Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Something about Sosa and Steroids

Yesterday, the news broke that former Chicago Cubs star Sammy Sosa had tested positive for steroids or some other sort of PED in 2003.

Like many, I shrugged and moved on.

There was (and possibly still is) a time when such news would be shattering, with the potential to devastate the sport, but there were a few things working against Sosa here:

1) Sosa has been out of the game for a few years now,

2) Few, if any, fans assumed he was clean,

3) After both the Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez revelations, the story loses it's panache.

This is certainly not the conclusion of the steroid era--as long as that list with 104 names remains (largely) unknown, it will not be over--but it does shed an interesting light, perhaps, on our own views of the issue.

When the issue of steroids and PEDs first came up, even then people argued that cheating has always been part of the game and thus people are making too much of a big deal. The difference here, however, was that PEDs present a very real risk to health, and young children trying to emulate their heroes could put their lives in jeopardy.

Still, the idea that baseball players would take something to try to get through a 162-game season has ceased to surprise all but the most sanctimonious.

Now, the attitude, when someone is revealed to have used PEDs, is not so much outrage as it is disappointment, mild or bitter, depending on the player in question.

There are, of course, the rumors that if the 104 names were ever revealed, it would destroy the sport, but for something that weathered the Black Sox of 1919 and the strike of 1994, I don't see that as being the case. At the least, those who used PEDs, however wrong they may have been, tried to help themselves and thus their teams--while the Black Sox, who threw a World Series, struck at the very heart of the integrity of the game.

Sosa likely won't make it to the Hall of Fame--you can use whatever reasons you want, but for me it's easier just to look at how the Hall has treated with Mark McGwire, but by the time Alex Rodriguez retires, attittudes may have shifted so much that he gets in on first ballot. Time heals all wounds, they say, and already, there is less outrage, less hurt, and perhaps less damage than there would have been even just five years ago.

It's kind of funny, how fast things can change.

In 1998 I rooted for Sosa to beat McGwire simply because my brother chose McGwire. Then, as the rumors started, there was denial, disbelief, outrage...and then acceptance.

It hasn't changed my love for the game. I know that when I cheer for Rodriguez or when I cheered for Giambi, I actively cheer or cheered for known users. I don't agree with what they did, but, in these cases, (and one can throw in Pettitte and a few others), they admitted what they did, endured (and still) embarrassment and perhaps asterisks forever next to their statistics. Were they sincere in admission and apology? I have no idea, only they know that.

What I do know, however, is what many of the baseball fans I know and myself are thinking: it's time to move on.