Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Bagwell: II

Why I hate the internet …

Because one can’t have a debate without inevitably getting hit with stupid insults and mindless taunts.

I would love to hear people tell me why I’m wrong about Jeff Bagwell and the steroid era.

Seriously, I would.

But why rely on childish insults and slurs? So juvenile.

I am not saying everyone with muscles is guilty. What I am saying is that baseball gave us the right to be suspicious and skeptical by doing nothing about the problem. When ballplayers had the chance to clear their names and their sport, they took the opposite approach, supporting a union effort to hide the extent of PED usage and, amazingly, making it as easy as possible for ballplayers to use. That’s undeniable. They had the chance. They considered the chance. They blew it.

So now I’m supposed to look at Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and presume innocence? Really? To hell with that. I believe firmly in the American ideal of innocent until proven guilty, but baseball surrendered that right when they put forth all efforts to defending and supporting the guilty.

Barry Bonds has, techically, never been proven as a user. Does he deserve the benefit of the doubt? How about Sammy Sosa? How about Roger Clemens? Do we continue to reward the effort to hide cheating by merely nodding and applauding?

The same people writing this stuff are those who bashed me for suggesting Bonds used back five years ago; the same ones who bashed me for suspecting Roger Clemens.

I have a daughter. She’s in second grade. If she gets an A on a test, but then I find out she cheated, should I reward her? Should I praise her? Is it OK, because everyone in the class also cheated? That’s the best analogy for the steroid era. These sycophant fans lavish praise upon their heroes because they desperately want to believe. But why is cheating OK? Why should I just go along? Just nod? I know … I know—I’m a typical media hater; hitting a baseball is hard; steroids don’t help; blah, blah, blah.

I covered baseball for Sports Illustrated from 1997 through 2002. I loved the experience. Loved it. In hindsight, I feel robbed. It was, largely bullshit. Bonds’ records? Bullshit. Clemens’ records? Bullshit. Fiction. A joke. And yeah, did people use greenies in the past? Did Babe Ruth never play against an African-American? Yes, yes, yes. But those weren’t the eras I covered.

This was my era.

Again, maybe Jeff Bagwell didn’t use. But based on the era—and based on everything we know about baseball during that time period—I have the right to be suspicious and skeptical.

So do you.