Why Clemens and Bonds Are Victims of The Era

Tom McCartneyCorrespondent IMarch 20, 2008

As a beginning note to this article, I'd just like to say I could write for days about this topic.  This is just a brief overview of why I can't blame those named in the Mitchell Report more than the Commissioner of Baseball, Bud Selig.

It was a sad day watching Roger Clemens sit before a Congressional committee and denying allegation after allegation and defending attack after attack on his name being reported in Senator Mitchell's report of steroids in baseball.

What might have been even sadder is watching a man in San Francisco named Barry Bonds achieve baseball immortality in breaking the single greatest record in all of sports under scrutiny of his alleged steroid use.  (Let's keep in mind I cannot stand Barry Bonds as a person, but let's be honest... It's a little sad.)  What should have been the happiest moment in any man's life cannot be enjoyed to the fullest extent because of the fact that a homerun ball that should rest on a pillow in Cooperstown, instead rests in a publicity hungry kid's hands with a giant asterisk imprinted on it.

Perhaps the icing on the cake here is that neither Clemens nor Bonds should make a Major League squad this year because they could be cell mates by June.

The question that I arise, however, is not "why did they do it?" if they're guilty, but rather "who is responsible for why they did it?"  While if you truly look into it, the answer could be us, I'm choosing to blame the Commissioner of Major League Baseball himself, Mr. Allan Huber "Bud" Selig.

From the moment Selig began as the Commissioner of Baseball in 1992 (unofficial until 1994) he faced obstacles.  Former Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Fay Vincent (who was ran out of the position by baseball ownership in 1992), holds Selig responsible for a baseball collusion incident in 1992 in which Vincent was quoted as saying, "The Union basically doesn’t trust the Ownership because collusion was a $280 million theft by Bud Selig and Jerry Reinsdorf of that money from the players. I mean, they rigged the signing of free agents. They got caught. They paid $280 million to the players. And I think that’s polluted labor relations in baseball ever since it happened. I think it’s the reason [Donald] Fehr has no trust in Selig."

Perhaps it was this distrust that led to the 1994 Major League Baseball strike.  While the strike could turn into a five page book report, ultimately it was about salary, benefits, salary arbitration, and free agency issues between the Players Union and baseball ownership.

Whether it was an owner's proposal, efforts by Selig, or a demand by President Bill Clinton, the two sides could not reach an agreement.  The strike would last from August 12, 1994 until April 2, 1995 (a day before the season was supposed to start).  It was nothing short of a disaster for baseball.

While the strike came and went, its effects didn't.  Fans threw money on the field at players at Shea Stadium on Opening Day; a fan-paid plane flew over Riverfront Stadium with a sign stating, "Players and Owners — To Hell With You"; fans booed; sticks were thrown on the field in Pittsburgh; Even Yankee Stadium (a usual sell-out on Opening Day) had 7,300 open seats on Opening Day.  Baseball was in a bad way and needed a boost.

The boost baseball needed came flying in during the 1998 season.  The boost came in the form of two names:  Mark McGwire and Slammin' Sammy Sosa.

While Albert Belle had already slugged 50 dingers in 1995 and Brady Anderson cracked another 50 in 1996 to bring back some excitement and thus fans back to the sport, McGwire, Sosa, and Ken Griffey, Jr. really brought on the heat in 1997-1998 and created one of the most memorable seasons in'98 with a homerun chase.

While Griffey, Jr. has managed to keep his name clean of steroid allegations, McGwire and Sosa have not.

70 homeruns by McGwire (a new record at the time), 66 by Sosa, and 56 by Griffey, Jr. brought an uprising of fans back to baseball, and swept new fans in like never seen before.  Baseball was back and Bud Selig and the owners loved it.

So if baseball is back, what's wrong with Selig?

Well, a little background info on Bud... he used to be the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers.  After Fay Vincent's demise, Selig (a well-liked owner) came into power by election from his former fellow owners (and pals).

