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Performance-enhancing hoopla

| March 31, 2005 11:00 PM

Opening day couldn't come sooner for Major League Baseball.

It's just too bad it's the Yankees. But on Sunday Randy Johnson will take the mound for New York against David Wells for the Red Sox. No matter the uniform, it's a classic match-up in an historic setting - Yankee Stadium.

Perhaps it will take some of the sting of the recent steroid controversy away from the big leagues.

Then again it may not.

The hearings before congress, in which some of the top names in baseball made matters look worse, was the worst kind of three-ring circus. It didn't help the problem and it probably hurt baseball as politicians milked it for everything they could.

The home run carries with it some taint these days. But should it?

Steroids certainly make athletes bigger and faster but how much does it help in swinging 38 ounces of lumber at a tiny white sphere rocketing toward a player at between 86 and 95 miles per hour. With Randy Johnson on the mound that missile is traveling closer to 100 mph.

Steroids do not help the amazing eye-hand coordination, and timing, that has to occur to make bat meet ball. Performance enhancing drugs do not help the player trying to out-think the pitcher as to whether the next pitch will be a fastball, a sinker, a slider or whatever. It takes a considerable amount of skill to make that all happen.

Should the amazing season of 1998 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing Roger Maris' single-season homerun record be diminished by the allegations of steroid use? No way.

It still happened. It was one of the most amazing things to watch in sports. And nothing changes that.

There are some pundits calling for an asterisk next to the records being set or were set by McGwire, Sosa, Barry Bonds and others. That's ridiculous.

Sports are a reflection of society in general. Looking back at the history of baseball you could start putting asterisks next to every record in the books for some social, legal or even mystical reason.

Two things do need to happen: First, baseball needs to get serious about its penalties for steroid use. There has to be a no-tolerance atmosphere. Look to the Olympics. One strike and you're out of action for as long as two years. It's going to take a move by the baseball players association to make that happen. It would restore some of the publics' faith in professional athletes.

Second, the critics, pundits and fans need to really consider what an amazing feat Roger Maris accomplished in 1961. He never really got his due. Even if he was a Yankee.

It would help, too, if Johnson and Wells kicked off the season with a great pitchers' duel.

I'll be watching, and hoping. - Roger Morris