in the 2000 AL MVP voting to Ivan Rodriguez, who is one of the players that Jose Canseco claims to have personally injected with steroids. Take away the Cy Youngs that Clemens cheated to win and he ranks behind Johnson and Greg Maddux in terms of modern era pitchers.

Albert Pujols finished second to Barry Bonds in NL MVP voting in 2002 and 2003, awards that would have already put Pujols on the elite list of three-time MVPs. Frank Thomas finished second behind Jason Giambi in 2000 AL MVP voting. Thomas, who has long been a lonely voice speaking out against performance-enhancing drug use, is the only star player who cooperated with Mitchell's investigation (Thomas is not suspected of any wrongdoing but volunteered to talk about what he has observed during his career). There is no earthly reason for Selig to not step in--like the track and field authorities did with Marion Jones--and take the award away from Giambi and give it to Thomas. Giambi admitted his steroid use to the BALCO grand jury and publicly apologized for his actions, albeit in a non-committal, roundabout way.

Near the end of his article, Rogers relays the story of Dan Naulty, a journeyman pitcher whose name was listed in the Mitchell Report. Naulty has since admitted that he did in fact use steroids: "I stole people's jobs. That's the part for me that was so wrong. I have to explain to my boys that I took people's jobs by cheating, and that penetrated my soul a number of years ago and still haunts me today--the poor choice I made for the chance of being a Major League Baseball player."

Naulty, who cooperated with Mitchell's investigation, says that he gained at least 20 pounds of muscle and added about 8 mph to his fastball, enabling him to make it to the majors. Naulty took steroids for six years before switching to human growth hormone. All that added bulk and strength resulted in numerous injuries that ended his career: "I had 40-45 pounds of extra muscle my body wasn't used to. I was tearing tendons off bones."

Isn't it interesting that in the wake of the Mitchell Report we have heard a lot of the implicated players admit to their offenses, even if the vast majority of them seem to be reading from a standard script that says that they only did it once, regretted it and never did it again? Do you really believe that the only steroid users were journeymen like Naulty or players who tried it once and then quit because they had pangs of conscience? If Clemens, Bonds or anyone else really feels that the Mitchell Report or any book or article has unfairly linked them to this scandal then they should sue. That would entail going to court and testifying under oath about exactly what they did or did not do. To the best of my knowledge, no baseball player who has been publicly linked to performance-enhancing drug use has ever won a lawsuit over this nor has any accused party stepped forward and proven his innocence.

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