Baseball’s black eye

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The last thing that Major League Baseball needs is more bad publicity and more negative clouds hanging.

Last week, that is just what they got when Bud Selig, baseball’s commissioner, and several current and former players traveled to Washington to appear before a congressional panel about the rampant use of steroids.

After a labor dispute cancelled the World Series in 1994, professional baseball was at an all-time low. Attendance was dwindling and the television ratings were suffering. Fans had drawn a line in the sand and the teams were suffering.

The two players most often credited for gaining back some of the fans’ confidence and interest was Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa. In 1998, those two players battled for the single season home run record held by Roger Maris since 1961. The 61 home runs that Maris hit that year had stood as the record for 37 years. Many felt that it was an unbreakable record.

McGuire hit 70 home runs that year and Sosa finished with 66. There were many trains of thought about why the home run record was smashed twice that year. Some say the ball was juiced and others say that quality pitching was watered down and that happened to be the year that the batters dominated. Do you think these two guys might have had some help?

Since 1998, Maris’ 37 year old record has been bested several times. McGuire, Sosa, and Barry Bonds have all hit more than 61 home runs in a single season. These three guys have something else in common other than putting up prodigious home run numbers. All three have been implicated in this steroid scandal. Both Bonds and Sosa have denied using steroids and McGuire doesn’t have the guts to admit it.

I have lost all respect for Mark McGuire. I can remember vividly the day that hit home run number 62 in 1998. I can remember the touching scene of him grabbing his young son and hoisting him up in celebration. An unbreakable record had been broken and Mark McGuire was a hero. Seeing him this week in Washington as he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights made me forget about that day and made me think of him as a cheater.

It is time for Mark McGuire to stand up, stop being so selfish and solve this problem. Using steroids in a performance enhancing way is not only illegal, but it is deadly. You could ask Lyle Alzado, the former NFL star, what steroids did to his body if he were here. He is not; he died in 1991 from long-time steroid use.

The stories are long and painful of pro athletes and teenaged kids dying because of wanting that extra edge that using steroids supposedly gives you. If Major League Baseball doesn’t clean up steroid usage, there will be more deaths.

Barry Bonds is the current single-season home run record holder. He hit 73 home runs in 2001. More than likely, he will break Hank Aaron’s career home run record, possibly this season. If it is proven that he used steroids, all his records should be wiped from the books. He has relegated Hank Aaron and Roger Maris, two of baseball’s all time heroes, to second place. That is a shame.

It is time for McGuire, Bonds, Sosa, Jason Giambi and any other player that is using or has used anabolic steroids to step up, be a man, and get this problem solved. Baseball doesn’t need another black eye.