This story is like the old Frankenstein movies. Once they had a hit on their hands, the moviemakers made Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein,
Next Door Neighbor of Frankenstein, Prom Date of Frankenstein and so on. It seemed like the monster would never die. That seems to be the case with
baseball and steroids. And the latest is a book - excerpted in Sports Illustrated now and to be released later this month - that chronicles Barry
Bonds' use of a variety of steroids to bulk up and become a home run machine. The book is called Game of Shadows and its authors are Mark
Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams. If you look at the list of 'Pros' I have on the website listing sports journalists that I think are very good, you
won't find either name. The reason is they are not part of the sports staff at the San Francisco Chronicle; they are news department reporters.
Most reviews call this work a great piece of investigative journalism and the reports of the sources used in the book would make it seem very good
indeed. But let me be frank here; I haven't yet read the book and I have never knowingly been in the same room with Barry Bonds so I have zero
first-hand knowledge of the details of the story here. Nevertheless, let me make a few comments that go beyond the matter of 'did he or didn't
There are three other parties that are complicit in the steroid use/abuse scandal in baseball specifically. I've mentioned before that Donald Fehr
and the Players Association are culpable here because steroid use is an unsafe working condition for the association members and the union should have
been fighting hard to protect the health and safety of its members all along. Clearly, Donald Fehr and the Players Association fumbled the ball on
The owners and team management are complicit in the steroid use/abuse scandal in baseball specifically. The owners marketed the exploits of players
who used steroids and may have even assisted in enhancing the feats of some players by shrinking the ballparks and making what used to be routine fly
balls into home runs. Maybe they juiced the baseballs too. I doubt that any owners or team management actually provided steroids or other
performance enhancers to players and there is no evidence to date of such a thing, but the owners did exploit and enhance the feats of the players to
line their pockets.
But there is a third institution that is complicit in all of this and that is the Baseball Writers Association of America. These are the folks who
cover baseball for a living; these are the people who guard the portals to the Hall of Fame; these are the poets who wring emotion from English words
and use them about baseball in variations on odes to the game. These guys live and breathe baseball 365 days a year and they let this story go
unreported for the last decade. As I said, Game of Shadows is written by news department reporters for the San Francisco Chronicle. One of the
Baseball Writers Association members doesn't write it; it isn't even written by someone from the sports staff at the Chronicle.
How can that be? Am I supposed to believe that the poets of baseball (Peter Gammons, Tim Kirkjian, Tom Boswell, Dan Shaughnessy, Jayson Stark and a
whole lot of others) never had an inkling that anything untoward was going on? Were they so mesmerized by their own poetry that they were immobilized
and could not dig into the story? Or - - were they so addicted to jock sniffing that they didn't dare break any bad news about players lest they be
cut off from their 'sources' and thereby lose their access to this plush gig?
The book in question cites things like court filings, transcripts of wiretaps and documents seized in the BALCO investigation. Sure, news department
reporters tend to do that kind of stuff more frequently than 'sports guys' do, but sports sections are still manned by people who profess to be
journalists. Watch how fast any of them will wrap that flag around themselves if any were to be confronted to reveal 'a source' by a prosecutor.
Immediately, the fate of the First Amendment would be in their hands. Yet these guys couldn't see what was happening around them for 10 years or
When any of these folks takes to the airwaves on ESPN or FOX Sports or a local radio station, the question that ought to be asked of them is how the
hell did you guys get scooped on this one? It was in your backyard and you were either too dumb to notice or you were complicit in the steroid
use/abuse scandal in baseball specifically. Frankly, I don't know which option these guys would choose if forced to answer that one.
With regard to the specifics of the matter, I am on record as saying that I believe that Barry Bonds used steroids and performance enhancers. I have
no evidence for that but it is my opinion and I'm entitled to it. Ignoring all the statistical evidence and all the documentary evidence, here is one
thing that has led me to my belief for the past several years. Barry Bonds head got larger and larger. I'm talking physically larger and not in some
metaphoric sense about his ego. Increased cranial size is one side effect of steroid use and you can work out in the gym for years on end but adding
muscle bulk to your face will not increase cranial size. In fact, adding muscle to the face and scalp should tend to shrink cranial size. So, I have
had my own suspicions for the past 5 years or so. But that's all they were then and that's all they are now - suspicions.
Now that there is more 'evidence' being brought to light, the next uncomfortable thing for the baseball poets to confront is that they may indeed have
to take some kind of stand about how they will deal with records and stats compiled by folks like Canseco, Palmiero, McGuire, Sosa and Bonds. At the
moment, these are the 'Legion of Doom' with regard to this mess. So far, the baseball poets have tap danced around the issue - possibly fearing the
penalty that might befall any of them who might offend any of the players and cut them off from the sources that give them their fame and fortunes.
Well, the story isn't going away and maybe it's time to stop the music and make these folks scurry for the seats that are available.
I've said this before so I'll say it again because I've yet to hear anyone else go down this path. How can anyone be confident that he/she knows what
any of the baseball athletes did “'naturally' versus 'enhanced' over the past decade or two? I certainly can't. And if you allow for speculation
to exist just because if follows a seemingly logical path, why not take umbrage at this one:
Steroid use can build bodies but it can ALSO make injuries heal faster. Why else would pitchers use them? They don't even come to bat in the
Rapid healing of injuries allows players to 'play through' situations where they might otherwise have had to sit out a game or two or three.
So ... did Cal Ripken use steroids to heal his injuries thereby using chemical enhancement to break Lou Gehrig's record?
I don't know if Cal Ripken did that or not. I am equally convinced that the baseball poets don't know if he did that or not. But I do know that they
would never dare to ask him that. And that is a major part of why they got scooped on this story by a couple of guys from the 'news department' on
But don't get me wrong, I love sports... ... ...