When baseball began its survey testing for performance enhancing drugs in 2003, which six years later would tarnish the reputations of Red Sox icons Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, the initiative was just that — a survey.
The intent behind the testing, which caught 104 major league players using banned substances, was not to single out those players and punish them. Their identities were never even supposed to be revealed. Major League Baseball was simply trying to do some research into just how rampant the steroid problem was at the time. They got their answer. They weren't intending to do anything more.
But now, over a half-decade later, names are starting to come out. Muckraking journalists across the nation are starting to find the identities of the players who tested positive long ago, and they're getting big scoops that make big headlines.
Papi. Manny. Alex Rodriguez. Sammy Sosa.
And that's it.
It's only the superstars that are coming out. There were plenty of other names linked to BALCO in the early 2000s that we can only assume tested positive, but nobody's digging up dirt on them. No one's going to stop the presses for Marvin Benard or Randy Velarde.
This might sound like a strange cause for sympathy, but it's not fair to the superstars. No one feels sorry for Papi and Manny because they're celebrities and millionaires, but while they may have money, they also have rights.
All baseball players have rights. That's a simple fact, but it's one that's often forgotten. They have rights, and they have a powerful union that fights hard to protect those rights. The four names that we now know never should have leaked, and the other hundred should stay under wraps.
That's not how everyone sees it. There are some within baseball, including White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who want to see the entire list of the 104.
"This is ridiculous, this is embarrassing. It's a joke," Guillen told the Chicago Tribune. "Whoever is there, get them out and that's it. We're going to continue to be alive, we're going to continue to play the game, but sitting here every freaking day, every manager, every player responding to same question."
It's disappointing that the "question" is even asked anymore. Tests that were given six years ago are old news. What's done is done.
It's a travesty that four names that have leaked already. But when you break a finger, you don't go and break the other nine too, just for fairness' sake.
What the Big Four did was sleazy. It was dishonest. It was an assault on the integrity of baseball. But it was also just one small part of an entire culture of drug use within baseball, and what the superstars did was no worse than what went on all around baseball with a hundred other men.
Sensationalizing the stars' test results is missing the entire point. The purpose of survey testing was to get a broad scope of the steroid problem, not to single out individuals.
The PED mess that afflicted baseball was one that hit on many, many levels. It wasn't just the A-Rod and Sosa types juicing — it was fringe starters on mediocre teams, just trying to tread water. It was the utility infielder looking to attain a bigger role. It was the 26-year-old in Double-A trying to finally make the big leagues. It was the college prospect trying to add a couple miles per hour to his fastball. It was the high school kid with small muscles but big dreams.
Steroids afflicted all of baseball, not just the superstars. But who ever got famous writing about that?
No one. That's the problem.