After reading this unfiltered post by Gary Huckabay, I sat back and reflected on the whole performance enhancing drugs mess in baseball and the investigation that was supposed to solve it. I've read the entire massive .pdf file that is my copy of the Mitchell Report, I'm a baseball fanatic who frequents many sports sites, and I watch probably too much sports related TV given how little I care for the type of "analysis" done by most ESPN luminaries, so I'd like to think I have a reasonable good grasp on the situation faced by baseball--the players, the fans, the owners--and that I could probably do better than Selig or Mitchell in his place. In thinking this, I'd imagine I'm like a whole lot of baseball fans right now. It's not as if anyone's really satisified with the Mitchell Report except the media who had instant material for story after story after story about the villains of baseball and their dastardly deeds. It seems very unlikely that a great deal of people changed their opinions towards the whole PEDs issue based on recent events. After all, if you're a player apologist, you're probably going to use the report's heavy reliance on one trainer's uncorroborated evidence as evidence that the vaunted investigation was not very effective. You're probably also going to note how "everyone" in baseball knew about the PED problem and did nothing. You're going to point out that Selig is to hardass commissioners what the Maroon 5 is to actual rock bands (I still don't know what "alternative" means as a music genre label, so I'm still living an uncool life). And a bunch of other things, such as how using HGH to heal from injury shouldn't necessarily be illegal, or that there's big difference between what Brian Roberts and Roger Clemens did, even if they both cheated.
On the hand, there are the people whose lots have been thrown in with the crowd that wanted more players cast into eternal damnation for a longer period of time, as the baseball players have set a terrible example for the Youth of America and everywhere else where MLB baseball is broadcast. Shame on them for cheating, you say, they deserve everything they got and more. Josias Manzanillo deserves a lifetime ban from baseball, cheating hooligan that he is. Andy Pettite's charity work does not excuse him from damnation: he's a terrible human being for using a banned substance. Also, you'll be wanting to make the point that even if "everybody" (it's too bad that "everyone" and "everybody" haven't come forward, because they seem to know everything) knew about the steroids and the HGH and the greenies ("The Mike Cameron Special") and the energy drinks that were rampant among the players in the late '90s and earlier 00's, the players were the ones who did the deed. While the apologists are clearly seeking to throw the blame on anyone but those who committed the crimes, the witchhunters are out for blood. I mean, seriously, look at the black list, you all, and tell me that it could possibly have enough names. No way man, there had to be a bunch of other cheaters who got off scott free. Those inclining to the hunting and burning of witches--who look a lot like scapegoats as start to fall apart--will tell you that the report failed because the list simply was not long enough. Both groups can agree on something important though...that Rafael Palmeiro not being in the report is bogus. Thank god we're all in agreement about something.
Let's talk about us fans, too, because we're definitely one of the guilty parties in all of this. In particular, I'm talking about you "chicks." If you could put your love for "the long ball" on hold, maybe we would never be in this mess to begin with. Seriously, the argument that I can agreement wholeheartedly with is that all of us are partly to blame for loving baseball so much that we turned a willingly blind eye to cheating in baseball. I mean, I certainly think back on 1998 with great regret, folks. Mainly because all of my friends hit middle school and started acting weird, but also because I knew that I should have done something to stop McGwire from doing drugs and Selig and the player's union from being a part of the whole scandal. The 12-year-old version of NHZ has a lot to answer for, folks, just as the 1998 version of yourselves all do. We could have stopped this, and now it all weighs heavily on our consciences.
That may be heaping on an extra helping of the sarcasm, but don't mistake my message here. I don't write my opinions while swearing, gritting my teeth and mumbling the ever-popular hyper-critical blogger mantra of "everybody sucks." Rather, the reason I'm so bothered by the big deal made of the PED investigation and report is because I think it's a great time to be a baseball fan right now, and I am sick and tired of Bob Ley popping up on Outside the Lines and telling me how he's going to spend the next 30 minutes talking to some other ugly people about steroid use in baseball. It's not just Bob Ley, it's how crazy that whole debate is in general. Why is it that in football, Marcus Stroud of the Jacksonville Jaguars does steroids, is suspended for a quarter of the season, comes back, and the general opinion of him hardly waivers? Why aren't there people slavering at the chance to condemn him or absolve him of all blame? Instead of a huge deal, the general reaction seemed to be "Stroud cheated. He should not have done that, and now he's losing four game checks." Compare that with the ridiculous amount of coverage given to Andy Pettite admitting that he used HGH a couple times. I guess what I'm saying here is that I really, really doubt that the steroid suspension has turned a lot of people against Marcus Stroud. Meanwhile, I know at least three people who have denounced all of Pettite's accomplishments as they now consider him nothing but a **ing cheater.
