When I was in college, I used to cover the Giants and A’s for the local Fox affiliate. My first year was Mark McGwire’s first year. He was a pretty thin, pale-faced dude who seemed to have a great disposition.
By our second year in the business, things had changed … dramatically. McGwire was bigger. Acne had become an issue. And although my only real interaction with him was shoving a microphone in his direction, you could tell he was more irritated than he had been in the past (and it was more than just the usual cycle of a player becoming more bored and put-off by the post game nonsense.
I saw what everyone else around the A’s saw. And everyone knew that the guy was taking something. It was a total given. Just like it was with Canseco. Just like it was with Bonds.
Now, a couple decades later, we are faced with the Mitchell Report on Steroid abuse in baseball.
In the report, Mitchell names big names like McGwire, Roger Clemons, Andy Pettite, Gary Sheffield, Lenny Dykstra (yes, the implicated even include the dudes known for hustling their way to the top echelon of the bigs), Jason Giambi, and more. Some of those named are none too pleased (was the supportive evidence used for the report weighty enough to forever smash a person’s reputation?).
So how should one react? Where do you draw the ethical line? The steroid story is so widespread that it touches nearly every aspect of baseball during this era. The Yankees were the powerhouse team. Many of their players are named in the report. So how good were they? And what about the legend of Joe Torre? Did his failure to win the Series in recent years coincide with a brighter spotlight on steroid abuse? And what about baseball’s front office, the agents, the owners, the coaches and, hell, even the friggin peanut vendor who also knew that these guys were juiced?
And what about the media? Everyone in the A’s locker room knew what some college kid knew. Hearing the old-timers talk over hot dogs in the press booth was how I first learned of steroids visible side-effects. Few of them made a big deal out of it. Are there enough asterisks to go around? Does anyone really place much weight on one of life’s most ironic phrases: The integrity of the game?
Weren’t the juice, the roids and the clear integral parts of the game during this era?
I have a troubling feeling that the big story here will not be the asterisks in baseball’s record books, but rather the ones on former player’s hospital charts in a decade or two.