IT GIVES ME great pleasure to announce this will be the last column I write about steroids and baseball.
Unless, of course, the grandstanding congressmen who want to squeeze every last drop of scandal out of the downsized Jason Giambi, among others, succeed in holding their scheduled "hearing" March 17 on Capitol Hill.
Then this will be the second-to-last column I write about steroids and baseball.
Maybe Rep. Tom Davis is getting a kickback from Jose Canseco's publisher. Nothing like a tell-all book from a disgraced slugger to drive the agenda of our nation's leaders.
No one except Canseco (with a book to sell) wants a congressional hearing, especially Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, Frank Thomas, commissioner Bud Selig, Padres general manager Kevin Towers and former Athletics general manager Sandy Alderson. They've mostly said they'll respectfully decline.
Yet Rep. Davis told CBS that the House Government Reform Committee is prepared to subpoena players and officials.
Earth to Washington: Can't we move on?
What, exactly, is the point of this hearing? If, under oath, players other than the ones who admitted steroid use before the BALCO grand jury (Barry Bonds, Giambi, Gary Sheffield) are forced to say they, too, juiced up, where does it stop? The guess here is that the only thing left to establish would be a list of every player who ever took steroids.
If the point is to demonstrate steroid use was as widespread as has been reported, if the point is to demonstrate that owners and officials were complicit in players' steroid use, why would those who were "invited" to testify stop at merely indicting themselves?
This is not a necessary exercise. Not now, anyway.
In these confessional days of the Post-Steroid Era, I'll admit there were times in the past that I took slightly sadistic pleasure in watching and/or reading about baseball officials being grilled by grandstanding members of Congress.
Squirming dogs under the bright lights of C-SPAN: what a beautiful comeuppance.
This includes a relentlessly pointed attack last year by Sen. John McCain on the players association's Donald Fehr. The union boss was called to Washington and told, basically, to come up with a drug-testing policy that included "real teeth." Otherwise, Congress would take care of the problem.
These dog and pony hearings weren't scripted for Comedy Central by Dave Chapelle, but don't think it didn't cross my mind.
But baseball is different this year from ever before. Even taking into consideration how late and how lax the drug-testing policy is that owners and players have now implemented, it's still better than the lawless, insidious, clandestine, cheatin' Steroid Era that just preceded us.
So, is there really a need to waste one more breath, let alone taxpayer dollars, on the sordid little details of needles and creams? Not when the specter of steroid use by major league baseball players is apparently already being curtailed.
More than 5 percent of the players tested positive in 2003, a threshold that triggered mandatory testing in 2004. Last week, Selig said the percentage of players who tested positive in 2004 was down to 1 to 2 percent. That's an improvement from the moment in January 2004 when President Bush used the State of the Union address to embarrass baseball and other pro athletes.
If players weren't afraid of public reaction to steroid use, or at least concerned about how admitting use would affect guaranteed contracts or endorsement deals, then why have so many players lied about using steroids?
That was then, before baseball finally stopped the bleeding.
If Bonds can suddenly shift from a strategy of deny, deny, deny into a posture that, curiously, attempts to rationalize players' history of steroid use, that means he's trying to come clean, so to speak.
"You're talking about something that wasn't even illegal at the time," Bonds told The Oakland Tribune and ESPN.
"All this stuff about supplements, protein shakes, whatever. Man, it's not like this is the Olympics. ... We're entertainers. If I can't go out there and somebody pays $60 for a ticket, and I'm not in the lineup, who's getting cheated? Not me. So we all make mistakes. ... We need to forget about the past and let us play the game. We're entertainers. Let us entertain."
Bonds wasn't invited to Washington, but he made his point. It smacked of a jailhouse confession. This is as much testimony from a star witness as this baseball fan needs.