Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Is Jesse Barfield right?

Jesse Barfield, former MLBer, is covering the Blue Jays these days.  Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I learned today that he penned an article on the CBCnews website entitled "Trust, loyalty among teammates a thing of the past".  Seems that he attributes the public nature to this PED mess to free agency and the lack of loyalty and familarity in today's lockerrooms.  He hints that any PED usage would have been dealt with internally and not discussed outside the lockerroom of his era. 
I half-agree with him: PED use was not discussed outside the lockerroom during his era.  But why? Because we, the blissfully ignorant public, were blissfully unaware of the increasing numbers of players turning to the syringe for an edge.  The lack of focus on this issue kept the proliferation of PEDs to the shady backgrounds of lockerrooms and gyms.  The media coverage and scrutiny (thank you, Internet!) that's part of today's era shines a light on those shady areas that we previously left unexplored.
Turn the dial in the way-back machine to the 1950s and '60's and we find the Mantle/Ford/Martin extracurricular "exploits" charming, not scandalous.  The writers protected the stars they covered; today the writers (and there are a ton more, all with camera phones) look for any story they can run with.  Can't blame the writers; they are doing their jobs (sell papers/advertising).
Back to Barfield.  He played from 1981-1992, right in the early stages of the steroid era.  Here is where I disagree with his claim that things would have been dealt with internally, self-policing if you will.  If self-policing were so effective, we would not be in the PED mess we're in now. (Is that too pollyanna-ish? Perhaps.) Were there too few stand-up guys, leaders, men of conviction and character? Or was the allure of free agent contracts that made guys abandon their beliefs in search of generational wealth?  Regardless of the reason, the internal "kangaroo courts" failed to stem the steroid tide.
One thing you could always count on was what happened in the clubhouse, stayed in the clubhouse. But thanks to players who would rather make a name for themselves off the field rather than on the field, that is no longer the case.
So he seems to be condoning PED usage, until you get to the next paragraph:

Now, don't think I condone the use of steroids, HGH, or any other drugs, but it was a code that we lived by from day one. And now teammates are selling each other out, and throwing each other under the bus. That is so sad to me.

That is PRECISELY how the steroids infiltrated MLB.  No one stood up, said something, screamed from the mountain tops, talked to the press, confided in MLB Union leadership, forced Union leaders to enact change. It's long overdue to end the ostrich-head-in-the-sand routine. We, the fans, are demanding a level of transparency previously unseen in professional sports. It's time to get it all out in the open.  Blood testing (even if stored for future testing when better methods are available) should be a given.  The money is there.  The time is now.

No comments: