With all due respect to the sanctity of baseball’s record book, the fan in me has finally reached the breaking point when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs.
I just don’t care anymore. Call it Steroid Fatigue.
There was a time when I cared deeply, and it’s likely no coincidence that the time during which I cared so much overlapped with the time during which I was a full-fledged member of the Baseball Media.
As a group, the Baseball Media tends to fancy itself a protector of sorts, protecting the game from itself by investigating, reporting and occasionally offering unsolicited — and seemingly unappreciated — advice regarding the scourge that has been the Steroids Era. It sounds all good and well in theory, blowing the whistle on those who threaten the purity and innocence of our national pastime, and for a time, it seemed a useful practice. The game’s hierarchy was forced to remove its collective head from the sand — or, perhaps more accurately, from its ass — and adopt far tougher testing and enforcement PED policy, and slowly but surely the appearance of a cleaner game took shape as bust and suspension numbers rose.
The Baseball Media took great pride in this. No longer was the collective merely an informational and promotional conduit between the game and its fans. Now it was an unofficial governing body, with a very serious responsibility that afforded its individual members a certain societal gravitas, real or imagined.
I was part of it, and I’m the first to admit I got off on it for a while. Anyone who wrote even one story or did one radio show or one appearance on TV about this player or that being popped for PEDs could feel, for perhaps the first time, superior to his or her subject. It was a turning of tables, really. Baseball players can be a mean lot, and the majority of them tend to look down on the men and women who cover them. Being a part of knocking some of those players down a peg or two by exposing them as cheats, as frauds, felt good.
And had the game truly cleaned up as a result, it probably still would feel good. But it hasn’t. Anabolic steroids might no longer be commonplace, as they most certainly were during the presumed peak of PED abuse that was the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run chase, but as evidenced by this week’s Biogenesis news out of Florida, the only thing that’s really changed is the method by which the cheating is done and the substances used to cheat.
It’s now quite clear that this is a cat-and-mouse game that will never end, and that realization is nothing short of exhausting. No longer a full-fledged member of the Baseball Media, I view the game from a different perspective, and that perspective suggests that were the Baseball Media as omnipresent and technologically advanced back in the pre-Steroids Era as it is now, we’d be talking about this cat-and-mouse game having been going on when Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, when Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, when Pete Rose and George Foster were in their primes.
If you’re not willing to consider that, your head is … well, you know … too.
Mychael Urban, a longtime Bay Area-based sportswriter and broadcaster, is the host of “Inside the Bigs,” which airs every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon on KGMZ “The Game” (95.7 FM).