The Mitchell Report
The list everyone was waiting for included guys who threw the ball and guys who sent it back the other way...a long way in some cases. It also included players who will be forgotten in future years if they haven't been already. And you can be sure there were many other players who somehow escaped the dragnet and were not named. Indeed, it was the report's dependence on too few informants that diminished its potency when it came to identifying the players who had used various substances to enhance their performance.
The report doesn't end with the guys on the field. The Commissioner's office and ownership come in for plenty of criticism, too, as do the retinues of clubhouse figures that are part of the game. The Lords of baseball simply wanted the problem to go away. The Players Union simply refused to accept testing. The only group spared that deserved to be mentioned were the press, who simply looked the other way when players departed in October looking like Olyve Oil and returned in March and April looking like Popeye. This latter group winked a lot, but said nothing until the cat was out of the bag years later. The press overwhelmingly went along for the ride, too afraid to speak up or too constrained by their legal departments, who asked for evidence beyond what the eye could see. The single most repeated excuse I've seen retrospectively invoked by the press is that the height of the Steroids Era came on the heals of baseball's dark period of strikes, suspension of the season and the World Series and the scribes and commentators were loathe to prolong the agony just when fans were beginning to return and embrace the game. A few honest reporters simply said they were reluctant to spoil the fun when Sosa and MacGwire were chasing the Babe and Barry was chasing them and Henry Aaron.
Will the game recover? Yes, indeed. Fans continue to flock to stadiums throughout the land in record numbers especially when the poster boy for all that is enhanced, Barry Bonds, chased and broke Henry Aaron's legitimate mark. Will the record books be amended, asterisks added? That is doubtful. At what point do we start discounting Bonds' tainted home runs, at number 428 or maybe 502? Will the owners and players agree to a drug policy that is both strict and enforceable? That will probably be the one sure outcome though here again much tweaking needs to be done.
It was a sordid period in baseball's history and we can be sure most people who play and manage the game want to put it behind them. Inevitably stories have already begun to appear reminding us of the cheaters of the past. Spitballs, greenies, even alcohol are cited as are shenanigans ranging from stealing signs to grounds' crews tampering with the dirt in front of the plate or along the foul lines. This "they-did-it" defense is as pathetic in baseball as it is in a courtroom. What "distinguishes"the Steroids Era from earlier periods was how widespread it was and how clear and dramatic its impact were on performance by legions of players, not merely the marquee names. Brady Anderson, take a bow!
The recent suspensions of players caught using banned substances suggests not everyone is ready to move on but a tough, uncompromising policy against performance-enhancement drugs is all anyone can ever expect. That and the willingness to apply it without compromise.