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[A-Rod/Ryan Braun/Hot shot minor league prospect TBD] has damaged the game of baseball forever. It's hard to imagine America's pastime can possibly recover from the revelation that the game's biggest stars only produced gaudy numbers thanks to [steroids/human growth hormone/blood spinning/experimental chimpanzee muscle implants].
Commissioner Bud Selig has no choice but to suspend many of baseball's most beloved figures because of the ironclad testimony of [an alleged felon/a convicted felon/several convicted felons/]. This is not in doubt. The real question is can we [believe/trust/love] baseball again? Can we [believe/trust/love] anything anymore?
Maybe we should have seen this coming, since baseball has fooled us before. This writer was caught up in the longball exploits of [Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa/Barry Bonds] back in the 1990s and early 2000s—years that, I would hasten to add, happened a very long time ago.
Back then, very long ago, it never occurred to any of us in the press to ask tough questions about performance enhancing drugs, or ask any questions at all, really, apart from "Gee slugger, why are you so great?" Your humble reporter was so caught up in the hype he even collaborated on the best-selling book [Mark McGwire: Stainless Hero/Sammy Sosa: Success Story that Will Never Be Toppled/Rafael Palmeiro's Fearless Congressional Testimony]. Then the scales were torn from our eyes thanks to [The Mitchell Report/Game of Shadows/Juiced/steroids exposé in Parade Magazine].
We in the press had to ask ourselves some hard questions back then in the mid 2000s, quite a very long time ago. Had we been so caught up in hero worship that we failed to see a PED scandal unfolding right under our noses? The answer, of course, was no. We had simply been [deceived by psychopathic liars/snookered by slick-talking grifters/led astray by an elaborate long con involving sharpies in straw boaters and sinful ragtime music].
Though we felt betrayed, all of us in the press took Bud Selig at his word that he would deal with the scourge of PEDs and all those terrible, exciting home runs they caused. We even praised Selig for taking strides to do so when he [suspended lots of minor leaguers/scowled in Manny Ramirez's general direction/told us he was taking strides to do so]. Selig has always been a man of his word, whether he's making sure the All-Star Game can never be tied again or deposing Faye Vincent in a bloodless coup. With baseball under Selig's watchful eye, we thought the sport had earned back our [belief/trust/love]. And now, we find out we've been tricked again.
Some will say there have been worse scandals in baseball's long history. Steroid apologists will insist that in greater legal and moral senses, the game was far more damaged by [the 1919 Black Sox/Pete Rose/not letting black people play until 1947]. Some might also argue that we've already turned a blind eye to cheaters like [Gaylord Perry/Don Sutton/Whitey Ford], even though their brand of "cheating" was far more impish and delightful than the horrible, horrible practice of injecting steroid pills.
This writer would counter-argue that baseball is nothing without the sanctity of its records. Forever etched on the brains of every baseball fan are the immortal statistics of [THROW SOME NUMBERS IN HERE]. PEDs throw those numbers into question because they give modern players unfair advantages their predecessors didn't have. Sure, Golden Age players [corked bats/loaded pitches with Vaseline and sandpaper/assaulted each other with sharpened cleats/popped speed like M&Ms], but they never took steroids. Nor would they have, even if given a chance, I'm sure, due to the saintly, sepiatone glow of their inner baseball aura. Therefore, the use of PEDs artificially inflates the statistics of current players, even more so than [huge gloves/mechanically lathed bats/playing surfaces free of rocks and cows].
At the end of the day, I'm just a grizzled old reporter. I don't care for my feelings so much as I do those of the young people of today. Surely they don't deserve to lose faith in [INSERT NAME OF GUY CURRENTLY HITTING LOTS OF HOME RUNS AND IS THEREFORE PROBABLY DOING STEROIDS]. Selig doesn't have to justify himself to me, but he should have to look into the eyes of [LOCAL LITTLE LEAGUE TEAM] and tell [KID WHO OVERCAME DISEASE] why he allowed this to happen.
Will baseball recover? Perhaps. Why will it recover? I'm not sure. When will it recover? At some point in the future. One thing is for certain: When the history of the game is written, there will be no more despicable scandal staining its annals than [PREFIX TK]gate. This writer will be far more vigilant and a little more cynical when it comes to on-field heroics. And if another PED scandal rocks the game, rest assured I will be there, writing these same words again.