Last Modified: Friday, July 26, 2013 2:47 PM
Baseball is about to throw its biggest party.
There will be games, celebrations and an attempt to put on a happy face.
But there are storm clouds on the horizon.
Soon after Tuesday night’s All-Star Game gala, the ugly side of baseball will shows its face.
The commissioner’s office is expected to hand down suspensions to those linked to the latest scandal in Miami known as Biogenesis.
Reports say baseball is going after the 20 or so players caught in the Biogenesis web hard. A 100-game suspension is possible for many.
The players and their union will of course fight it, but even that group is divided. The most powerful union in America is struggling with its own demons.
Many players want to see the game cleaned up for good, otherwise they fear they too will be forced to use PEDs to compete at the highest level.
Big contracts and careers are at stake.
It is baseball’s not-so-hidden secret, a wound that keeps coming back.
Major League Baseball had hoped the Mitchell Report would have been the end of this. Or that the retirement of players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire, all linked to PED use of some type, would have cleaned up the game.
Every year there are new leaks in this dam and the water continues to rush into baseball’s valley, flooding out all the good news and great stories.
No comeback story would be better than that of Bartolo Colon, the aging Oakland Athletics ace who has come back from a suspension for PED use and earned a spot on the American League All-Star team.
His story would be great except that he is on the Biogenesis list and likely to be suspended just days after pitching Tuesday night.
Hard to celebrate when you know trouble is just around the corner.
Give baseball some credit, it may have been slow to take on the steroid era, mainly because money and interest in the game was flowing at a record high, but it has tried to do the right thing ever since Jose Cansaco came out with his tell-all book.
But it is hard to police a game where a good portion of those playing don’t want to be policed.
Melky Cabrera is another prime example.
Last year, he lost out on a World Series run with the San Francisco Giants after he tested positive for PEDs. He was suspended 50 games.
His punishment this year, a big free-agent contract with Toronto.
A slap on the wrist is hard to take seriously when it is followed by a giant raise.
And yes, Cabrera is on the Biogenesis list as well.
Cabrera and Colon both show that in the world of baseball, cheaters do prosper.
That leaves the game with its real dilemma.
Baseball turned its back on the steroid era because it needed to do so. After the 1994 season was wiped out by a strike/lockout, the sport was at an all-time low.
Then came monster numbers, more excitement and a flood of big-money contracts. Baseball officials lost control and they were in no hurry to get it back.
Even the media joined in. Don’t let anybody tell you baseball writers didn’t know what was going on, they were just caught up in the excitement.
That is until it became too obvious and something had to be done.
Now John Rocker, that infamous voice of the bizarre, has chimed in with a solid point. Fans seemed to like the old days when baseball’s were flying out of parks and offensive numbers were breaking records by the day.
They seemed to like the action. Only the purists were upset.
It is the game’s ultimate struggle. A good baseball game can be boring to the average viewer, forcing them to change the channel.
But give the fans a home run chase or some hitting streak and they’re glued to the tube.
Football doesn’t have this problem. Basketball doesn’t have this problem. Even hockey doesn’t have this problem.
All sports have found their market and seem almost immune to steroids. It is hard to believe that only baseball players have searched for this extra edge over the years.
Yet here we are, on the verge of the sport’s biggest night and the steroid era is still not behind us.
You have to wonder now if the game’s image will ever be clean again.
Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org