Posted: Tuesday March 15, 2005 12:39PM; Updated: Tuesday March 15, 2005 12:40PM
Selig wants to make it go away by yapping about the virtues of a new testing policy -- a policy the owners and players adopted not by choice but by outside pressure created by media revelations and a federal investigation -- but it's not about the new testing policy. (It could be better, sure, but it's OK.) The problem is about what happened between the mid-1980s and 2002, something Selig seems to know almost nothing about and has no interest in understanding.
And let's not hand union chief Donald Fehr a hall pass here, either. Has he ever been more invisible?
You know we've hit a ridiculous tipping point when Jeremy Giambi is the most reasoned voice in baseball on steroids. Giambi told the Kansas City Star with the forthrightness no one else seems to have in their bones, "It's something I did. I apologize. I made a mistake. I moved on. I kind of want it in the past.
"They're not good for you. I think we need to reach out and let teenagers know they're not good for your body and not good for your health.
"Do I ever think they'll rid sports of it completely? No. Unless they go to the source of where they're distributing it from, they may never get rid of it in sports. The temptation is too high."
With that, Giambi understood the issue like no one in baseball headquarters appears to: He gets the ballplayers' inherent social responsibility to young people and he grasps the importance of understanding the supply end to the problem.
I was sitting in the office of one major league manager recently when he mentioned that one of his sons, a high school ballplayer, told him that steroid use in high schools has become commonplace. Gee, wonder where the kids got the idea? I've heard too many major leaguers and union officials minimize the health risk of steroids, but even those knuckleheads admit steroids are flat-out disastrous, potentially even life-threatening, to teenagers.
As for the supply end, Selig is derelict if he doesn't investigate how steroids came into baseball and whether his on-field gatekeepers -- managers, coaches, trainers and medical personnel, not the general managers -- knew about them and perhaps even facilitated them. Canseco charges that team trainers went so far as to give players names and numbers of steroid dealers and knew which players were shooting up in the clubhouse and even joked about it. Why hasn't Selig, or even Congress, put the trainers of Canseco's teams on their call list?
After the cocaine scandal, in which everyone from mascots to caterers were filling clubhouses and players' noses with coke, baseball drafted institutional changes to guard against it happening again, such as tightening clubhouse access and logging all phone calls. The same self-examination needs to happen here.
Instead, because baseball wants to pretend steroids never happened, we get Congress and the media asking the questions baseball should be asking. And guess what, Bud? Those questions are not going to stop.
By a conservative estimate, hundreds of ballplayers -- not all of them stars and home-run hitters, Congress -- have used steroids. That also means many dealers, personal trainers, training partners, gym rats, ex-wives, jilted mistresses, jealous teammates and others also know about it. The bones are everywhere and the archeology has only just begun. This doesn't end Thursday with Selig in Washington.