Now that the report is out, it's abundantly obvious that PEDs were a pretty common and unremarkable part of professional baseball culture in the late nineties and early years of this century. After all, most of the report's information appears to come from just two sources, former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomsky, and former Yankee strength coach Brian McNamee. Can we rationally conclude that just because these are the two that got caught, and spilled the beans, that they're the only ones (along with BALCO, of course) in all of baseball who dealt the juice? Or that the seven MVPs named in the Mitchell report make up a definitive list?
It's just as obvious that no one in baseball much cared about the presence of PEDs in clubhouses, just the way most baseball men ignored the bowls of "greenies" (uppers, speed) in many training rooms. No, let me change that. They cared plenty about what PEDs were producing on the field--so much so that they actively refused to do a damn thing about serious testing or seriously punishing players who used them. In fact, both the Commissioner's office and the players' union pretended to care about the "problem" of PEDs, and constructed an elaborate series of hand-slaps--no, hand-taps is more like it--to protect their golden-egg-laying goose from the few inquiring writers.
They acted a lot like the NCAA, an organization founded in the wake of the 1905 college football season (in which 18 players were killed) to polish the reputation of college football--and later all college sports--rather than make the game safe or clean. And like the baseball establishment in the wake of the 1919 World Series. Plenty of rumors circulated during the Series that the smart money had shifted to Cincinnati, and lots of sportswriters were convinced that the White Sox had thrown the Series. Most papers didn't want the story, however, and White Sox owner Charley Comiskey really wasn't interested in the story. The story only came out accidentally a year later, when a Chicago grand jury was investigating reports of a fixed game involving the Cubs, and one of the witnesses began to sing about the previous year's World Series.
Bill James argues that the nineteen-teens were the dirtiest decade in baseball history, in terms of gambling and thrown games, but it took the National League until 1919 to ban "Prince" Hal Chase, the well-known conduit for gamblers looking for a fix.
I've written a fair amount about fans' reaction to Barry Bonds, and just how much race plays into white fans' vilification of Bonds. The fact that PEDs were everywhere in baseball, in every clubhouse, while Bonds became the poster boy for (mostly) white fans to hate, ought to make us look a little more carefully at the Bonds affair. My blogging colleague Earl Ofari Hutchinson has nailed this--calling Bonds the "scapegoat." After all, most folks who didn't like me talking about Bonds and race, focused on what an "asshole" Bonds is. Granted. But could we please talk about Roger Clemens now? No one's ever mistaken the Rocket for a sweetheart. What about that broken bat incident with Mike Piazza that nobody has ever explained? Are we talking 'roid rage here?
At the very least, the Mitchell report should finally put a stop to all the talk about asterisks and Bonds' record. Unless someone is proposing to asterisk a decade. And I'd like to see Bud Selig's idiotic, supposedly moralistic reaction to Bonds hitting #755 replayed a few hundred times, alongside Mitchell's criticism of the Commissioner's Office.