Lance Berkman is an example of the latter. He's been full of self-aggrandizing chatter this offseason, reaching his zenith with this whopper when asked about his willingness to offer a blood sample for an HGH screen, even though a reliable test has yet to be created:
"Absolutely, there's no question," he said. "I think anybody that wouldn't submit to that has something to hide."
I suppose Berkman deserves plaudits for offering up his sangre so freely, but his taking it a step further and casting suspicion on any player who's a little less trusting when it comes to his bodily fluids is a breach. I would like to think that when spring training rolls around, one of his savvier teammates will pull him aside and ask him, politely, to keep his fucking mouth shut when it comes to other players' business.
But, more importantly, it got me to wondering if we would be reading comments like these were the union's leadership made of stronger stuff. I realize that at one point in time, MLBPA honcho Donald Fehr was seen as being a strong rep for the players, but it's clear that his appearances in front of Congress have turned him into a pussycat, relatively speaking. Marvin Miller, the man most responsible for the union's power at the bargaining table, probably would have informed players at the outset of Mitchell's investigation that breaking rank would result in being stranded by the union the next time that player found itself in hot water. And that's the way it should be.
Comments like those offered by Berkman move the onus on the players, and the players alone, when it comes to handling the steroid issue. And while our proud Rice grad might think it's a black-and-white issue — players shouldn't do steroids, period — responsibility for PED use in baseball has proven to be anything but clear. It's imperative that the administrative and ownership arms of baseball not be allowed to wriggle it's way off the hook if we're going to talk about the past. And, in terms of the future, a strong union is the only thing that can prevent PED testing from turning into a complete farce, because the owners will be more than happy to set up a rigged system if it means that they won't be pushed in front of the cameras again. Every time someone like Berkman opens his trap, it makes it more difficult for Fehr or his successor to hold strong against the lopsided demands of ownership that are sure to come during the next collective bargaining negotiation.
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Here's an awesome interview with a very awesome baseball writer who took a pass on voting for the Hall of Fame this year (hat tip to Rob Neyer).