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Dan Shaughnessy

Juicy details just give us ’roid rage

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / January 13, 2010

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It makes you want to throw up your hands and say, “They’re all dirty!’’

The fallout from Mark McGwire’s carefully scripted Monday confession (Ari Fleischer!) serves only to raise more questions and bolster the theory that everybody’s dirty.

Why wouldn’t a guy cheat? Steroids made McGwire rich and famous. The performance-enhancing drugs probably will cost him Cooperstown, but ’roids got McGwire where he wanted to go. Is there a Triple A ballplayer who’d say no to artificial help if it would elevate him to the big leagues? Is there a fringe big leaguer who’d resist an opportunity to become a full-blown star with a long-term contract?

Woe is the big league ballplayer who never cheated with PEDs. These days, they are all presumed guilty and it’s virtually impossible to prove innocence from the scourge of the Juice Era.

A lot of unfortunate remarks have been spilled since McGwire went public with his sins.

Start with Big Mac. Does anyone believe him when he says he did not do this to gain strength? Does he expect us to nod and agree when he says that he would have been just as good without the stuff? Sorry. The “I just did it to get back on the field’’ defense is the juicer’s version of “the dog ate my homework.’’ Nobody is buying.

If this junk didn’t help McGwire hit 70 home runs in 1998, why was he compelled to apologize to members of the Maris family Monday?

Please, let’s have no more baseball players telling us that steroids don’t help with hand-eye coordination. That’s not the point. Professional hitters are able to square up the baseball. They don’t need the juice for that. The steroids help with bat speed, power, and confidence. Oh, and they also help a player recover from injuries - you know, to get back on the field.

We all cringe when Bud Selig says that the steroid era “is clearly a thing of the past.’’

Bud sounds like Neville Chamberlain before World War II. It’s nice that there’s testing in place, but can we ever believe that the testers will be ahead of the cheaters? There’s no testing for HGH. Players always figure out a way to beat the system. It was particularly easy when there was no testing (thank you very much, Messrs. Fehr and Orza), but even with testing in place, ballplayers will scheme to get an edge. Ask Manny Ramirez, one of the few dopes who got caught in the “testing era.’’

Tony La Russa needs to stop enabling McGwire. Barrister Tony is simply too smart to believe the things that come out of his own mouth. Tony helps no one when he says he didn’t know anything about this until Monday. He parrots the “he just did it to get back on the field’’ defense. La Russa comes off like childish Red Sox owner John Henry chiding those who question David Ortiz because “David says he didn’t do it.’’

Meanwhile, 120 years of hardball history is officially in the dumper. Take a look at the all-time home run list. In the top 15 we have Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, and Manny. All cheaters. It’s the same with guys on the mound from the “steroid era.’’ Anybody still think Roger Clemens was able to throw 95 miles per hour in his mid-40s because of his workout regimen?

Which brings us to the Hall of Fame ballot. What is a voter to do? Baseball asks writers to factor “character’’ and “integrity’’ when considering candidates. Cooperstown won’t have Joe Jackson and Pete Rose because of gambling scandals. McGwire has yet to receive 25 percent of votes even though he has 583 homers.

He has been held out of the Hall because of steroids and that’s not likely to change. So what happens when Bonds’s name appears on the ballot? A-Rod? Clemens? Sosa? Are they all out, or will the voting membership eventually bend on cheaters because there are so many of them and, well, it was “the Steroid Era’’?

The Steroid Era. This is the only way baseball can move forward, make itself feel better.

If everything can be wrapped up in “the Steroid Era,’’ we don’t have to blow up the record book and start over.

This way, the Red Sox championship of 2004 doesn’t have to be tainted, even though the ultimate message becomes “our cheaters were better than your cheaters.’’

Seventy-three homers in a season? Don’t worry about it. It happened during the Steroid Era.

Very tidy. But what if the era never ended? What if the Steroid Era morphed into the HGH Era? What if it’s just the Cheating Era, which extends to infinity?

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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