Baseball fans love their hometown players.
It’s complete acceptance. Much like, perhaps, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees, or Astros fans whenever Roger Clemens took the mound. Or a Cubs fan when Sammy Sosa stepped into the batter’s box. Oakland and Cardinals’ fans had Mark McGwire. Gary Sheffield showed up in L.A., Miami, Atlanta and New York. The Red Sox and Dodgers, plus the Indians, watched Manny Ramirez skyrocket dozens of balls over fences. Alex Rodriguez was magnificent during his days in Seattle, Texas and New York.
You think those fans aren’t affected by Hall of Fame corruption? That corruption was media-driven.
Barry Bonds, reviled by rival fans, was beloved in San Francisco.
My son, Chet, saw Bonds strike home runs in San Francisco, at Dodger Stadium, plus both ballparks in San Diego, Jack Murphy Stadium and Petco Park. Throw in a significant bomb at Anaheim. Game 6, 2002 World Series.
When Bonds showed up in BALCO reports, law enforcement investigations, plus various other significant bodies – including a Federal government trial – Chet’s view was that his baseball achievements should remain intact.
Chet is furious that Bonds – he wasn’t necessarily a fan of Roger Clemens – wasn’t elected to the Hall of Fame.
He’s heard me say it for years.
That the same fraternity of media that voted MVP and Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Gold Glove honors had also voted to keep significant players out of Cooperstown, the New York-based site of the Hall of Fame.
It was right under the media’s corrupt noses that PED usage was taking place.
… in that all major teams, from its ownership and management to its medical staffs and dugout personnel, had to know.
… the stain and stench reaches all the way up to the Commissioner’s office – Peter Uebberoth, Bart Giamatti, Faye Vincent and Bud Selig. If they didn’t know, they’re ignorant. If they did know, they did nothing.
… baseball’s player union, which deflected away testing procedures that would’ve kept the sport clean.
Sports Illustrated Tom Verducci gets a huge “Hall” pass for a significant article he wrote in 2002. San Diego Padres’ third baseman Ken Caminiti, an admitted PED user and one-time National League MVP (voted on by the media, incidentally), was quoted by Verducci saying 50 percent of baseball players were using enhancements.
Over a decade earlier, Canseco was besieged by Red Sox fans during the playoffs against Oakland. In Boston. “Sterrrrroids. Sterrrrroids. Sterrrrroids.” They all chanted.
Canseco, for his part, struck a Greek god-like posture, flexing for them, kiddingly posing for those Fenway Park fans.
That was 1990, or ’91. Where was baseball’s media? You’d think they’d pick up on a story like that. It took over a decade before the story broke. When it did break, Canseco’s first book created the eventual storm.
The media got scooped.
Hundreds of news outlets – print, TV, radio, you name it – were planted in each major league city. Coast to coast. ABC. CBS. NBC. ESPN. CNN. Where were these journalists? Didn’t you guys remember Woodward and Bernstein, the two Washington reporters who broke Watergate a generation earlier?
The media could’ve headed off the PED era right away. It wasn’t enough to simply offer speculation. Or blind rage. Or ask questions, that players denied using.
They didn’t dig for stories.
Eventually, Canseco wrote two books, naming names.
Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams wrote “Game of Shadows,” detailing the BALCO raids and subsequent legal connections.
I once wrote a column about that, noting significant names of those media personalities that didn’t properly do its job. Amazingly, one of those names I’d mentioned, Bob Costas, contacted me.
“I don’t want to you to think I surf the net, looking for my name,” said Costas in one of two communications I had with the longtime NBC sportscaster. “A friend of mine in California sent me a copy of your article.”
I promised Costas our conversation would be off the record. To this day, I won’t reveal anything we discussed further. I will share this, however: He told me that he called the MLB All-Star game, I think back in 2002, and spent the entire game bemoaning the state of baseball with all its PED usage. He was, in effect, calling them out.
Costas said he received plenty of blowback from the players and its union.
My own complaint was that kind of unspecific coverage meant nothing until evidence was produced, such as Verducci’s SI piece.
“Howard Cosell,” I said, mentioning ABC’s legendary tough-as-nails broadcaster a couple decades earlier, “would’ve gotten to the bottom of this.”
It was great talking with Costas, but he only underscored the problem. Media was largely responsible for the outbreak of PED use. By not rooting out its issues, exposing the sinners and shutting down the freakage use of PEDs in its early stages, all talk was cheap.