Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Dubious Anniversary

Posted by JD on March 17, 2010

It’s after 11PM as I write this. I suppose some of you are in the process of squeezing the most out of a Happy St. Patrick’s Day while the rest of you are readying for bed. I wouldn’t normally bother trying to squeeze in a post at this hour, but today I feel obligated: March 17th is the anniversary of one of my least favorite baseball memories: the Committee on Government Reform’s hearing into steroid/performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. And this year it’s the fifth anniversary, no less. I had to put down some of my thoughts on the event.

Good lord, what a shit-show it was. I remember sitting there in stunned silence as Mark McGwire repeatedly stated that “he was not there to talk about the past.” I remember staring in disbelief as Curt Schilling failed to back up his years of tough talk about what he would do if he were in a position to address steroid abuse. Most of all, I vividly remember the vague, nagging feeling I had when Rafael Palmeiro jabbed his finger in the air and said: “I have never used steroids. Period”.

I admired Palmeiro at the time. He seemed to me to be one of the most underrated, under-hyped superstars in the history of the game (there are only three other members of the 3,000 hit, 500 home-run club). I also admired how his family escaped from Cuba and made a life for themselves in the US. But something about his vehement denials struck a false chord with me. He was just a bit too insistent, a bit too urgent, to be entirely believable. It seemed as thought he stole the show that day with his assertive declarations, but in reality he was only digging a grave for his reputation (and, most likely, his shot at being enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame).

I may not have wanted to admit it at the time but I think I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. As we know now, it didn’t take long: Palmeiro was suspended for a positive steroid test in August 2005. It was all but the end of his career: although he has never filed for retirement (even though he’ll be 46 in September and hasn’t picked up a bat in five years),no franchise has come close to signing him since. A sad ending, indeed.

So, today is anything but a happy anniversary for Major League Baseball, McGwire, Palmeiro, and really, all of us who’ve been fans throughout the Steroid Era (or Selig Error, as I sometimes like to call it). It was a dark day for baseball, but try as I might to move on, it keeps coming back. I suppose it will forever be part of the fabric of the game, for better or worse.

UPDATE: I just re-read the post and realized it’s not quite what I was aiming for. Sure, I felt at the time that Palmeiro was not quite telling the truth and I am disappointed that I was proven right, but I didn’t want the post to focus only on him. For me, his was only the most shining example of failure. Everyone (with, knock on wood, one exception*) who was involved in the events of the day contributed to the horror show: Palmeiro was only the most egregious.

* That would be Frank Thomas. History awaits, but to this day it appears that his good name is still intact.

Elected members of our nation’s government wasted their time with an issue that ranked (and still ranks) far, far down on the list of priorities in what appeared (to me, at least) to be a shameful grab for the spotlight. Some of the biggest names in the sport produced one of the most pathetic performances in its history. It was the exact opposite of a banner day. What was a day that should have lived in sports-infamy morphed into a car-crash that a lot of us would like nothing more than to forget. Unfortunately, it became a day that will always lurk in the background for baseball fans of a certain age, casting a shadow on some of their favorite memories. And that’s the part of the “Dubious Anniversary” that I really wanted to focus on.

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