Tuesday, December 07, 2004


I've been tooling around with a commentary for this week's Turret on the BALCO/Giambi/Bonds/steroids issue, and the word that Sen. John McCain has become involved has complicated matters significantly.

First off, it's clear that Major League Baseball needs to clean up its collective act. I'm trying to find where the resistance to stricter steroids-testing procedures by the Leagues are coming from, and apart from the rather obvious corner of players who use them, I can't understand why League big-shots are making things difficult.

It was an easy call to make that the Yankees would sack Jason Giambi after his BALCO testimony leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, but now what of Barry Bonds? Even if he can maintain the few years he has left in his career, his record-breakings will now be meaningless, even if he does eventually hit more home runs than anyone before.

But he'll never be Babe Ruth or Henry Aaron, because he cheated -- that much seems clear.

I don't think that it's McCain who needs to come sweeping in to the rescue though. Baseball shouldn't be federalized - it's a thing to itself, and we should be able to trust the Leagues, owners, and unions to keep it independent of government.

It's the same way with film. Government doesn't step in on the film industry because of the institution of the Motion Pictures Association of America, the film industry's self-governing agency. They make sure decency is protected (well, at least labelled), and the Fed stays out of the game.

Which is exactly what needs to happen with baseball. Critics will decry McCain, saying that it's unconstitutional for the government to demand urine or blood samples from private citizens without a court order, which is true. I'm no lawyer, but I can't think of a constitutional way to write a law that applies only to baseball players.

But the league owners and unions, if they want their sport to survive this fiasco, are perfectly capable of purging the system of steroids. Commissioner Bud Selig wants the majors to adopt the minor leagues' screening system, which would mean suspensions for first-time offenders. Players would be tested year-round, instead of just during the regular season.

Seems like that's the least they could do. Anything to prevent Federal intervention in baseball sounds like a good idea to me.