Last week, Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez angrily denied speculation in a baseball blog that his torrid start to the 2009 season is in any way linked to use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).
Ibanez' stated willingness to have anything his body produces tested speaks volumes to me about how serious he is in defending himself regarding this issue. He appears to be the type of guy that would tell the Player's Association to stick it if they told him not to submit to any of these tests, particularly if he felt that by doing so he could end any suspicion, no matter unfounded it may be.
The Ibanez situation brings up two interesting issues confronting the game right now, and neither of them is directly related to Raul Ibanez, he's just the vehicle that brought the issues to the forefront. No, these issues do not include 37-year old outfielders having All-Star caliber seasons, but do include the role of the blogosphere in our national game and the stain of steroids left on all players who were a part of that era, whether they used PEDs or not.
Over the last 10-15 years, the term 'blog' has entered our collective lexicon and gained traction because of many of the same reasons that YouTube has... anybody can be a star. The really good ones can become famous, like Mike Florio's profootballtalk.com, which has become so influential that it was bought up by NBC and Florio left his day job as an attorney to work on the blog full-time.
However, a terrible element of blogs sounds eerily familiar... anybody can be a star. Any Joe, Jim or Bob can start a blog (like me) and just start ranting and raving and making accusations with no repercussions about anything, be it baseball, or politics, or religion or shoes. While many prominent journalists do in fact now feature their own blogs, they are held to journalistic standards of integrity that many bloggers simply don't adhere to. If Buster Olney accuses an MLB star of using steroids or beating up his girlfriend or hating puppies, he had better have some good evidence or sources to back up what he says. Without this, his professional reputation takes a dive, and anything he says in the future will be looked upon with wary eyes.
If you don't believe that, take a look at the issues that Sports Illustrated's Selena Roberts has created for herself. She was at the forefront of the rush to tar and feather the Duke University lacrosse team over rape allegations in 2006, and even after the allegations proved to be just that, Roberts steadfastly refused to apologize or retract anything she had written about the falsely accused, and rightly took alot of heat for it. Roberts' recently published book about Alex Rodriguez received endless media attention prior to its release, but this attention has turned into less than 20,000 copies of the book actually being sold. You don't think that part of the disappointing sales of the sensational tome about A-Rod are due at least in part to the past misfires of its author? I know I do.
I'd like to think that as someone who learned about media ethics and responsibility in college and then worked with both teams and media on the Division I college level, I hold myself to a higher standard in what I write, and that I don't say anything that isn't either a) true or b) fair. If everyone with a blog did the same, maybe baseball bloggers on the whole would be seen more akin to Buster Olney, and less so to Selena Roberts.
As far as 'the stain of steroids left on all players who were a part of that era,' that would be best covered in another posting. So I think I'll end this one and start working on that one.