Blame Selig & B Writers

Samori Benjamin

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig would like for us to believe that he tried to get steroids testing in the sport during the steroids era but he is not telling the truth.

15 years ago when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing Roger Marris’ 37 year old single season homerun record of 61 the country fell over themselves trying to get a look at each at-bat and homerun hit by the two stars.  The chase was celebrated by everyone and we all remember the commercials splattered across television sets all over America telling us how much chicks dig the long ball.

The reason why all of that was able to happen is because the American public believed what we were watching was real.  That is the entire root of the steroids era and why it was able to go on for as long as it did.

Now 15 years later people can have revisionist history all they want.  It has become routine for baseball fans and media members alike to now say that in 1998 and at any time before that it was so obvious that our baseball heroes were juiced off steroids.  Well you know what folks?  That simply is not the case and that was not where people’s heads were at during that time.  A clear example of that is just three years after the McGwire-Sosa chase Barry Bonds came along and chased and broke McGwire’s record with 73 homeruns of his own in 2001 and the country was just as captivated and awe struck as they had been three years prior. 

There is no way that anyone in the country would have taken Bonds’ chase seriously in 2001 if the public had any inkling that he or any of the other ball players were on steroids.  If you go back and look at the 2000 all-star game that was played in Atlanta and look at some of the homerun totals amassed by some of those all-stars at the break it’s almost comical now how juiced up many of these players were and how they did it right under our noses without any serious suspicion to what was going on was all a lie.  In watching the rebroadcast as I did a little while ago on MLB network player after player came up to the plate seemingly at or almost at the 30 homerun mark and they were all celebrated by the broadcast team of Bob Costas and Joe Morgan.  The possibility that any of these players could have been on steroids was the farthest thing from either of their minds.  What struck me is the nerve Major League Baseball’s broadcast network had to actually re-air that game as if it should be celebrated.  Like we couldn’t see that the entire product that we were watching was a shame.

                If you asked Joe Morgan today his thoughts on baseball players who took steroids and whether or not they should be let anywhere close to the hall of fame he almost certainly would not have kind words to offer the same way his other fellow hall of fame members have been quoted negatively about the idea of steroid cheats sharing space with them in the sacred Hall.  So if it had been so “obvious”  that everyone knew our ball players were on Steroids there is no way Morgan would have been as complimentary as he was behind the microphone the night of the 2000 All-star game the way he was , that is for sure. 

                The facts show that the country was oblivious as to what was going on in baseball locker rooms during the days of the steroids culture in baseball and there is only one simple reason as to why this was the case and it is amazing how we have not heard this uttered any other place until now.  The blame for the steroids era has to fall on baseball commissioner Bud Selig and the baseball writers of America. 

                The number one reason why the steroids era was able to go on as long as it did is because the public, all of the baseball fans across America, were clueless to the fact that there was no steroids testing in Major League Baseball and that ball players were not being tested for steroids.  The public just assumed that Major League baseball players were being tested for steroids like athletes everywhere else,  right?  Of course they would test professional ball players for steroids.  The public assumed that was a given.  Like the Olympic athletes who we all saw over the years being rigorously tested for steroids.  The possibility that these ball players were not being tested for steroids is nothing that even registered into anyone’s mind. 

                The reason that the national public was oblivious to the fact that Major League ball players were not being tested for steroids has to fall on the commissioner and the baseball writers of America. 

If there was no steroids test in baseball then of course ball players were going to take steroids.  There is too much money on the line based on the numbers an athlete produces to expect for the players to tell on themselves or to have simply not have used the performance enhancers when the guy next to them, their competition,  was using and possibly taking food off their kids table by cheating.  If players are allowed to cheat then they are going to cheat.

                But it is however the responsibility of the baseball commissioner and the media, more specifically the baseball writers who cover the teams daily to police the game.  If there was no steroids testing in place in Major League baseball during that time then of course the commissioner knew and had to know his players were indulging in steroids because anyone who is aware that athletes on that high of a level are not being tested for steroids must know that those players are going to take advantage and cheat.  That goes without saying.  So if anyone knew that the ball players were juicing it was the commissioner of baseball.  Sure the owners knew too but they are businessmen and the homerun was good for baseball and business so they said nothing.  But the commissioner should have and could have put a stop to it because he is the one who is supposed to be in charge.  Baseball was still trying to recover from the baseball strike of 94’ during the 98’ season and the record number of balls leaving the ball park was good for business inside Major League baseball offices but the commissioner was helping perpetrate a fraud because while the nation fell in love with McGwire, Sosa, and the homerun Bud Selig knew it was all al lie.

                Whenever we hear baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who came on the job as acting commissioner in 1992 before being named on a permanent basis in the middle of the 98’ season, talk about the steroids era he says that he tried to implement steroids testing but the mighty players union stopped him from doing so.  That argument holds no weight folks.  Because if that  were the case all commissioner Selig had to do was tell the media, make it an issue publically by informing the public as to what was going on and that would have been the end of it all.  The end of steroids in baseball.  The only reason steroids in baseball was allowed to go on is because the public was not aware.  Once the public became aware it was all undone quickly.