I am absolutely not suggesting that professional athletes--actually, all athletes--should be forgiven of all wrongdoing. I'm just saying that I read that whole darn report and I don't know if there's a single player who I take a different stance on afterwards, and that was a long report. My favorite author just came out with the eleventh book in a series, and the Mitchell Report beat out it's hardback length by over a hundred pages. Am I missing some kind of bell in my head that's supposed to starting ringing when I read a federally commissioned report? It was really unexciting. I don't want anyone to think I'm taking this all lightly, because I don't like the idea of cheating any more than the next guy, it's just this whole PED scandal has been overdramaticized and overblown and overovered by the media and the strong opinions on both sides just make me tired. Non sports-educated people who know me as an obsessed baseball fan come up to me and ask me what I think of the Mitchell Report, sure that I'll love what it's done for the game for one reason or another, and I normally just sigh and break out some abbreviated version of what I might think if I liked any of this PED business, making sure to mention "hypocrisy" and "cheating." Meanwhile, I'm thinking how cool it would be if the person asked be if I think Alex Gordon is going to develop any patience or if there's any chance Dustin Pedroia can hit in the .320s every year. I'm a baseball fan, really, is the problem. I much prefer discussing baseball to discussing whether Kirk Radomski or Brian Roberts is more of an affront to our lovely, flawless society.
The issues with Clemens and Bonds goes above and beyond the normal cases, though, because of what they were able to accomplish while taking PEDs multiple times. No one is arguing that repeat offenders who build careers--or years and years of success--off multiple instances of breaking clearset rules should not be accordingly punished. This goes for anyone in any facet of life, doesn't it? If they cheated eight times and added six years to their careers, then yes, I can drink the haterade in these cases. I'm sipping from the 20 oz. plastic bottle though, not diving into a swimming pool full of it. I may hate Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and other repeat offenders, but it's not as if I'm going to go around obsessing over the damage they have done, or watch hour after hour of coverage on The Leader. I'm pretty sure that I good deal of the reason I hate Barry Bonds is because he's a big fat jerk. I'm pretty sure that's true about what I think of Clemens, too, except, being a Red Sox fan, I probably hate Clemens for other reasons. In these high profile cases--Big Mac and Slammin' Sammy and Raffy and Pettite are others--I'm left to wonder exactly what's real and what isn't in more instances than one. Again, let's talk about the upcoming season, please.
Before I read the famous report, I thought Clemens was on steroids. I don't know Josias Manzanillo took steroids. I didn't know Brian Roberts tried steroids once. I didn't know Jose Guillen took HGH. I didn't know Andy Pettite took HGH. So, if I was an upstanding baseball fan with cast iron ethics, I should hate all four of these guys now that I know they broke the rules, right? Why, and this is a general appeal to the universe, are fans encouraged to think this way about baseball players? If these guys were four football players or four tennis players, they'd be punished for their transgressions and time would pass, people would move on, and in about a year no one would care. Instead, they're now linked a report that allegedly chronicles a "black mark" on our sacred game. Roberts says he "only did it once" and is laughed it, because everyone assumes that's a lie. Pettite apologies and says he was using HGH to return from an injury, and hardly anyone buys that as a legitimate excuse. Well, can anyone blame any of these guys--HGH junkie Paul Byrd included--for wanting to say something to qualify their inclusion on this list, with the way some people are treating this as the Ultimate List Of Horrible Cheaters? Maybe they're telling the truth, maybe not. I'm not going to tell you whether to believe such qualifications, I am going to strongly suggest that people look at more than one angle before judging. Not that I have any reason to believe RRers would have trouble doing so. I will say that I believe Byrd and Pettite and Roberts, and maybe I'm an idiot, but, even if it's very small, there's a chance I'm not an idiot. I'm going to give myself and the cheaters the benefit of the doubt, and see what happens. It's not as if they had to say anything at all.
Going forward, I'm just hoping for a fun end to the Hot Stove season and for Spring Training to start soon so I can go back to having the welcome distraction of "Baseball: The Game" from "Baseball: A Fair And Balanced PED Investigation." I am optimistic for the future of baseball, though I wish someone would tell those moron-er, esteemed politicans in Congress that it's not that important. Pretty much no matter how much time they spend defending the world from the evils of baseball, everyone's still going to form their own opinion on these issues. And you know what? Everyone should.
Spreadsheet Baseball returns next week with baseball, baseball, baseball! This is the absolute last time I cop out and write a PED issues article instead of a stats article. Comments/questions are welcome/encouraged, even if you vehemently disagree with everything I've said. Happy reading.