The foundations for this scandal was laid by baseball itself. By not inserting a testing program years ago, by not really addressing the problem until late last year, Bud Selig and the Players' Association has set themselves up for this current frenzy. There's a lot of other parties involved, and none of them really look good. Former players such as Jose Canseco look like opportunists, the media looks like the Salem elders, and the game itself has taken another hit.
Dennis Maniloff's recent column on the scandal is free of a lot of the hysteria that has accompanied Jose Canseco's book. Here's my favorite part of it:
Proving Canseco lied about any of them is the sticky wicket. In the end, all the accused really can present as evidence is their character, their resume, their believability. When Canseco says he injected McGwire in the bathroom area of the clubhouse, what can McGwire offer years removed as rebuttal, beyond his word?
It might not be fair, but it's reality.
Exactly. No matter what Mark McGwire or Ivan Rodriguez or Juan Gonzalez say, they can't remove the accusation from the public's mind. The only real way to reverse these accusations is to sue Canseco, but how do you prove anything when it's a he-said, he-said situation? Even if you point out the inaccuracies in the book, even if you infer that Canseco is simply trying to make a buck, I don't see how any of the players implicated in the book can prove he was lying, even if they never took steroids.
In the end, it comes down to a matter of belief. Some people are going to believe that 75% of the players in baseball are juiced, and nothing's going to change their mind. Because the burden of proof rests with the player to defend himself, what evidence can they put forth other than their word? That's why this subject won't be going away.
I've never thought of Juan Gonzalez as a muscular guy; he was more of a wiry-strong player, whose body hasn't changed that much since he broke in with the Rangers. I don't think he took steroids, but I have no way to prove it. That's what makes this whole situation so frustrating for baseball fans like myself. As the years roll by, and as the new testing policy takes effect, accusations on current players should die down, but no amount of time will dim the cry of those who feel Barry Bonds' 73 home runs in 2001 should be expunged from the annals of baseball.