                Once the federal government busted the California Bay Area laboratory co-operative better known as BALCO in the fall of 2003 for distributing steroids and other performance enhancing drugs several high profile athletes were clients and became exposed as steroid cheats.   

Among the names were baseball superstars Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds and at that time back in 2003 the forces began to be set in motion  for the public becoming aware for the first time that there were major league ball players taking steroids and then finding out that there was no steroids test in baseball period.  In 2003 a grand jury hearing was held in December and both Giambi and Bonds testified.  Pieces of their testimonies were eventually leaked to the press by the end of 2003 and in 2004 and for the first time the public became aware that there had never been steroids testing in Major League baseball.  Other things followed after to further uncover steroids use in the game including a tell all book written by a bitter Jose Canseco who acted like a lover scorned and exposed many after he could not get a Major League team to give him a contract before he was ready to call it a career. 

                Once the public became aware that Major League players were not being tested for steroids they demanded answers.  Congress then got involved and not too far after that there was steroids testing in baseball.  The only reason why there is steroid testing today is because the public demanded one.  2004 was the first time Major League Baseball had steroids testing of any kind.  The public would have been aware that there was no steroids testing in Major League Baseball long before 2004 if the baseball writers of America who cover the teams and the locker rooms everyday would have broken the story, if they would have informed the public that there was no steroids testing in baseball. 

To think that there ever was such an article written before the Balco bust and then there was an eventual revelation by the public that there was no steroids testing is not true.  There never was.  Not once, not one newspaper article, column nor report written informing the public that the guys who we rooted for were deep in the drugs of steroids. 

                As much as stories are broken in the media today, whether the issue be big or small if it is something of substance, especially something scandalous the story spreads like wildfire and becomes among the top news of the day.  If a baseball writer or anyone else in the media would have raised the question of steroids use and steroids testing back in the days of what we now know as the steroids era it would immediately peeked the curiosity of every baseball fan in America and we all would have looked at all the homeruns that we watched off the bats of McGwire and Sosa a lot more cynically.  The same way we look at big homerun numbers now cynically when we get a guy like Jose Bautista who hit 54 homeruns in 2010 which came just six five homeruns shy of matching the homerun total from the previous 10 seasons of his career before that season.   Bautista’s stunning homerun season came during a time that we now have steroids testing in the game.  So Bautista was tested that season and even with that some of us were looking at him cynically now and still do. 

But we were not cynical in the late 90’s and early 2000’s because we were clueless and thought we were watching something magical.  If the public knew that there was the slightest chance that those guys were on steroids no one would have cared.  Could you imagine a ball player today who everyone suspected of using steroids going for the single season homerun record?  No one would support and applaud that player the way we did McGwire and Sosa and the way we did Barry Bonds in 2001 shortly following 9/11.

                The question has to be asked why did no one in the media simply alert the public to the fact that there was no steroids testing in baseball?   That alone would have thrown everything in doubt in the eyes of the public.  Did the baseball writers who were in the baseball clubhouses everyday not know that there was no steroids testing in the game?  Because if they did know then surely they would have had suspicion that these ball players were taking steroids and would have made the public aware of it, right?  Or did all of these baseball writers covering these teams not know that there was no steroids testing going on in Major League Baseball?   Were the baseball writers aware there was no steroids testing in baseball but they all chose to look the other way and not say anything?  With the way sports reporters frenetically compete to break all kinds of bombshell stories that is an idea that I cannot believe.  It is the media’s job, more specifically the baseball writer’s job to police the game of baseball.  

Along with commissioner Selig they failed to do that.  It is the baseball’s writer’s job to inform the public as to what is going on inside the game.  Essentially what we have is the baseball writers of America dropped the ball and let the steroids era happen right under their noses.  Was it incompetence?  Back in 2009 I spoke with baseball writer Jay Greenberg who at that time was with the New York Post.  Greenberg has a hall of fame vote and after stating to him my thoughts on the issue as I’ve written in this article I got him to admit that I am saying is correct.  “We knew there was no testing.” Greenberg said.  “Did enough of us dig in to try to get to the bottom of it, to uncover the scandal that was all around us?  No, it didn’t happen and we are as culpable as anybody.”

As I went to ask another question Greenberg realizing what he was saying quickly corrected himself before again coming back to the point that there is truth in my argument.

“We are not as culpable as anybody, the players who cheated did it on their own volition.  That’s where it has to start.  But we certainly were enablers.”  Where have you heard anywhere else a baseball writer admit that their fraternity did not do their job to the best of their abilities?


Now the same baseball writers who during the steroids failed to police the sport and drop a line or two to the public informing us what was going on inside the game during the steroids era are now the ones telling ball players who used steroids during that era that they are not worthy for the hall of fame because they artificially effected the sacred record books of Major League Baseball.  The truth of the matter is that if these same respected journalists would have done their job the era never would have taken place to begin with and if it did it would have not gone on for as long as it did.  They along with Commissioner Bud Selig should take most of the blame for why Major League Baseball finds itself in the mess it’s in now even years after the rampant steroid use has stopped. 

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