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OK, so now we know the names of 64 of the 66 baseball players who will report to St. Louis for next week's All-Star Game. I'm all tingly.
But as Major League Baseball congratulates itself on the record-breaking 223.5 million online votes cast by fans, remember this: These aren't the votes that really matter, and this isn't the players list that really counts.
I hate to be the human nimbus cloud dousing MLB's baseball lovefest, but we're still waiting on 11 more ballots. When those 11 votes come in -- and it could be weeks, or even months, before the results are announced -- baseball might never be the same.
One of these days, perhaps as late as December, an en banc panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will rule on United States v. Comprehensive Drug Testing Inc., 05-10067. In short, 11 judges will decide whether the government lawfully obtained a list from CDT of 104 players who the feds say tested positive for banned substances in 2003.
|We know the truth about Sammy. Wouldn't it be nice to know the rest of the names?|
We already know two of the 104 names: Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa. A-Rod lied coldly and calculatingly about his performance-enhancing drug use (hello, Katie Couric) until he was cornered by a Sports Illustrated story that detailed his place on the 2003 list. And Sosa, whose English comes and goes depending on whether he's in front of a congressional committee, recently was outed by The New York Times regarding the PED list.
That leaves 102 more names. And according to the Mitchell report, all 102 of those remaining players are aware of their place on the infamous list, as are MLB officials. So it is conceivable, even probable, that someone on that list is among the 66 players on the just-announced All-Star rosters. Awkward.
Outraged players, past and present, have called for the public release of the list. So have assorted media members. But it isn't that easy. Nor should it be.
Believe me, I'd love to see who else tested positive for PEDs. In my perfect baseball world, I'd have the names shown on stadium JumboTrons between innings. I'd buy a shopping cart full of asterisks and start placing them in the baseball record books. I'd instantly eliminate anyone on that list from Hall of Fame consideration. It's as Chone Figgins of the Los Angeles Angels said, "It's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Cheatin'."
These 104 players, named and unnamed, cheated. To argue otherwise is to insult the players who didn't need a chemist or a hypodermic needle to play baseball.
And these 104 are just the ones who tested positive in the well-intentioned survey testing of 2003. What about Manny Ramirez, who just served a 50-game suspension for using a female fertility drug? (Come to think of it, Ramirez could be on the list of 104, too.) Or Roger Clemens, whose attorney says his client isn't on the 2003 list? Or Barry Bonds?
I want to see the complete list, but only if the 11 judges say so. As much as I want the baseball frauds exposed as the PED users they are, it can't be at the expense of the Fourth Amendment, which protects all of us (even baseball cheaters) from unlawful searches and seizures.
If those 11 judges rule in favor of the players' union -- and an attorney who argued the case in December on behalf of the MLBPA told The American Lawyer magazine that "it sure sounds like we're going to win" -- then that's the way it goes. Of course, then the case might eventually be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, baseball risks suffering a death by 104 paper cuts. So far, Bud Selig's league and Donald Fehr's players' association have been sliced open by two of those edges: A-Rod's admission and the Times' report on Sosa. With each leaked name comes more bleeding, more credibility problems for MLB and the union and more confusion.
It's convenient to demand that Fehr and/or MLB release the list of the remaining 102 players. But that wad of chaw already left the dugout. This is now in the hands of those 11 appeals court judges. Either the feds will be able to keep the confidential spreadsheet list, or they'll be forced to give it back. There's no middle ground.
I'm rooting for the feds to win the case. I know the union was between a rock and a maple bat when it came to destroying the 2003 survey results. And you can make a compelling argument that the government might have overstepped its authority when it copied the entire computer directory at Comprehensive Drug Testing Inc.
But for the game's sake, for the fans' sake and for the sake of the players who didn't resort to better baseball through chemistry, I want the remaining 102 to be held accountable. It isn't a perfect solution and it isn't total closure, but it beats the alternative: the drip, drip, dripping of name leaks.
So enjoy the All-Star Game. But don't forget that one or more of the 66 All-Stars might have done the PED deed. Wouldn't you like to know who?
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.