Monday, December 6, 2004
The check's in the syringe
By Ray Ratto
Special to ESPN.com
The New York Yankees, who make enough money to know better, want the rest of Jason Giambi's contract voided because he admitted to using what can fairly be called a cornucopia of pharmaceuticals.
Now before that laughing fit begins, listen for a moment here. The Yankees want the money, and the years, but mostly the money, so they can lavish it on tomorrow's flavor of the month, who may or may not have a steroid or two in his own closet.
And that's fine. That's baseball, and they're the Yankees, and they shouldn't depart from character just because there's a new hot spot in the Pax Seligiana.
But fair is fair. If they want Giambi's money back, they should also be asking for Gary Sheffield's money back, and the Giants Barry Bonds', and the A's Giambi's pre-Yankee money as well as Jose Canseco's, and the A's and Cardinals Mark McGwire's, and the Padres Ken Caminiti's money, wherever that is. And on and on and on.
Because if you're going to turn a serious health and safety issue into a full-bore witch hunt, you have to do it right and burn everyone at the stake.
And because fair is fair, the Yankees should return all the money they took in while benefiting from Giambi and Sheffield, and the A's, and the Padres, and the Cardinals, and the Giants, and on and on.
Especially the Giants. Never mind the money. They have to return an entire ballpark.
You see, while it is certainly fair game to decry Bonds' feeble explanation for allowing his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, free run of the machinery, and to ask for (but never get) asterisks for all these tainted records, what is not fair is for baseball to act like the despoiled virgin here, for Commissioner Bud to look all stricken and outraged as though someone had emptied a dump truck full of manure into his pool.
That's not just not fair, it's a bright and gleaming hypocrisy of the first magnitude.
You see, the players made their money out of Home Run Derby, but so did the owners. In fact, those homers largely fueled what Bud likes to call "baseball's renaissance," and only a certified nitwit (or a willful liar, take your pick) believes that the owners didn't know that it was Bill Nye The Science Guy marathons in every clubhouse in both leagues.
They knew. You know they knew. And, you'll be utterly unsurprised to discover, they liked it fine. They raised ticket prices and concessions prices and parking prices and shmata prices, all so that they could max out all the credit cards of all the people who came to see the homers.
Baseball cashed out on the clear and the cream and HGH and THG and all the other items in the Judas Priest Roadie Starter Kit. Cashed out good.
Well, fine. Only it costs to remount the moral high horse, and if it's going to be open season on the players' money, it must therefore be open season on the owners' money, too.
Only fans don't get to see these rebates, either. You liked the home runs, too, even when you suspected something was haywire. You laughed at Canseco when he said half the players in baseball were on the inventory for the same reason you laugh at Dave Chappelle when he recites the Periodic Table.
Because both guys are naturally funny, no matter what they are saying.
But Canseco, the big goofy galoot, may have been telling the truth, despite the big red nose and huge floppy shoes he took to wearing as his own career deteriorated.
Point is, you were warned, and you didn't care. Especially you Giant fans. Drug rumors have surrounded Bonds since 1998, and 16,000,000 of you walked into the new ballpark in five years just to watch him be him. You knew, and mostly you were fine with it, because you kept coming.
Fact is, we're all culpable, because we knew what was behind the curtain or had a real good guess. And no feigning innocence out there, either. There's more than one BALCO, remember. It's just the BALCO we know about is the only one we've found.
So everyone has to give back the money -- even the media, which helped the show by playing the lovely magician's assistant, Rita.
Either that, or we can call it a wash and move on, acknowledging that we were all in on it and failed by going along with the gag because, well, it was just so damned fun to watch.
This is just so that nobody has a mind to play the outraged victim here. We all bought in, and now that the investment has gone south, we don't get to pretend we were hoodwinked and ask for our admission price back.
Because the real lesson here is that eventually, all the chickens come home to roost, even if all you thought you were buying was the eggs. And it's a lesson we should all have to learn together, in the same classroom, from the same teacher.
Just as long as the teacher isn't Victor Conte.
Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com