Wednesday, March 4, 2009

An Exit Strategy to the Steroids Era

You know the sport is in a bad way when the offseason sounds as dramatic or more so than the actual season itself.

America's Pastime finds itself in a bad way revving up the 2009 season.

A chemical substance is now more important than any single active player right now. No one is above suspicion. Baseball had a savior from the Legacy of Bonds in Alex Rodriguez, who until a few weeks ago was on track to be proclaimed not only the Home Run King, but perhaps the greatest player of all time.

Then you realize how quickly perceptions can change.

A-Rod came out and 'fessed up, and as much as I hate to say it, set a course to get all of baseball out of the Steroids Era once and for all. I hate A-Rod as much as the next guy, even before his assumed dismissal from Cooperstown. But his strategy here, if mimicked by the League, might just do the trick.

Rodriguez himself confessed to the transgression. He went on air and said what everyone was already thinking, rather than impugn himself to possibly worse in the court of public appeal. It's the only court that's judging A-Rod right now anyway.

Baseball — the Union, management, etc. — needs to do the same thing. They need to use the admittedly damning yet valuable information from the Mitchell Report, other confessions, and other testimony and just come out collectively. It will be painful. It will be costly. It will forever be a blemish on the character of the game.

But isn't that where we are now? America's Pastime, my left butt cheek!, they clamor from the gallows. The Good Name of Baseball is now and forever tarnished in the annals of history, regardless of asterisks, font colors or fine print. There is no one above steroids at this point, no matter how Derek Jeter claims the contrary. A-Rod was, begrudgingly by some, baseball's last hope. No body in their right mind suspected him of using steroids until a report that was supposed to have been safeguarded outed him.

Facing it like men and claiming full responsibility is the only way to get something close to what is commonly called closure.

But we've all heard that sorrowful, responsibility-harking, call before. Hasn't really worked, has it?

That step isn't as absolutely necessary as this next one.

Get over it, kids. Just get over it.

Closure is all well and good. If you can get some level of it, it makes everything all the more better, but don't think for a minute that whatever one is trying to get closure from can't be simply forgotten or alleviated by good ole fashioned time.

Getting over it will be hard, because bad news is good news for the news business.

The ESPN Behemoth can't stop and won't stop, and I'm sorry to say, they're an important piece of this conciliatory puzzle, because they generate the most gregarious fodder (unless a certain collection of commentators and/or citizen journalists can united against them...HOBBERS ASSEMBLE!!!).

Buster Olney, after all, needs a new lunch box

It seems that many involved in the game don't want this era to end, because to do so might somehow either impugn the game by admitting the era exists at all, which as we've discussed, is a moot point these days, or that somehow the situation ought to be brought up ad naseum until every single name of every single person who thought about taking steroids ever.

The Steroids Era has come. The Steroids Era is trying to pass. The names are out there. More names will be dug up. Hall of Fame careers will be judged well and they will be judged poorly. The game can't help that. It's as much a part of the era as the juice itself. But that could very well be the net loss. I mean, I was in junior high during the Return to Glory in '98 with Sosa and McGuire. I know now that it was all fueled by roids, but it doesn't mean I didn't enjoy watching it then. Simply losing the hindsight respect could be that net loss.

Rather than the alternative. The game could be irreparably damaged, sent to the gallows of games like ringer. Baseball must uproot itself and move beyond its horrid past. Remember it, so as not to repeat it, but don't make it bigger than the game. Like it is right now.

Let's move on. That's the spirit of the nation these days. Let's pick ourselves up off the ground, dust ourselves off, and get to the business of of fixing baseball.

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