CAMINITI, GIAMBI... WHO'S NEXT?
It was revealed today that Jason Giambi, currently of the New York Yankees, admitted in grand jury testimony that he used steroids and human growth hormones for three years.
This is news in the sense a rigged Chicago vote count or an aging Hollywood actor taking up with a twenty-something starlet is news. We've all been suspecting this since the mid-1990s, especially watching players like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Was it simply the weightlifting? Or was it something else?
Granted, there are other reasons baseball is filled with more home runs than prior to 1961. First of all, the truly great players are hitting against a number of pitchers who would never have made it to the majors in the years before expansion. Second, the new generation of baseball parks is tiny. Look at the power alleys at Camden Yards, look at the overall size of the Ballpark at Arlington (shouldn't things in Texas be big?). Third, players are in better shape generally; they train all year long instead of working at gas stations and insurance offices in the off-season.
And, as a baseball fan, I've hoped against hope that the rumors would continue to be rumors. It appears that the BALCO investigation will wind up destroying that hope.
If it does -- and if it turns out that all the suspects are indeed guilty -- then Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association need to accept blame and take action to restore faith in the game. With the exception of gambling (and I can discuss Pete Rose later), nothing is more damaging to baseball's integrity than steroid use.
Steroid testing should be a no-brainer. I am a firm believer that no employer has a right to demand urine testing as a condition of employment, and the owners should not. But the MLBPA itself should step up and pay for the testing (by an independent laboratory) itself, vow to report the results, and vow to not fight any suspensions or other action taken by Major League Baseball should a player be found to use steroids.
Players who have been found to use steroids should be required to return any money paid to them over and above the major league minimum.
Statistics of those players should be removed from the official record books.
Such players should be found to be ineligible for election to the Hall of Fame; All-Star teams; and post-season awards. If the Baseball Writers Association of America votes for such a player, then its members should have their press credentials revoked.
Now, here's the important thing: If this is to be done, it needs to be done before the 2005 season begins. Baseball's most amazing record is being challenged by a player who is one of the many players whose feats have been questioned. Better to learn bad news before it happens. Even better, perhaps we will learn good news and can once and for all exalt Barry Bonds the way he has hoped for all these years. Bonds will never receive the acclaim he wants, even should he surpass Hank Aaron, if doubt follows him.
Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports on Giambi
CNNSI.com story about Ken Caminiti's steroid use.
TheSmokingGun.com story on the BALCO investigation.
More on Bonds from The New York Daily News.