Steroid users best liars ever, say writers assigned to cover them

As a diehard baseball fan, the steroids scandal just depresses me. Once it started to fall apart, it was pretty obvious which players would eventually be outed as users (the monster sluggers), along with a few surprises (Brian Roberts? Andy Pettite?). And while I will stress to my kids that they shouldn’t take steroids, I will not wag my finger at any of the players who did; who’s to say what I would do if I were in their position, and stood to make tens of millions by using a little juice, especially when there were no repercussions for getting caught? It’s a complicated issue that, by and large, is painted as a simple black-and-white question by many sports writers today.

And that is the part that bothers me. These same people covered the players while all of this was going on, and I can barely stomach their sanctimonious hindsight when flaying their latest target. With each new development on the subject, we are told that:

1. Lots and lots of players took steroids
2. No one else, not the trainers, coaches, managers, anyone in the commissioner’s office and certainly not the writers and reporters, had any idea these players were taking steroids

The first part is obviously true. The second part, however, I find highly unlikely.

Let’s break this down, shall we? In order for both to be true, it means that the players would all have to individually seek out dealers, who by the nature of their business are not the most upstanding citizens, without drawing any attention to themselves. Ever. That’s giving the players and dealers an awful lot of credit, don’t you think? One of them would have slipped up, and in a moment of desperation met his dealer at the team hotel during a slump. It’s just far too big a secret for so many people to keep. The odds of no one else in baseball stumbling upon it, even accidentally…well, there’s no point in calculating the odds, because it didn’t happen.

mac a rod

No one in baseball knew that these men took steroids. Uh, sure.

But this doesn’t just require all of the players and dealers to have the stealth of a ninja – it also requires the player personnel and writers to be blissfully unaware of what is happening around them, to a point that approaches obliviousness. And these people aren’t oblivious. That must therefore make them liars, yes? Well, it would be irresponsible of me to say, since I have no proof that anything I’m saying here is true, but let’s just say that each group of personnel involved here has their own reasons for keeping their mouths shut. Here is how it looks from my ‘Joe Sixpack’ perspective.

The players: Those inflated statistics raised the value of contracts across the board. Even the ones who didn’t take steroids benefited from those who did, the whole ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ thing. The primary reason the players are playing dumb, though, is because nobody likes a tattletale. If a current player dished on teammates both past and present, he would never stop getting his ass kicked. It’s like the mafia: honor the omerta, or pay the price.

Managers/coaches/trainers: I had an RA in college who summed up his supervisory role like this: “If I don’t see it, hear it, or smell it, I don’t care about it.” Managers and coaches are in a similar position. They need plausible deniability in the event that shit meets fan, but until that day arrives, what they really need is to win. If they don’t win, they get fired. That kind of motivation will lead a person to overlook a lot of things. And remember: the managers and coaches are all former players. Omerta.

Reporters: Two words: career suicide. If anyone who covers baseball were to break a story about steroid use, they’d be banned from every clubhouse in the country. Nope, that story will have to wait for an investigative journalist with no agenda and nothing to lose. Like, say, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, who nearly went to jail over the content of their BALCO exposé “Game of Shadows.”

Let us not forget, baseball was dying when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa went on their home run tear in 1998. Those two men are widely credited (and rightly so) with saving the game. Whether or not they achieved their results through illicit means, they put butts in seats, simple as that. The sudden spikes in home run numbers had to have raised an eyebrow or two at mission control, but I think it’s safe to say that the game’s salvation was a far greater priority at the time than its sanctity. Either way, that’s a hell of a choice to make, and in fairness to all concerned, I probably would have done the same thing. I mean, which would you rather be known for, being a participant in the Steroids Era, or the man who killed baseball?

And that’s the bottom line here. I completely understand why all of these people are denying any knowledge of the rampant steroid use that took place on their watch, and I don’t expect otherwise from them. But please, stop trying to convince us proles that the only people who knew about players using steroids were the players themselves. It’s insulting.

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Bullz-Eye baseball prediction from 2007 looking eerily prophetic

When we assembled our annual piece on the year in sports for Bullz-Eye, the piece was coming along really well, but something seemed a tad off to me. It was too…serious. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you. John and Anthony dissect sports as well as anyone. But one section of our year-in-review piece is dedicated to predicting what we think will happen. For me, that is a golden opportunity to let loose with the craziest idea you can think of, have a laugh, go all Onion on everyone.

After hearing that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were changing their name, this is what I thought of.

God anoints the ‘Devil’-free Tampa Bay Rays His new favorites; team wins World Series

No song with the word “Devil” in the title has ever made it to Number One on the pop charts, and the Almighty has the same rules when it comes to baseball. (This mandate clearly does not apply to hockey, though that makes sense now that we think about it.) When pitchers and catchers report for spring training, God will hold a press conference, admitting that He had been punishing Tampa Bay for their transgression. “I really like that Crawford kid, and the way they stole Kazmir from the Mets…that was sweet,” God will be quoted as saying. “It actually bothered me to give them the smackdown year after year, but now that they’ve cleared their name, as it were, I see big things for this team.” The Rays will win the Series in a thrilling Game 7 comeback against the Chicago Cubs, who will have a 3-2 lead with two outs and the bases empty in the bottom of the ninth, then proceed to walk in the tying and winning runs.

It is now late-August, and with the Cubs’ win today, they have the best record in baseball. The Rays are a game behind them in the win column. Incredibly, this World Series match-up still has a chance of happening. Indeed, my joke prediction has come closer to fruition than some of our more right-minded declarations (see: “The Detroit Tigers will win the Al Central”). That scream you just heard, by the way, was Cubs Nation telling me to shut the hell up for jinxing their team. Anyone who saw Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS knows that my ‘walking in the winning run’ scenario is not that outrageous.

Anyone wanting to know what tomorrow’s lottery numbers will be, give me a call. I’m feeling lucky.

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