UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Steroid, THG users no better than Rose, 1919 'Black Sox'
How many game-deciding home runs would have been nothing but routine pop outs had it not been for steroids?
How many groundballs would have been fielded cleanly by a less-bulky and more-flexible defender?
Baseball fans and officials might never know the complete truth about steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs but one thing is certain: it's another black eye for baseball.
Gaining an unfair advantage over another player has and always will be considered cheating.
Two former All-Stars Jose Canseco and Ken Caminiti admitted to using steroids during their careers. Caminiti helped guide the San Diego Padres to the 1998 World Series, while Canseco was the first 40-40 man in Major League Baseball history.
Do we need to qualify the MLB record books with an asterisk - steroid users? And if so, how many more records will we have to qualify?
Several major leaguers are forever linked to the ongoing suspicion, whether it be federal investigators in the recent Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative case or fans using the naked eye to measure changes in the size and shape of the players' bodies.
It would be unfair to accuse Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield without solid proof, but the media has already placed the trio of power hitters in the "guilt by association" category.
All three have gone on record and stated "I don't need to cheat."
Even if Bonds, Giambi or Sheffield have never popped a pill during their illustrious careers, somebody has, according to MLB. Results of testing 40-man rosters in 2003 revealed that five percent of the players tested positive for 27 federally banned anabolic steroids in 2003.
BALCO employer and Bonds' personal trainer Greg Anderson admitted to giving steroids to several professional baseball players, according to federal documents.
And just like the identities of the doped players, which will most likely never surface, we as fans will also never know how much unnatural help a pitcher or position player received on a given day.
While the 1919 "Black Sox" and Pete Rose were dealt the baseball's death card - a lifetime ban - the recent steroid epidemic should be more than an embarrassment to players, owners and officials.
It's a testament to the lack of integrity that current players have. It's that "win-at-all-costs" attitude that apparently is more important, both to the fans and players.
The steroid epidemic goes beyond the sport.
If fans would rather see their heroes achieve the ultimate goal by cheating, then our core values as humans are completely wrong.
Ross Priest can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6880.
Gambling threatens fabric of baseball more
Steroid use in baseball is a definite stain upon the game, no doubt about it, and the situation has been alternatively ignored or downplayed to this point. But it's something Bud Selig and the players' union must deal with soon, in a manner that honestly convinces the American public that their heroes are not cheaters.
But to compare it to gambling, which threatens the very fabric of the game, is overstating its magnitude. There is no worse crime in sports than gambling on a game in which you are a participant.
The 1919 "Black Sox" and Pete Rose did more damage to baseball than any steroid user can ever do, because they altered the game's core, as a contest between two teams that are both giving their best effort to win.
If anyone in the game has any interest in the game other than winning, how can fans ever trust the sport? That's why gambling carries with it a lifetime banishment for a first violation, whereas using performance-enhancing drugs will never, and should never, carry such a harsh penalty for a first-time offense.
When players are using steroids, they are seeking an illegal means of getting ahead, but they still have the same ultimate goal in mind as those players that are on the level: winning.
Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco, two admitted steroid users, have said they used steroids because they thought it would make them better players, and perhaps they were right. Caminiti was the 1996 NL MVP and Canseco was the 1988 AL MVP.
Not coincidentally, both their teams won division titles in those seasons. Was using steroids wrong? Yes, but the result was that their teams performed better on the field. The players gave their best efforts, even if their best efforts involved steroids - which it must be noted were not illegal in baseball at the time.
Conversely, when the Black Sox took thousands of dollars from gamblers to throw games, were they giving their best effort? Absolutely not.
When Rose bet on the Reds when he was their manager, did he always put his team in the best position to win? No one can say with complete certainty.
The Black Sox scandal nearly destroyed baseball - the game was saved only by the awesome power of Babe Ruth and the foresight of Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis, who banned the Sox.
No player takes steroids with any motive other than to be a better ballplayer - thus making his team better.
They shouldn't have done it - if for no other reason than steroids are illegal in this country without a prescription - but there's a reason the public was more worked up over Rose's recent confession than it has been over the steroids issue.
It's because gambling is the single worst thing you can do in sports, particularly in baseball, which has such a terrible history with the subject. Any other violation, steroid usage included, pales in comparison.
Rich Polikoff can be reached at email@example.com or at 539-6882.