Well, it’s the first day of the NCAA Tournament, and as much as I love college basketball, March Madness will not have my full attention until today’s congressional steroid hearing is over. And no matter what happens in the Tourney, I don’t think it is possible that I will feel as strongly about it as I do about this hearing. Here are my thoughts:
- As someone who dearly loves baseball, it is very important to me that the game is clean, that these issues that threaten my game are resolved effectively. That said, one thought kept crossing my mind as I listened to the opening statements this morning by the congressmen on the panel: WHY NOW? One of the congressmen discussed how this has been a problem that baseball has ignored for over 30 years. If that is true, and I believe it is, why didn’t Congress do something over the past 30-plus years? Why wait until now, just months after baseball has, for the first time, DONE SOMETHING ABOUT IT? Baseball’s new plan has not had one single chance to be effective; if Congress has its way, we will never know whether this new policy would have been effective or not.
- Senator John McCain, among others, says that baseball “misrepresented” the new steroid policy when it was announced. The basis for this claim is that under the new system, the commissioner has the option of fining a first-time offender up to $10,000 instead of imposing the normal 10-game suspension. When the announcement was made a few months ago, McCain and others hailed it as a major step forward. Now those same people are complaining that it was misrepresented. Well, first of all, if you are going to make something your business enough to make a public statement, you really ought to read it closely enough to not be surprised when you find out what it says. I know that these lawmakers have other business to attend to, but it really comes down to a simple principle: if you don’t know what you are talking about, shut up.
The thing is, when the new agreement was annouced, I had a full-time job and a two-month-old daughter, which means I didn’t have time to learn everything about the deal. But guess what? I knew that the commissioner could impose a fine instead of a suspension. I knew it because I read a couple articles on ESPN.com. I knew it because, as a baseball fan, I spend five minutes a day perusing the headlines on the Internet. Jayson Stark wrote an article on ESPN.com on January 13, 2005, which said:
THE OLD AGREEMENT GAVE THE COMMISSIONER THE AUTHORITY TO FINE A PLAYER INSTEAD OF SUSPEND HIM. HAS THAT CHANGED?
Apparently not. Because the new agreement hasn’t been put into writing yet, that isn’t official. But Manfred conceded that the language probably will remain the same.
Which leaves open the question of whether baseball (or Selig) would really have the courage to suspend a popular player — particularly because, if a player is fined instead of suspended, he wouldn’t be named.
But Manfred contended the agreement was worded that way simply because it “lets you deal with unforeseen circumstances.” He does not envision those circumstances ever causing a player to dodge a suspension, barring something unforeseen.
“Can I think of a circumstance where a player who had a positive test result would not [receive] discipline?” he said. “No, I can’t.”
So, since January 13, I have been aware of this “misleading” aspect of the agreement. When I first read that, I thought, “It will be interesting to see if it looks like the commissioner is taking unfair advantage of that clause.” When John McCain and others heard about this clause, they screamed, “It is obvious that this loophole is set up for the specific reason that the commissioner wants to keep steroid use a secret!!!!!!!!” The only reason they feel this way is because they think that Major League Baseball was keeping that clause a secret. Well, a secret that an average baseball fan with a job and family and no inside information knows about is really not much of a secret.
- Jose Canseco either a) is still trying to sell books, or b) has a grossly exaggerated view of his own importance. He claims that baseball has cracked down on steroids because of his book. Let me add some parentheses to that last sentence: He claims that baseball has cracked down on steroids (mid-January) because of his book (late February). He claims that fewer players use steroids now than they used to because of his book. I wish someone would nail him harder on the fact that he said in his book, “Everyone will be using steroids, and that’s a good thing,” but then he says to the committee that steroid use is a bad terrible no-good thing. Jose Canseco has absolutely no credibility, and I think his involvement in the situation is almost counter-productive, because if the players he accuses really DID use steroids, the fact that a liar is accusing them casts doubt on their guilt, sildenafil tablets.
- Curt Schilling is a very smart man, and I love him. Everything he has said today has been right on, from “Let’s give this brand new agreement a chance to work” to “Jose Canseco is a liar.” The entire hearing has been filled with knee-jerks and blanket statements — Mark McGwire: “I will not talk about the past”; Sammy Sosa: “I agree with whatever the last person said”; Jose Canseco: “I will say whatever you want me to say, because I have no integrity”; Congress: “We didn’t read this closely enough to begin with, so now we assume the worst about the new things we are learning” — but Curt Schilling’s responses, without exception, have been the well-thought responses indicative of a person who actually has real, personal opinions on the topics at hand.
I hope that within five years of his retirement, Curt Schilling is the commissioner of baseball. He is an honest, straight-forward man with great ideas and greater ideals.
- Mark McGwire has come off looking bad today, but I don’t know if it is his fault. He said in his opening statement, in effect, “Any answers I give about my past will be pointless, because if I deny everything, people will think I am a liar, and if I admit everything, people will think I am a cheater. For that reason, I will not answer any questions about my past.” The reason he has looked so bad is because he has been forced to repeat himself a dozen times. If the congressmen had listened to his statement and decided not to ask him questions about his past, he would not have looked nearly as bad.
Those are my thoughts so far. We are nearing the end of Panel 3, with the commissioner and some GMs coming up next. We’ll see if I have the energy to watch it, but I will have thoughts about it whether I watch it or read about it later.