Mighty Casey has struck out.

Gary Sheffield. Eric Gagné. Troy Glaus. David Justice. Kevin Brown. Mo Vaughn. Miguel Tejada. Chuck Knoblauch. Andy Pettitte. Jose Canseco. Jason Giambi. Mark McGuire. Ken Caminiti. Rafael Palmiero. Benito Santiago. Roger Clemens. Barry Bonds.

What do they all have in common? Well for starters, their respective careers, spanning the past few decades, have not only produced mind-boggling statistics, World Series victories, MVP awards, Gold Gloves, and Rookie of the Year awards, but they’ve also helped shape the sport of baseball and influenced the way the game is played. These names have sold tickets, they’ve inspired little leaguers, they’ve sold peanuts and hot dogs. Cards with the pictures of these men on them have clicked in the spokes of bicycles on streets across the nation.

And now, it seems it was all for naught.

These names also all appeared in former Senator George Mitchell’s investigative report on the use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. That means each and every one of these players–these heroes, these role models–weren’t being honest with us. Barry Bonds? Sure, we all knew about that. But Clemens and Pettitte? For sports fans across the nation, it feels like the rug has been pulled out from under us.

Now, thanks to Mitchell’s report, baseball is a mess. It was already on its way there, Mitchell just brought it all into the public eye. The shocking part about it is that all the information in Mitchell’s 400-plus page report came without the use of a single subpoena–that means that he didn’t have to force this information out of anyone, it was just out there to be gathered as long as you asked the right people, which is exactly what Mitchell did. It also means that there’s a lot of baseball players that are sitting at home tonight thanking their lucky stars that Mitchell didn’t use subpoenas, or else their reputation would be tarnished, too.

So what now? Well, for starters it’s safe to say the next few years in baseball are going to tell us a lot about the future of professional sports. You don’t have to look too far (Michael Vick, Pacman Jones, Kobe Bryant, O.J. Simpson, Darryl Strawberry… need I go on?) to see that athletes these days seem to perceive themselves as above the law, whether or not they get caught, and it’s that attitude above all things that needs to be changed. If baseball can genuinely turn it around– if players can learn from this, and start to remember that baseball is a game, then there may still be hope for the sport’s future. And if baseball can turn it around, then maybe the other professional sports leagues in our nation will be able to look to the MLB as an example that it is possible to play sports without doing anything illegal.  We can only hope.

Baseball players need to also remember that ultimately they are in the business of entertainment, and thus they are indebted to their fans, (there would be no World Series if nobody cared who won it) many of whom are young boys and girls that look up to them. Players need to remember that the reason they’re in this business is because once they were little boys whose hearts were captured by the love of a game. Child psychologists say that after their parents, professional athletes have the greatest influence on children in America, and that could mean major trouble for future generations if baseball can’t fix the steroid problem. According to the Mitchell report, sales of the performance-enhancing supplement androstenedione went up 1000% after Mark McGuire admitted to using it, and by 2001, 8% of all male high school seniors had admitted that they had used androstenedione in the previous year. Still think athletes don’t influence the youth of America? Think again.

In the coming weeks, months, and even years, I’m sure there will be a lot said about Mitchell’s report, and what it will do to baseball–there already has been a lot said. I read one article that said the big winner out of this report was Barry Bonds– that is, now the whole world knows that it wasn’t just him, that plenty of guys do it, so Bonds can now shake his finger and say what ultimately boils down to: “neener neener neener.” To me, that’s not winning. That’s being a loser with company. If this report makes Bonds a winner, then we’ve really gone astray. Then we’re saying, “hey, steroids are so commonplace, why don’t we even the playing field by all doing them!!”

The purpose of the report was to admonish steroid use, not make it admissible by virtue of its popularity. Thus our national response should not be a defensive one, it should be a proactive one.  So now, like I said, it’s up to commissioner Bud Selig and the players themselves to roll up their sleeves, turn it around and wipe steroids completely out of the picture. And if that costs Bonds, Clemens, and McGuire their ticket to Cooperstown, then in my opinion, that’s a minuscule price to pay to salvage the future of America’s favorite pastime.


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