Posted: Monday August 1, 2005 5:47PM; Updated: Monday August 1, 2005 6:31PM
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Of course, the quiet man's words, which once carried so much weight, are relatively worthless today. So, too, are all of his numbers, all of his accomplishments, now forever branded as drug-aided.
His long, distinguished career -- a career that should have carried him to Cooperstown -- has disintegrated into doubt and shame. No talking, no finger-pointing, will bring that back. Nothing will.
Last week, I jockeyed with a dozen or so reporters in front of baseball commissioner Bud Selig. We were 15 minutes into the session and about to wrap it up when I brought up steroids, a subject Selig has wrestled with for years.
I wondered, and so I asked Selig, if the worst of the steroids scandal finally was behind baseball. The BALCO steroids distribution case, which threatened to blow baseball's head out of the sand, had receded into a flurry of plea bargains. Barry Bonds, a central figure in the case, is nursing his knee back to health on the disabled list, as quietly as he can.
Jason Giambi, who admitted to steroids use in leaked grand-jury testimony in the BALCO case, is being cheered for his resurgence with the Yankees. McGwire has disappeared from the public eye. Sosa is struggling with the Orioles. Canseco is doing a reality show on cable TV.
"We're moving in that direction. We do have testing programs now. Whether you think they're weak or not is irrelevant. I think they're clearly working. I've said that all along. They are clearly working," Selig said. "But does that diminish my intensity for getting my program done? No."
Monday's news, of course, is precisely why Selig still has to push. The game's scandal, forgotten for most of the summer, is not dead. It is a long way from it.
After Monday, it will be front-page stuff again. Politicians will have a new say, Selig will call anew for stricter testing and punishment, the debate on what should be done to users -- and their records -- will rage again.
"Make no mistake about it," Selig said last week, "this is an integrity issue."
On Monday, Rafael Palmeiro, a quiet, seemingly dignified man, lost the last shred of integrity he had. Now it's up to Selig and the players to keep the same thing from happening to the game.