As he rides off into the sunset after retiring as the managing general partner and club president of the Giants, Peter Magowan will be missed by many, and his significant contributions to Bay Area baseball will be duly noted. Having said that, as his horse disappears over the ridge and into the dusk, let me now say this: One down — and many, many more to go.
Magowan was unquestionably one of the most culpable figures in one of the most embarrassing stains on Major League Baseball in its history, and his departure should be followed by that of every other front-office executive who turned a blind eye while their needle-tracked players turned America’s national pastime into their own personal chemistry lab.
So far, the only parties to suffer any significant damage from the Steroids Era (and the Mitchell Report’s too-little-too-late attempt to clean it up) are the players. From Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens to Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte, along with every other player who has been exposed as being as artificially enhanced as Pamela Anderson, plenty of careers, reputations and legacies have been altered by their participation in the blatant fraud baseball perpetrated on the paying public.
Why is that? Why haven’t any other owners, general managers, managers or even commissioners — who clearly knew what their players were up to — been made to pay the same social and historical price?
Neither Bonds nor Clemens, for example, have made official retirement announcements, yet neither appears to have any chance of putting on a uniform again. The indictment hanging over Bonds’ head, along with Clemens’ uncertain legal status, have made them virtual pariahs among teams looking for part-time help from the gray-bearded superstars. Yet the owners who came up with snoots full of sand every time one of their players began busting out of their shirt sleeves (and form-fitted caps) and breaking home run records, have been untouchable. The owners are the “Godfathers” of the baseball Mafia that took over the sport following the strike of 1994, and the GMs and managers who supervised the long-ball campaign to win the fans back became their families’ “made men.”
Peter Magowan has been rightfully credited with saving baseball in San Francisco in 1992, when he signed the shrunken version of Bonds, a reigning MVP with an ultra-marketable five-tool skill set, to a long-term contract, and then building a new park for him to play in.
But in his quest to fill those expensive new seats, he allowed drug-pushers such as Greg Anderson to have their run of the new clubhouse and unlimited access to Brian Sabean’s players. He, along with Sabean, had toknow what was going on, especially when Bonds showed up to training camp in 1999 15 to 20 pounds heavier and proceeded in the next several seasons to shatter nearly every power milestone in baseball at a time when his career should have been winding down.
Most recently, Magowan has had to deal with the massive investment in the debacle that has become Barry Zito, but it was the other Barry that has truly forced his hand. For the record, history will never show that Magowan was forced from baseball because of his passive complicity in the steroids scandal, just as Bonds’ career home run total will never be accompanied in the books by an asterisk or a scarlet “S” for steroids. But make no mistake: he is indeed paying a price for the choices he made at what may have felt like a desperate time for his club. It’s now time for other owners and front- office conspirators to pay theirs.