On the steroid scandal

The Baltimore Sun

It would be great if we could say that Major League Baseball put a big punctuation mark on the sport's long-running steroid scandal, but I'll settle for the right decision at the right time for the right reasons.

The agreement announced yesterday by baseball management and the players union - amending the sport's drug policy yet again and closing the disciplinary book on the Mitchell Report - probably won't stop the next generation of cheaters from using the next generation of illegal substances. There's no way to make that guarantee, even with a stronger testing regimen and a flexible policy that can evolve with the rogue science, in an outside world where the chief architect of the most high-profile steroid distribution scandal in history (Victor Conte) rated only a four-month prison sentence.

This was more about finally putting this whole tawdry mess in the rearview mirror. The Mitchell Report was supposed to provide some measure of closure to a decade of steroid suspicion and recrimination but instead threatened to turn the scandal into a soap opera with the staying power of Days of Our Lives.

Fortunately, commissioner Bud Selig changed his mind about trying to discipline the dozens of players named in the report on a case-by-case basis because there was nothing to be gained from that except the negative publicity that would come with each disciplinary announcement and ensuing union grievance. Mitchell recognized that and recommended in the report that no individual disciplinary action be taken against the offending players.

Give Selig some credit for using that threat as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the union that toughened the performance-enhancement policy going forward, but I'm just happy that he finally saw the big picture.

Now, as soon as everyone finishes reading Vindicated, we can all get on with our lives.

Good day for Jay

Because the agreement also set aside any previous disciplinary action associated with the steroid investigation, former Oriole Jay Gibbons will not lose the 15 days' salary he would have been docked while he served his theoretical suspension at the start of the season. That works out to nearly a half-million bucks.

No time to panic

The Orioles lost both ends of Thursday night's doubleheader, but at least they didn't lose ugly. The first game was a tight pitching duel between Steve Trachsel and Kevin Millwood. The nightcap featured another late comeback by the Orioles before the game was lost on three straight ground-ball singles off steady reliever Chad Bradford.

Even on their worst day of the young season, the Orioles looked a lot better than last year's team.

Alternate theory: Jim Hunter is on the first road trip, and the guys are feeling some pressure to live up to his expectations.

Wild horses

If nothing else, Adam Loewen has taken some pressure off Daniel Cabrera. Both pitchers have struggled with the strike zone all spring, but it is Loewen who has the Orioles the most worried about his lack of command and control.

Cabrera is just being Cabrera, and the Orioles have found a way to win his first two starts. Loewen is more problematic, because he's coming back from a fractured elbow and it's clear he is struggling with his command and confidence, but he isn't going anywhere. Manager Dave Trembley is going to give him plenty of time to find a consistent release point and get comfortable with his newly repaired left arm.

It's not like Trembley has much choice. He's already scrambling to find a starter for Monday's game because of Thursday's doubleheader.

Flaming out

How did we get to the point where the Olympic torch needs four layers of security to get through the streets of Buenos Aires?

The torch relay passed through Argentina's capital city without serious incident, but only because of the nearly 6,000 police, military personnel and volunteers on hand to buffer the torch bearers from possible protests over China's human-rights policies.

Beijing was awarded the 2008 Olympics in 2001, but don't you think the International Olympic Committee might have foreseen the tremendous political ramifications of staging the Olympics in one of the most politically and socially repressive countries in the world?

Instead, the IOC is stuck with this global public-relations disaster, and probably deserves it.


Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on most Saturdays and Sundays.

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