With the recent exposure of Alex Rodriguez's use of a banned performance-enhancing drug, Major League Baseball plunges further into the hole that it's dug itself. The marring of the formally squeaky clean record of baseball's supposed home run heir apparent further taints the already tarnished image of the sport. With Barry Bonds currently in court, Mark McGwire under heavy suspicion and A-Fraud living up to his moniker, it seems that baseball ironically got what it wished for by allowing (read: not testing seriously for) steroid use in the first place: big numbers, big publicity.
Though the hammer is coming the hardest on the players accused, I think the criticism should be directed to those chiefly responsible: Major League Baseball itself. By in effect allowing steroids to persist in baseball for so long, MLB opened the doors for players to gain an advantage at no apparent cost, except to their bodies. They turned the other way when unnaturally hulking Goliaths were crushing the balls because they were filling the stands, selling jerseys, creating a buzz. Steroids = $$$. If an advantage is created with no foreseeable punishment--regardless of whether it is immoral, unfair, or, most importantly unsafe--it is inevitable that somebody will take this shortcut to money and fame. If it wasn't Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, A-Rod or Jose Canseco, there would have been a hundred other guys lining up to take their places on top.
Yes of course the players involved do deserve everything that has come, or will come, to them. The consequences of their actions have been well documented ranging from legal action to setting a terrible example, and they have been publicly harangued and humiliated for such. But why doesn't the criticism extend to the next level? Why does it stop short? MLB gets off easy because it has "fixed" the problem by making testing for performance enhancing substances now a top priority.
But the damage has been done. Major League Baseball took the public for suckers by providing artificial entertainment while we doled out the cash and watched every minute with baited breath. Now they're laughing all the way to the bank. There are no gray areas nor degrees of realism with sports; it's either black or white. This is not pro wrestling we're watching here, though it might as well be. In football the hits are real, in basketball the three pointers are real, it's just sad that in baseball the biggest runs by the biggest stars weren't real. We still come back anyway, since now baseball promises it's clean. Besides, our Meeeechigan boy (well... almost) Jeter made the big numbers while clean, so there is hope. I'm going to take a little more convincing however...