Now pretend you're Bud Selig for a moment.  Your buddies lost $580 million dollars in revenue due to the strike and lost many repeat customers.  Now, all of a sudden two juiced-up sluggers take the league by storm by crushing the best record in sports and revenue starts pouring into your buddies like a freakin' waterfall.  Sweet deal, right?

Wrong.  It's no secret that "Chicks Dig The Long Ball" but to ignore the fact that two men are breaking the sacred homerun record using Androstenedione (clearly visible in McGwire's locker) is ludicrous.  Do you think Babe Ruth or Roger Maris were juiced on "Andro"?  Sorry Bud, but the closest you'll find to juice in the Great Bambino is booze and maybe cranberry for Maris.  But that doesn't matter to you Bud, baseball is back and you're now the Commissioner that saved baseball.

Wrong again.  It's the negligence Bud Selig took in dealing with anabolic steroids during 1998 that recognizes him as the Commissioner who ruined baseball.  Selig did not implement a steroid testing policy in baseball until before the 2005 season.  During this time Barry Bonds once again broke the single-season homerun record and faced endless scrutiny for the way he did it (the guy gained a ton of muscle in one offseason and became 39 homeruns better in two seasons.... what did you think was going on Bud?).

Granted, Bonds has never admitted using steroids ("knowingly") and it was basically just implied that he did, but can you blame him if he did?  McGwire got away with it in 1998 (although he pleaded the fifth before Congress... where's the perjury charge there?).  What's wrong with Barry wanting in on the fun?

In my opinion, Bonds (an unlikable man) is the reason we have the problems we have today.  McGwire was a hero; Bonds was the bad guy.  It's Bonds that got people talking more and more and caused Selig to force his hand (seven years too late).

The point is, Selig knew what was going on in 1998 and should have put a stop to it then, but his buddies were getting money and he was restoring baseball to glory.

So as Selig prepares to retire in 2012, he needs to go out with a bang.  Instead of being known as the Commissioner who allowed the steroid era to occur (which he is), he must be the Commissioner who stopped the steroid era.  But a testing system with weak punishments clearly isn't enough.  So what does Selig do?  He contacts Senator George Mitchell to investigate steroids.

On December 13, 2007, after a 20 month investigation, Senator George Mitchell released the ever so talked about Mitchell Report.  The report stood tall at 409 pages and revealed the names of 89 Major League baseball players alleged to use steroids.  "I haven't seen the report yet," said Selig on December 12, "but I'm proud I did it."  Wait a second.... You had a witch hunt investigation conducted but didn't even bother to even skim it before releasing it?  Furthermore, you didn't even send a copy to the Players Union before release?  You go girl.

Call the Mitchell Report what you will, it's a document that could be discussed until the end of time.  What's bothersome about the report is that it has done nothing to change the steroid era.  Steroids tarnished at least seven years of baseball, and most likely up to ten or fourteen years.  Releasing a Joe McCarthy-esque report that goes as far as naming numerous players who aren't even involved in baseball anymore does not change the fact that this time period happened and Bud Selig stood at the helm during almost all of it.  Players careers may be ruined, but the steroid era cannot be removed from the books.  Bud Selig beat a dead horse.

So what now, Bud?  You brought baseball's revenue back and put money back in your friends' pockets.  You also managed to salvage your legacy as the man who put a stop to steroids in baseball.  But I'm sorry, Bud.  You ended something you created while pleasing everyone in the process.  You are to blame for steroids in baseball.

So the next time Clemens and Bonds are faced with issues regarding their alleged use of steroids, don't point the finger at them.  If they did do it, sure they were the ones that injected themselves and opted to do so.  But can you blame them?  Steroids weren't banned in baseball until 2005 thanks to Bud Selig.  Whether you want to hold Clemens and Bonds with ethical standards is a matter of your own, but what they did was no worse than cheating on a test while the teacher had his back turned.  The only difference in their case is that their teacher had his back turned for at least seven years.