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Kansas City Blues

The Fallout from Juicing
by Jim Laffer

And so it begins…

After last weeks congressional testimony by several MLB players, all that was left was for the media scribes to weigh in and weigh in they did. In the last week, sportswriter after windsock have joined in the cacophony of wailing souls. Determined once and for all to prove they weren’t complicit in creating the current mess. Mark McLiar has been chased and hounded and reduced to a shell of his former puffed up self. Now not only are his muscles gone, but for the moment his shot at the Hall of Fame as writers who once sung has praises turn on him, snapping and biting – demanding their pound of flesh. The feeding frenzy doesn’t stop there of course as no one is immune from the attacks. A local hack even opined that “we only had Frank Thomas’s word” that he never took steroids so who knows what the truth is – never mind the fact that Frank has long been outspoken against performance enhancing drugs and has offered to take any test anywhere anytime.

The whole congressional hearing left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth as the players took the easy way out time and time again. Curt Schilling - a supposed anti-steroid player rolled over and let the owners scratch his belly and media darling and every sportswriter’s favorite player for the last decade in Chicago ShamME* Sosa suddenly couldn’t understand English without a lawyer and interpreter. McLiar decided he just couldn’t bring himself to talk about the past and he was quick to remind everyone of that fact every chance he got. Bud Selig looked on stern faced, watching the whole debacle get beamed out live to the world and one could only surmise he had to be grateful that it was not only the first day of the NCAA tournament but St. Pats day to boot thus guaranteeing a smaller audience to actually watch while sober enough to comprehend the magnitude of the lack of information being presented.

That of course left the media to jump in and fuel the fire, but first of course there was an NCAA tournament to cover so naturally the biggest wailing waited until early in the next week and then all Hell broke loose. An informal poll of HOF voters seemed to say that McLiar didn’t have the votes to get in anymore, but Barry Bonds was still a lock. Smart move Barry staying away from that mess – I suppose it’s a good thing you weren’t subpoenaed after all or you too would be watching your name dragged even further through the mud. Barry even had the good sense to release a statement on his on-line baseball journal that he was looking to get slimmer and leaner so he could live longer, causing people all over the world to immediately throw away their weight training equipment for fear of dying young.

Of course people who really watched the game could have told you all of this was happening years ago. When homerun records started falling like leaves in Autumn, longtime fans were left scratching their heads and wondering what became of the game they thought they understood. Lots of excuses were bandied around – the ball is tighter, the walls are closer, the players are in better shape, etc. No one had the guts to actually say, “Hey, maybe these guys are cheating.” No, that would have meant some sportswriters had to actually dig and do homework and research and what’s the good of being a sportswriter if you can’t drink beer all day and shoot the breeze with your idols? I mean, why look into ShamME*’s missing $10,000 or the way some of these guys suddenly added 15-20 pounds of raw muscle in a single off season or even the way players were putting up better numbers as they aged – and not just small increments either? That would mean less access and less contacts and less press passes and in the end less fun and that’s what it’s all about – fun.

At least that what baseball’s owners have been trying to sell us for the longest time. It’s no longer about Mom and apple pie and hot dogs or even Chevrolet, it’s about watching huge men launch incredible moonshots deep into the night. Chicks dig the long ball or so we are told and guys dig chicks so who cares if the game is a shadow of it’s former self, today we can make money and make everything right by turning a blind eye to the worst of the cheaters. So the owners sign for packages of the juice their players need. So the players come up through the ranks, believing they have to juice to compete. So the HS kids look at the minor leaguers and figure they have to juice to be given a shot. So the media turns a blind eye and only tells the feel good stories, pretending none of the shady stuff is happening and sell the fans on the fun of ANOTHER homerun record chase, only the third time in the last five years that someone has shattered a record that stood for nearly 40 years before and that time requiring extra games and an asterisk to break the previous record (which stood for over 30 years) by one. None of that matters of course when there is money to be made and heroes to be created. Step right up, step right up get your ticket now for the greatest show on Earth don't mind that man behind the curtain, it's only Ringleader and Master Carny Bud Selig.

No one in this story is blameless. Not even congress which failed to ask the tough questions or subpoena Barry Bonds and allowed the players they did question to tell their half-truths and refuse to answer questions without having to actually invoke their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination and then capped it off by having a private party in a different room and asking those same cheaters for autographs.

I stand corrected, there is one blameless party and that is the fans. It’s a damned shame too, because the real fans already thought baseball was the greatest show on earth, and now all they can do is scratch their heads and wonder what happened to the game they love…

Jim Laffer is a lifelong Chicago sports nut living on the North side of Chicago. He was raised in Hyde Park and graduated from UIC in December, 2000. He grew up in a house famous for developing insights into economic phenomenon. Thus he doesn't believe it when the White Sox start crying poor.

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