I’ve been sitting back and watching the latest steroid cheating scandal unfold over the past few weeks, and specifically the past 24 hours, as around a dozen players have been suspended for cheating (by taking performance enhancing drugs). I’ve marveled at how writers and media outlets have covered the story, and the amount of editorializing that has taken place in print and on air.
Fans, players, and former players are legitimately upset. They want heads to roll. They seem to want tougher penalties for cheaters. Most of all they want a clean game that players can be proud of and fans can respect.
But in the quest to keep the game clean, let’s not go overboard, or down a path that could destroy reputations or careers. Such is the path that some baseball writers seem to be taking, the latest is the AJC’s own Jeff Schultz. I respect Jeff and I admire him as a writer, but I take serious issue with this article in which he decides to assemble his all-steroid team, using dubious means of adding some players to the roster:
All players listed below have either been suspended for drugs; or admitted using them; or were listed on the Mitchell Report; or were fingered by Jose Canseco, another player or a trainer; or obviously took something stronger than Flintstone Chewables but excelled at not leaving a paper trail; or fall under the “I Think He Took Something But Can’t Be Certain” category (example: Jeff Bagwell).
Baseball McCarthyism is the term that immediately came to mind when I read that. Witch hunts such as these can be as serious as they can be comical, as one scribe after another tries to use hidden evidence and the whisper campaigns of the baseball clubhouse to prove, PROVE that a player is guilty.
This is the wrong way to go about cleaning up the game, or cleaning up the historical record of the game. Let actual facts be our guide, not conjecture or presumption.
I also question whether this is actually serious journalism or not. This could simply be a case of I-have-to-write-something-anything-today-ism that so many media outlets and writers are under pressure to adopt (EYEBALLS dammit!). After all, that’s one of the main reasons I left Talking Chop; the pressure to write more and more every day regardless of whether there was anything worth writing about. And so shit gets made up. That article by Schultz is partly made up shit.
To finish on a cliche (in true baseball fashion), this may all come out in the wash. In the meantime there are going to be a lot of people who write things and/or say things who will be made to look foolish. Some of them may eventually be proven correct, but that is no excuse to engage in the reckless journalism of naming names. How quickly would Schultz come to the defense of a Braves player who was accused in such a manner.