Major League Baseball announced yesterday that former Sen. George Mitchell (above) will head an investigation of steroid use amongst Barry Bonds and others in baseball. For Newsday’s Jon Heyman, this is far too little, too late.
Believe me, it’s no great joy to stick up for Bonds; even his poor lawyers have to know that by now. And yet, it’s way too easy to be a part of the pack calling for his rather ample head.
One problem is that Bonds wasn’t nearly the only one taking steroids in his era. One player told Newsday that baseball would be “astonished” by the number of players who used drugs to enhance performance. If an investigation could really uncover the truth about who used and who didn’t, it may well discover that it’s a lot harder to find a home-run hitter who never took a steroid, never did a drug, during the era of 1990-2005, than to find ones who did.
The one thing we can surely say is that Bonds was the one who used them most effectively. Long before he picked up a needle, Bonds was the best player of his era. But maybe he also had the best drugs, the best chemist, a better cocktail. Steroids expert Gary .Wadler, the Manhasset doctor, said users like to compare notes about who has the best cocktail. Well, I think that argument is just about over now.
According to “Game of Shadows,” the book that juiced up this issue yet again, it was Bonds’ 10-drug cocktail that helped produce 73 home runs in a season in which he was walked a third of the time he came to the plate. If he hadn’t been walked so often, he might have hit 100.
Baseball’s other problem is that it wasn’t looking very hard while Bonds was doing what now seems obvious. So if the investigation is independent and honest, baseball isn’t going to look too good, either. Frankly, we were all too busy celebrating baseball’s rebirth to look. That includes commissioner Bud Selig, baseball executives, reporters, almost everyone.