Facing the lies
List shouldn't be shocking, but betrayal is cold reality
Posted: Thursday December 13, 2007 4:47PM; Updated: Thursday December 13, 2007 6:37PM
You should not be surprised. Not one name on the list should shock you -- not even Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, two of the most prominent players who were linked to steroid use in the Mitchell Report released on Thursday. One more time, boys and girls: It was The Steroid Era, a clearly defined historical period, like the Depression or the Cold War.
That's not to say that every ballplayer from the 1990s until the early part of this decade used performance-enhancing drugs, just that there were so many juicers that no one who played or plays in that era ever can be above suspicion. The Mitchell Report gave us some more names on Thursday, about 80 of them, a flood of suspected users instead of the usual trickle of a name here and there. The list includes every category of player. There are stars (Clemens, Pettitte and Miguel Tejada), solid players a step below stardom (Paul Lo Duca and Eric Gagne) and fringe players (Matt Herges, Gregg Zaun and Larry Bigbie). There are pitchers and hitters. There are muscled-up ex-players who have been suspected for years (Lenny Dykstra and Todd Hundley), and slender players whose bodies hardly fit the typical image of steroid users (Brian Roberts and David Justice).
Somewhere, Barry Bonds is smiling. The names in the Mitchell report confirm what Bonds' defenders have been saying all along, that if he did use performance-enhancing drugs, he had plenty of company, and that it's unfair to single out his accomplishments as tainted when so many of his fellow ballplayers also were users. Today, feeling the weight of those 80-plus names, it's hard to argue that point. It won't help him with his perjury charges for allegedly lying before a grand jury, but wherever he is today, Bonds must be feeling a bit of vindication, if not satisfaction.
As for you, maybe you don't know what to feel. You can say you don't care, but you do. You can say you're tired of the whole steroid issue, that it doesn't matter to you who was on the juice and who wasn't, that you just like to see hitters send homers into the stratosphere and pitchers throw fastballs that could dent brick walls. But you do care, or you wouldn't have examined that list of names so closely.
It's not so much that you want to know the extent of the problem, because anyone who has paid any attention realizes that performance-enhancing drugs have been all over the sport for more than a decade. It's that you want to attach some faces to the lies. You want to know who's been harboring the dirty little secret all these years. This isn't about baseball anymore so much as it's about honesty and integrity. Who are the players who were running around in the shadows with vials and syringes, knowing that they were part of the very problem that baseball was agonizing over? And, you wonder, what must it be like to be one of the players who duped the fans and media all those years, to know that you were one of the culprits in baseball's great mystery?
Now you know, and that's what hits you in the gut about the Mitchell Report. It paints a picture of the matter-of-fact way in which players went about their cheating. It's one thing to know you were duped and quite another to have that duplicity laid out in detail before you, as Clemens' trainer Brian McNamee did when he told Mitchell's investigators how Clemens approached him about using steroids in 1998, when Clemens pitched for Toronto.
"Clemens said that he was not able to inject himself, and asked for McNamee's help," according to the report. "Later that summer Clemens asked McNamee to supply him with Winstrol, which Clemens supplied. McNamee injected Clemens four times in the buttocks over a several week period with needles Clemens provided. Each incident took place in Clemens' apartment at the Skydome."
It will be hard to think of Clemens' great moments on the mound without thinking of that scene as well. You think of all the tributes to the man you've heard, the way Yankee fans gave him a standing ovation when his return was announced last year, and you juxtapose it with McNamee giving him a shot in the buttocks at the Skydome, and it's hard to stomach.
You also know that there were hundreds of similar scenes played out all over baseball for more than a decade, and you know that even all the names in the Mitchell Report are just the tip of the iceberg. Much of the information, for example, was obtained from Kirk Radomski, a former Mets clubhouse attendant who became a steroid conduit. Who knows how many other Kirk Radomskis were -- or are -- out there, whom Mitchell's investigators didn't find? How much more deceit went on that the investigation didn't uncover?
Mitchell's report also includes good, common-sense proposals for cleaning up the game. It concerns itself more with what's to come than with what has already happened. But as a fan, you're thinking that the future will have to wait. First, you have to come to grips with all the ways you've been lied to in the past.