The shrewdest of this group is Barry Bonds. In the wake of the Congressional hearings and the BALCO scandal, Bonds opted for a knee surgery that had the potential to sideline him for the entire season. Given that every media outlet was dying to make him the poster boy for the Year of the Steroid, it is simply a phenomenal PR move for Bonds to sit this one out. Bonds has always seemed concerned about his legacy and place in baseball history and knows that his reputation has been sullied. While not erasing the stigma caused by these allegations, by removing himself from the spotlight, he diminishes their effect on his legacy. This will become especially apparent when he passes Babe Ruth in 2006 and begins his chase of Hank Aaron's 755 home runs.
Speaking of legacies, the dog pile on Mark McGwire's Hall of Fame status needs to let up. After the baseball strike of 1994, three people were responsible for reinvigorating baseball and reinstating the sport as America's National Pastime: Cal Ripken, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Big Mac's 1998 season (along with Sosa) revived interest in a sport being brutalized by apathy. Not only was a riveting assault on the home run record made, it was done with every at-bat being nationally televised. McGwire and Sosa's chase of Roger Maris and each other generated unbelievable excitement. Plus, McGwire always showed great class with his acknowledgment and inclusion of the Maris family during his quest. Anyone who thinks McGwire's role and importance in the resuscitation of baseball is now tarnished by his refusal to answer questions about steroid usage is simply attempting to re-write history. Were McGwire and Sosa's numbers boosted by steroid use that year? Frankly, who cares? Haven't we progressed past the point where we expect athletes to be anything more than athletes?
Baseball players, as well as any other professional athletes, are blessed with the opportunity to make their living playing a game. While enviable, it doesn't change the fact that, to a baseball player, playing baseball is a job and the gauge of their success at their chosen employment is measured by their statistics. The ability to hit home runs or avoid injuries translates into a substantial sum of money. While most working folk have a professional career of 30 to 40 years, baseball players make the majority of their money in a 10 year period. Who can fault someone for attempting to maximize his earning potential, especially when the window to do so is so limited?