Peace through victory - the American way.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Spring has sprung, is baseball hung?

Somebody needs to get tough with baseball and if it takes a Congressional investigation to do that, then so be it. Yesterday, local sports scribe Nick Canepa penned a column on the futility of Congress getting involved. According to Canepa, Congress shouldn't act because there are so many other problems to deal with, like Iraq, Afghanistan, terror, the budget, AIDS, gas prices, North Korea, Iran, and so on.

Fortunately for the nation, Congress figured out long ago how to do more than one thing at a time. It's called committees. Committees are what give Congress the capability of chewing gum and walking at the same time.

Canepa concludes that Congress shouldn't get involved in this issue because "Baseball is trying. It hasn't done enough, but it's trying. Nothing, absolutely nothing will be solved on the hill."

Meanwhile, baseball itself has decided to fight Congress on the steroids issue. Although Donald Fehr, baseball's union rep, and Rob Manfred, an executive vice-president of Major League Baseball, have agreed to testify before Congress on baseball's steroids policy, the organization intends to fight any subpoenas issued by Congress.

Institutional transparency is universally a good thing. Baseball has decided on opacity in how it deals with steroids.

Here's how Major League Baseball's lawyer put it in his letter to Congress. "As you also know, you have also asked certain witnesses to testify about not only the drug testing policies of Major League Baseball but also 'knowledge regarding the use of steroids ... both past and present, in MLB.' ... From the standpoint of MLB and the MLBPA, that would necessarily involve a violation of confidentiality provisions carefully written into provisions of the drug testing policy contained in MLB and MLBPA's Basic Agreement."

One reads this quote and can't help but wonder, who do these guys think they are? Baseball players and executives shouldn't have to testify about steroids use before Congress because it would violate the contract between Major League Baseball and the Players Association? Perhaps baseball needs a little reminder that the anti-trust exemption it enjoys could be removed by Congress if it chooses.

If Congressional hearings do nothing else but help bring these guys down a peg or two it will be worth it. Baseball executives and players have given fans the shaft for a long time now. Rising ticket prices, skyrocketing salaries, threats of strikes, and now we're told it's none of our business if some of the best players in baseball have achieved their success by using steroids. As a fan, I want to know if that is the case. Barry Bonds, to pick a name out of the blue, is likely to pass Babe Ruth's homerun mark and has a chance to break Hank Aaron's record too. Those of us who love this game deserve to know whether Bonds is going to achieve that goal, in part, because he pumped himself up with artificial substances.

Jose Canseco helped bring this about with his tell-all book, in which he charged many of baseball's best players with using steroids. Canepa jokes at the prospect of Canseco demonstrating before Congress how he supposedly injected McGwire's behind with steroids. But putting Canseco under oath will force him to tell the truth about the charges he has made against many of baseball's best players. It would help clarify things to hear whether he says the same things under oath that he wrote in his book.

Canepa further suggests that Congress should be issuing subpoenas to the "hundreds -- OK thousands -- of coaches at nearly every level of athletics who have turned their back on drugs for the sake of winning and continued employment."

Well, that's not how it works. You don't accomplish something by diluting your effort. You pick the biggest, high-profile target you can, make an example of that target, and let that example persuade the lesser targets to fall into line.

Baseball is the big target. It's America's national sport with franchises across the country and fans around the world. There is bound to be a salutary effect on lesser sports if Congress forces baseball to come clean and put its house into order in a way that is transparent. Let the hearings begin.




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Terry Finley

5:38 PM


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