Monday, March 21, 2005

Better baseball through chemistry

Acute acne? Shriveled equipment? Sociopathic mood swings? 50 home runs a year? Bring it on.

As I blasted down Interstate 5 on Thursday afternoon listening to Mark McGwire's non-testimony before Congress, I couldn't get this visual out of my head: José Canseco jabbing a syringe full of testosterone cocktail into McGwire's bloated, pasty glutes as the former Bash Brother and Madonna boytoy describes in his recently released tell-all tome.

That picture was only slightly more disgusting than McGwire's repetitively pathetic "I'm not here to talk about the past." Okay, Big Mac, so what are you here to talk about — your March Madness brackets? At least be man enough to say, "You know what? I juiced up. I pumped my body to anabolic humongousity with every muscle-inflating substance known to modern medicine. It was stupid, and I'm a loser for doing it. Kids, don't try this at home." Wouldn't make you not lame, but at least you could face your lameness with a kind of wilted pride. All the denials just make you look lame and cowardly at the same time.


Equally lame are all the self-righteous calls for asterisked records and amended history. Get real, people. You can't undo what's been done. If you start fiddling with the record book, where do you stop?
  • Do you asterisk Ted Williams' .406 batting average in 1941, or Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak that same season, because neither of them had to face many of the best pitchers in professional baseball who were banished to the Negro Leagues?
  • Do you asterisk the no-hitter Dock Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates allegedly pitched under the influence of LSD in 1970, or the untold home runs Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle crushed out of Yankee Stadium when they were swacked out of their gourds on booze?
  • Do you asterisk every victory tallied by the Cincinnati Reds from 1984 to 1989, when Pete Rose was managing the team and betting on it at the same time?
  • Do you asterisk Gaylord Perry's 314 career wins, knowing that Perry probably won all of those games by smearing everything from Vaseline to bodily secretions on the baseballs he pitched?
The simple answer: No.

It is what it is.

Did McGwire shatter Roger Maris's seemingly unbreakable single-season homer record with chemical help? Who knows? But if he did, it is what it is. Did Barry Bonds retire McGwire's stats with the same kind of added assistance? Who knows? But if he did, it is what it is. You can't go back and fix everything someone thinks may be suspect in the entire history of the sport. If you try, how do you decide what stays and what goes?

I'm certainly not suggesting that those who took unfair advantage aren't dastardly scalawags for doing so. The needle is not justified by the rear end it penetrates. I'm only saying you can't fix the problem retroactively.

Then again, this is baseball we're talking about.

They can't fix their own problems in real time, much less after the fact.

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