JEFF PEARLMAN

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Bryant Gumbel gets busy

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On the most recent Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, the famed host closes the show by reciting an open letter to Mark McGwire. It was pretty bland stuff, but capped off by this interesting little wrap-up:

“In closing, guys,” Gumbel said, “please feel free to share this letter with Bagwell, Nomar, Pudge and all those others who went from hitting homers to power outages overnight. Tell ’em fans are ready to accept what happened. Tell ’em we’re ready to move on. Tell ’em that most of us get it … even if they, like you, still don’t.”

Gumbel has already caught much heat for the words, and I … well, I applaud him. The three men he cited are very obvious cases of performance enhancers in action, and I’d willingly bet my entire collection of Dave Fleming rookie cards that the trio didn’t make it on talent alone. I also think Gumbel’s message, while somewhat messy, is important: The best thing these guys can do is come clean, admit what they did and try to move on with life and their careers. Because, while Gumbel was the first to have the guts to say something, I assure you most knowledgeable Hall voters are well aware that something was bubbly in the ol’ tap water.

Hell, I saw Nomar and Bagwell at their beefed-up peaks. I read the article—as ludicrous as any I’ve ever seen—when Pudge reported to camp one year twenty-five pounds lighter, and chalked it up to a need for greater mobility. Is it wrong to make stabs without proof? Yes. But when we take into account the era, and the accomplishments, and the sudden slides, and the complete lack of courage and accountability, well, it’s understandable.