What if baseball commissioner Bud Selig called a press conference today? Here's what I hope he'd say...
"Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for coming on such short notice. The subject at hand is steroids.
"Spring training begins in less than two weeks. Fans across the country are gearing up for the start of a new season.
"As this is happening, retired player Jose Canseco has come out with a new book and is giving interviews in which he has claimed that some of our most venerated contemporary players have been 'juiced.'
"If this is true, of course, and if the use of steroids is half as pervasive as Canseco alleges, it represents a massive assault on the integrity of the game, calling virtually every power hitter's homerun totals, not to mention his RBI totals and slugging percentages, into question.
"But who am I trying to kid? By now, we all know that thirty-seven and forty year old men may bulk up through assiduous weight training in the gym. But their heads don't suddenly become larger...except metaphorically, of course.
"Our past anemic policies in this matter and our 'don't ask, don't tell' approach to their application has allowed a generation of unscrupulous ball players to assault some of our game's most hallowed achievements, enabling them to surpass players who, unlike the users of steroids, genuinely earned their records.
"I now acknowledge that the new steroid policy, announced a few weeks ago, while a step in the right direction is, nonetheless, inadequate.
"We owe it to today's fans not to cave into the cynicism of contemporary culture and we owe it to such luminaries as Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Roger Maris to clean up this mess. The steroid scandal represents a greater threat to the integrity of this game than did the Chicago Black Sox scandal of 1919. And steroid use equals the threat posed by gambling generally.
"Just as my predecessor, Bart Giamatti, had to act decisively to prevent the cancer of gambling from growing by banning the great Pete Rose from the game, I must act decisively. Otherwise, baseball becomes virtually indistinguishable from the World Wrestling Federation, entertaining perhaps to some, but hardly a legitimate game.
"I recognize of course, that I cannot engage in ex post facto justice. We all may know the names of those players who have taken steroids in the past. But I cannot fairly mete out sanctions against them when their past violations conveniently--and I must admit, from the standpoint of Major League Baseball, willfully--went 'undetected.'
"But today, I am announcing that it's a new day in the world of Baseball.
"First: Every major league baseball player will undergo required steroid testing twice weekly.
"Second: Unless steroids are prescribed by a physician to clear up congestion associated with an upper respiratory ailment or some other illness, that player will immediately be banned from baseball for life. No appeals will be heard.
"Third: If the player found with steroids in his system is on a short-term prescription, he will not play until that prescription's cycle has ended and there is no longer evidence of steroids in his body.
"Fourth: Major league teams will honor the contracts of players found to have used steroids, but they will be paid 20% of what the contracts originally stipulated. These former players will wear special uniforms. In place of team logos, the uniforms will sport giant asterisks, indicating that all their previous records are beclouded by the legitimate suspicion of steroid use. Their records will no longer officially count in Major League Baseball's record books or have any relevance to consideration for the Hall of Fame.
"Fifth: These asterisked players will show up at the ballpark each day. When the teams with whom they have contracts are at bat, they will take unofficial bats with batting machines that will be installed beneath the pitcher's mounds (saving pitcher's arms). The banned players will take their unofficial at bats, which may or may not be enhanced by their use of steroids, but will have nothing to do with the games being played.
"Sixth: I am removing the asterisk from the name of Roger Maris and his 61-home runs hit in 1961.