Are you ready to be indignant about someone besides Bonds?

The End. (or Just The Beginning?)

Steroids In Baseball

November 17, 2007|By DAVID STEELE

We pause briefly in the middle of the three-day We-Gotcha-Barry! holiday weekend to say: Get your gloating in while you can.

When you've all stopped squealing like a bunch of pre-teens at a Hannah Montana concert, try to separate what Barry Bonds' federal indictment means to him from what it means to baseball.

A lot of people, many in this profession included, are treating this like the end, a happy ending, and the big finale to the soap opera of the past four years since the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative raid. So, so wrong. The end is yet to come.

The George Mitchell report will be released at some point. When it is, players and other subjects of numerous probes into performance-enhancing drugs - and those who have never been suspected of anything - no longer will be able to evade the spotlight that, so far, has shined mostly on one place, right on Bonds' infamously expanding dome. No more using him as a convenient human shield.

That includes players who were friendly and accommodating to the media. Who signed every autograph and visited every sick child. Who inspired the masses and pitched the products and soaked up the love.

That is, the players you like. The players on your team. The players whose jerseys you bought, whose signings you applauded, whose record quests you revered, who gave you a championship to preen about.

Will you giggle and smirk and say, "Ha-ha, good riddance, you bum," then, too? Will you dance on the graves of their careers and reputations, too?

Right now, despite all the drama of the indictment, the parade of legal experts on television and the anticipation of a Bonds perp walk, we have the same number of players implicated in steroid use that we did before. No more, no less.

Busted Barry is still the bad guy, and to borrow a line from Al Pacino's Scarface, "Make room for the bad guy." He's the guy we've needed so we can point a finger at him. There aren't enough fingers to point at all the dirty people in baseball involved in this. Yet every available one gets pointed at Bonds.

On Thursday, this produced some hasty and preposterous conclusions. All of his records are definitely tainted. Reinstate Hank Aaron as the home run king. Send that ball to the Hall of Fame with the asterisk on it. Keep him out of Cooperstown.

We're just never going to learn. We have been in denial and are still in denial. We can get out of denial, but only if we unlock our glare from Bonds and train it on everything else.

So far, Bonds is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt only of being intensely unlikable, and so much of what has happened has sprung from that triviality. One day, we'll all have to answer to why we allowed the history of the sport and the legacy of a player be dictated by whether he stiffed us on interviews.

That day is coming fast.

Among other topics that no longer will be so cut and dried, the asterisks won't have a smooth place to land anymore. If you discount Bonds' records, you can't turn around and wave through everybody else's. Either everybody gets asterisks or nobody gets them.

Same for the Hall of Fame. Snub Bonds if you like, voters, but then be prepared to snub everybody else implicated in the reports that will come out. Either everybody out or everybody in. The five-year clock on Bonds' eligibility doesn't even start until his career ends. The landscape could shift dramatically in the next five weeks.

Mark up his records, leave him off your ballot, holler and scream and wave asterisk signs at him, and you forever forfeit your right to give any of the next huge wave of complicit players, personnel and executives the benefit of the doubt. Forever. No do-overs.

If you're going to separate the good from the evil in baseball's steroid world, you'd better have a higher standard than "This one got indicted for lying to the feds; that one didn't." We know players admitted using in front of the same grand jury Bonds was hounded for allegedly lying to.

None is the bad guy, though.

Bonds made his choices, and now he has to live with them. His sport is dirty, but that doesn't make him less dirty.

But the reverse is true, too. And when that news breaks, if you don't party as hard as you are now, you are as indicted as Bonds is.

On multiple counts of first-degree hypocrisy and felony obstruction of common sense.

david.steele@baltsun.com

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