When criticizing baseball’s “convicted” steroid users becomes redundant and when judging Hall of Fame merit for these players gets tired, there’s always the opportunity to switch the conversation and discuss who is at fault.
Who allowed this nation’s pastime to become what it is: sports’ version of a daytime drama with compromised ethics, constant speculation and theatrical finger-pointing?
Donald Fehr, the head of the Major League Baseball Players Association who announced this week that he will step down effective early next year, has taken his share of the blame lately.
Paid to protect the members of his union, Fehr has been torched for not having the foresight to recognize that protecting his players at whatever cost 15 years ago would mean so much more misery for them now.
There even has been speculation that his resignation is linked to the fact that Sammy Sosa is now the second big name to have reportedly tested positive in a 2003 test that was supposed to remain anonymous and serve merely as a study to decide if baseball needed a more strict drug-testing policy.
Those who were tested were supposed to be safe from this kind of condemnation, at least until they tested positive under baseball’s official, harsher policy. And because new names appear ready to leak about every other month, it is assumed Fehr is feeling the pressure from at least 104 angry union members. Fehr can continue to go down with his ship and still survive. He has done too much for his union for him to go down in history as strictly an enabler for the steroid problem in the sport.
But if he wants to salvage his reputation, he can do the right thing on his way out the door. He can give up the continuing fight to keep these names protected.
He can release the list that reportedly still has 102 unknown names of steroid users from the 2003 test. It would nullify all the work he did to protect these players in the first place, as well as set a precedent that might anger an entire union as he exits. But it would mean so much more for the sport that, fair assessment or not, he helped devastate.
That list of 104 players, which was seized by federal investigators during BALCO-related investigations, is still the subject of a major fight for the players’ union. The union is trying to convince any judge who might preside over the trial that the list was seized illegally, therefore the government neither should have access to the names, nor have the ability to question the players on it regarding their involvement in any steroid case.
It’s expected the Supreme Court will hear this case before a final decision is made.
But Fehr remains the union leader and an attorney. And if he has the ability to convince his union that giving up the fight for this list is the best way to clear baseball of this toxic cloud of mistrust, it is what he needs to do as his final, most memorable act.
Regardless of how long it takes to come to a decision in this case, names will continue to surface. And practically on a bimonthly basis, baseball will have to address the anger from fans or former players who publicly denounce the exposed cheaters.