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Witch Hunt Hangs the Scapegoat

LongIsland.com

Barry Bonds Indicted, Baseball Lauds Move After Major League Baseball had to cancel the entire 1994 postseason due to a work stoppage by the Player's Union, America's Pastime was at its lowest point since the ...

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Barry Bonds Indicted, Baseball Lauds Move

After Major League Baseball had to cancel the entire 1994 postseason due to a work stoppage by the Player's Union, America's Pastime was at its lowest point since the 1919 Black Sox scandal. The 232-day strike resulted in a 20 percent drop in attendance the following season, and although attendance began to rise slowly, it was not until 1998 that they came back in droves.

That happened to be the summer of the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, which set a record of 38.4 million in the National League. The St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs sluggers went at head-to-head, and both broke Roger Maris' record of 61 home runs, McGwire with 70 and Sosa with 66. The game was back and the long ball was sexy again. No one seemed to think anything of it or why, even after a supplement known as 'andro' was seen in McGwire's locker.

Barry Bonds, the San Francisco Giants clean-up hitter, exploded for 73 dingers in 2001 after never even hitting 50 home runs in 15 previous big league seasons. The whispers of steroid use began and after a few years, baseball began a full-blown witch hunt to rid the game of performance-enhancing substances.

It seemed a bit ironic that the home run and the popularity of players who have - since then - been accused of steroid use rescued baseball, and now Bud Selig and the rest of the hierarchy wants to hang a few and sweep the others under the rug? The 10-pointer just happens to be Bonds, who not only holds the single-season record, but also surpassed Hank Aaron's career total of 755 this past summer and now has 762 since his rookie season in 1986.

In April of 2006, Selig assigned his good friend and Boston Red Sox front office director Senator George Mitchell to head the investigation into illegal substance use in baseball. At the time, Selig informed reporters, "The goal here is to determine facts, not engage in supposition, rumor or innuendo." The probe was only going to look into actions since September 2002, when baseball began testing for performance-enhancing drugs.

For all intents and purposes, the inquiry should have been named after Bonds, because that was the mark if baseball's higher ups admitted it or not. The results of the investigation have not been released, but apparently the Federal Government could not wait its turn.

On Thursday, news was released that Bonds was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice and is facing jail time for telling a federal grand jury that he did not knowingly use steroids. The five-count indictment holds a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. Part of the indictment read, "During the criminal investigation, evidence was obtained including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances for Bonds and other athletes."

One of Bonds' attorneys, John Burris, was unaware of the indictment when contacted by reporters and said, "I'm surprised, but there's been an effort to get Barry for a long time. I'm curious what evidence they have now they didn't have before."

MLB has never had concrete proof of Bonds' alleged steroid use and now may finally have the smoking gun that Mitchell has yet to produce. Why baseball has gone full throttle with this issue is also interesting. The two heroes from 1998 basically made fools of themselves at the Senate hearings into baseball's steroid investigation. McGwire pulled a 'fifth' amendment excuse and Sosa forgot how to speak the English language on Capitol Hill.

After being a traveling circus a year ago, Bonds and the Giants have parted ways, with is contract expired. Will he find a new home as a free agent? Hard to say, especially with this newest wrinkle, Bonds is scheduled to appear in US District Court in San Francisco on December 7 and may be tied up at the courts for a while after that. Especially with the bad press and no further record-breaking sideshow, who would want to bring on such a controversial figure? (gut feeling - Yankees)

His career may be over, but his feats were remarkable either way. The feds and Mitchell's goon-squad have their cross hairs set on Bonds and have fired their first legitimate shot. How he fares will be played out in the coming months.

Are steroids a part of the game? Yes, but not a proud part. Until the commissioner realizes that in professional sports, you are going to have people experimenting and dabbling into them just to see if their game cam improve. The long-term, multi-million dollar deals are on the table, and the agents and Player's Union look to pay their clients the most. before the window is shut.

Were we better of before the strike in 1994? Many would answer in the affirmative and it is hard to argue with them. Every long homer is met with scoffs that the hitter is on 'the juice.' That is obviously a ridiculous statement, but with all the investigations trying to point the finger at anything more than a Flintstones vitamin or Tylenol, is it any wonder that what saved the game only a few years ago is linked to everything that may be wrong with it?