Baseball Has Lost Focus: It’s Time To Talk About Policy, Not Clemens

Why is it that baseball fans care more about finding truth in the past than building trust for the future? Will accomplishing the former really help the latter, or is this constant questioning of history purely driven from the anger caused by one of our heroes (potentially) cheating?

After watching Roger Clemens testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last week, only one thing is clear to me: baseball and the media have both lost focus. The longer we continue diving deeper into the controversy, the longer baseball delays what it truly needs to do: earn back the trust of its fans.

Based on the information that has come out since the Mitchell Report was released, things are not looking good for Clemens. I’m not saying that I think Clemens used steroids. It’s hard to know exactly what to believe. But to be honest, I don’t really care. What Clemens and other ball players might or might not have done years ago is irrelevant to the integrity of players today.

As a fan, I really want to believe that Ryan Howard, Matt Holliday, Prince Fielder, and all of the other sluggers dominating today’s game are not taking performance-enhancing drugs. How will uncovering old secrets about Clemens help me trust these young players?

The only man who can win me over is Bud Selig. The commissioner has had time to review the recommendations made in the Mitchell Report, and it is about time he starts taking action. The players’ union and the league have to collaborate on a drug policy that fans believe will actually work.

I understand it’s hard to let go of the past. Seeing my childhood hero’s name, Lenny Dykstra, appear in the Mitchell Report was not easy, and I admit the Phillies’ 1993 run lost some of its luster. For the millions of fans who admired Clemens for his performance both on and off of the field, I can understand that it’s difficult to entertain the notion that all this time he may have been cheating you out of legitimate baseball.

Regardless, it’s time to move on. As Clemens said in his statement to the committee, “No matter what we discuss here today, I am never going to have my name restored.”

Let’s stop worrying about whether Clemens deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. (If Mark McGwire’s poor showing this year is any indication of how voters will treat alleged steroid users, it may be hopeless for Clemens already.) Let’s start worrying about how we can ensure that the integrity of the future of the game is protected.

Remember the summer of 1998? All of America was absorbed in the pursuit of one of the more glamorous records in baseball, the single-season home run record. Over the summer, McGwire and Sammy Sosa would provide some of the most memorable moments in the history of the sport, bringing an unmatched level of excitement and interest to the game for that generation.

Fast-forwarding to this past summer, Barry Bonds was finishing a chase of his own, culminating in his 756th career home run that broke Hank Aaron’s all-time record. What should have been the highlight of the summer was instead an awkward, controversial — and to some, meaningless — event that felt nothing like ’98.

How many more moments like this is baseball going to lose? Every time a record is broken, will fans simply clap for a few minutes and then begin questioning the validity of the achievement?

Deciding how to acknowledge the accomplishments from the Steroids Era is important, but it is secondary to ensuring that future feats are not mired in the same shadow of doubt that people such as Clemens and Bonds have created. A stronger, more transparent drug policy with greater player education and cooperation may not solve this problem, but it’s a start.

It may be a while before fans can feel as good as they felt watching baseball back in the day when everyone was ignorant of steroid use. But for the sake of the game, let’s stop worrying about Clemens and start making progress where it actually counts.