One day after the Baseball Hall of Fame made its first substantial judgment on the steroids era, Major League Baseball took great steps to resolve the final lingering issues from it, by brokering an agreement with the union to permit in-season HGH testing for the first time ever in a major American professional sport. Considering that fans like myself have been screaming for this for nearly eight years, the phrase “it’s about damn time” cannot be exaggerated.
The real question is how far this goes in ending the steroids era and its legacy. Testing began in 2004, a threshold regarded by many sportswriters as a major milestone in terms of Hall of Fame voting; the testing policy has caught several guys, all of whom found themselves serving long suspensions. However, with HGH added to the list, does this resolve it? Well, from the grand view of things, where the cat and mouse battle between newer substances and masking agents, and trying to keep up and test for them, no, it’s not. However, the fact that the union moved and consented to HGH testing effectively means that MLB will be able to adapt with more ease, which does effectively end the battle.
For starters, I want to say that the delay for HGH testing is because of the union, and there’s really no way to fight this charge. The union protected the cheaters, at the expense of those who played the game the right way, for too long. The union objected to this, and that, but MLB was determined. I have no doubt that someone in baseball kept looking for newer and better testing methods to find one the union would agree to, and MLB finally found one that the union couldn’t decline without looking horrific. So, we have it. Finally. It’s about damn time.
Wait a second, though. Considering the glacial pace it took to reach this point, is there something here we’re missing? Not in the policy, but in the sudden, out of the blue, agreement. There was no publicity, no leaks, nothing to suggest this was coming until the actual announcement was made. Maybe baseball, which has fallen to second in major sports popularity to football, and is fighting off basketball, is trying to show that it is a clean sport, going further than its competition. Maybe MLB was on the brink of publicly accusing the union of corruption. The version here I like to think happened is that the majority of players, the ones who are clean and play the game the right way, finally strong-armed the leadership into accepting the policy; the executive director and executive committee serve at the behest of the players, after all.
Of course, no agreement is perfect, but thanks largely to Ryan Braun, MLB will have tightened up their procedures, so no one is getting off of a positive test due to a mishandled sample. Players may argue all they want when they’re caught, but arguing is, PR wise, a really bad idea if your appeal is denied; i.e. you’re guilty, so don’t bother protesting your innocence.
The HGH discussion is at long last over. Let’s hope that at bear minimum, the Hall of Fame, the fans, and baseball at large can move past the steroids era.