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Fans turn the page on steroid scandal Add to ...

jblair@globeandmail.com

Predictably, the call has already been issued. Instead of "Release the hounds!" it's "Release the names!"

The drip, drip, drip from leaks off that list of 104 names of major league players who tested positive in 2003 for performance-enhancing substances continued this week when The New York Times reported that David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez were on the list.

Hey, just 98 more to go! Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, David Segui and Jason Grimsley were already outed off the list, which players were told would be anonymous when they agreed to base-line testing and ended up being seized by federal agents as part of the BALCO (Bay Area Laboratories Co-Operative) investigation.

It's an early test for the new executive director of the players association and I hope that Michael Weiner, who will replace Donald Fehr at the end of the season, realizes this is a crisis he can't let go to waste. It matters not in the court of public opinion that "leaking" these names is, well, illegal because that's how the whole steroid story has developed. There is no shortage of sources: the samples were tested in private laboratories and were not immediately destroyed. True, the drug testing plan was negotiated in good faith. But check any labour battle lately: society has no respect for a collectively-bargained agreement.

There's nothing baseball can do about reports such as yesterday's Boston Globe story in which it was revealed that the son of Red Sox's broadcaster Jerry Remy was one of two Fenway Park security guards fired last year after baseball opened an investigation into performance-enhancing drugs inside the Red Sox's clubhouse. What commissioner Bud Selig and the players association need to do is get in front of the news curve and fashion a blanket amnesty for players on the list - many of whom are inactive, anyhow.

He ought to see how that jibes with federal investigations and Congress. (He might want to remind Congress how much money has been spent on this federal pursuit.) Selig's already granted amnesty to individuals who co-operated with the Mitchell Report and absolved club front-office employees. This is a logical next step.

I'm not going to get into the nonsensical debate about why The New York Times doesn't release the whole list and be done with it. First, there's no guarantee the Times has the whole list. Rather, they might be getting names leaked to them gradually and then following up those leaks with due diligence. If the Times had a list that passed muster, they'd probably run it out of journalistic concern that someone else might beat them to the scoop.

But that's an irrelevant, inside-the-biz argument. In a Twitter message yesterday the founder of BALCO, Victor Conte, said he thought in the future we'll view the steroid controversy the same way we now view prohibition. He's right. Baseball fans have turned the page and it's time the game's leadership stop others from putting the matter in context. Time for them to get with the program.

Garbage Time

As much fun as it is watching Gary Bettman squirm - comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable, you understand - I'm getting the impression it's almost time Jim Balsillie gets new legal advice or, at least, a new hobby. After NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly sent the Hamilton Spectator an e-mail message saying: "This is all about Jim. At some point Jim has to look in the mirror and start taking responsibility for his actions. Hamilton is a great hockey town with passionate hockey fans. But it may be time for the city to come to the realization that it married the wrong spouse," Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger told the paper he would have some advice for the Blackberry Baron. "One is not going to be successful if you continue down the same path that has not succeeded in the past," Eisenberger said. "If neither the courts nor the board of governors are going to let him participate in owning a franchise, he is going to have to change his approach." I still think the Toronto Maple Leafs have a better chance of winning the Stanley Cup than Jim Balsillie does of getting an NHL team. ... German paper Sport Bild reported this week that 38-year-old Jacques Villeneuve might be a candidate to drive for the new U.S.-based Formula 1 team USF-1. Villeneuve indicated to Quebec media outlets that the discussions have been preliminary and let's hope that's how they stay. Michael Schumacher coming back is one thing. Villeneuve coming back has bad karma written all over it. ... Forget that B.S. being spun by the Texas Rangers that Roy Halladay decided at the last moment he wouldn't waive his no-trade clause. "We didn't even go down that road with Roy," said a Blue Jays official aware of GM J.P. Ricciardi's discussions during the week. The Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim did the most road work on Halladay. If the Rangers get out from under owner Tom Hicks's financial crisis, I'm told they're one of the teams the Blue Jays think they can do business with when they try to trade Halladay over the winter.

******

MONDAY 2 MONDAY

Let's stay all baseball for now, shall we? Winners and losers at the trade deadline:

WINNERS

New York Yankees: They've finally had someone surpass them in the Distraction Sweepstakes thanks to the Red Sox's steroid scandal and the Red Sox came up short pulling off a deal for a starting pitcher. It's still Josh Beckett and Jon Lester against the world ... and I'll take the world.

San Francisco Giants: Second baseman Freddy Sanchez, acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates, can be an impact offensive player in a tight race for National League playoff spots. Manager Bruce Bochy has used 81 different lineups this year and Sanchez ought to give him stability at the top of the order.

Detroit Tigers: Adding pitcher Jarrod Washburn from the Seattle Mariners gives the Tigers three of the top seven pitchers in the American League in earned run average.

LOSERS

Los Angeles Dodgers: Joe Torre deserves better. General manager Ned Colletti didn't have the stones to step up and get a difference-maker and owner Frank McCourt is too cheap to force the matter. Closer George Sherrill deepens the bullpen but, meh. Without a guy like Roy Halladay, they're a team you wouldn't be scared to face in the postseason.

Boston Red Sox: This looks like a plodding, beer league team and their starting pitching won't get it done. They look just good enough to not make the playoffs or be swept in the first round. They should have paid the premium for Halladay. In the meantime: enjoy your steroid scandal, Red Sox Nation.

Cleveland Indians: I'm not a big fan of ranking prospects. But if I trade my No. 1 starter and a versatile hitting catcher, I'd like somebody's top prospect in return.

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