For those of us who truly love the game of baseball, the ongoing steroid investigations and allegations surrounding Major League Baseball in the news this week have been awfully hard to read and watch.
There is more to this for fans of the game than simply whether or not Alex Rodriguez used steroids in response to the pressure of being offered the biggest monetary contract in the history of professional sports. There is more to this for fans than whether or not players like Roger Clemens and Miguel Tejada were stupid enough to assume that their denials before a congressional committee would never be double checked or tested. There is more to this for fans than whether a court of law will agree to release a list of other players, some already listed in the Mitchell Report, some not, who used steroids during their careers. We love the game too much for the specifics of this scandal to really matter to us.
Realizing that the individual season home run record race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa revived baseball after a strike that nearly ended the professional sport for all time, it still isn't acceptable for either McGwire or Sosa to simply apologize for their usage of anabolic steroids. They owe thousands of kids an explanation. Thousands of kids became baseball fans watching that very home run race and they deserve to be apologized to and they deserve every benefit of an anti-steroid campaign. That cannot be the responsibility of the league alone. Make the guilty players pay for that campaign out of their own winnings. Make the guilty players, who wish to remain playing in the league, travel around to baseball towns offering clinics about baseball and educating kids on how disastrous steroid use is. If they want to continue playing in the league a simple apology isn't enough, sitting down with Peter Gammons and claiming your ignorance isn't enough, saying you've been under immense pressure is not enough. Make them pay for it.
There was an article written by a sports reporter for McClatchy that appeared in my local paper yesterday that proposed closing the doors to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown forever. Basically he proposed that the league simply shut the doors and never admit another professional baseball player again. The problem with this proposal is that there are still good and decent players who have been clean their entire career and have treated the game with the respect it deserves. What about a Cooperstown entry for them?
Baseball may be the laughing stock of professional sports these days, but this doesn't mean there aren't still good men playing the game because they love it. Asterisks or not, there are still plenty of young kids who love the game and look up to the players who suit up to play it.
It has been a hard and sad week for baseball fans, but the game remains fundamentally the game we love. This week seems to have made last week's celebration of Hammerin' Hank Aaron's 75th birthday all the more poignant and special.