Jose Bautista is on a monster run. In his last 162 games the Blue Jays basher has banged out 64 home runs. That's a historic number. It's exciting. It's thrilling. Well, it should be anyway.
But I have a hard time getting into it. And I know why: The steroid era hangs like a dark cloud over anything that smacks of amazing on the diamond. Bautista might be another victim of baseball's lazy approach to dealing with performance enhancing drugs. Maybe he's perfectly clean and just blossomed late. Later than anyone ever.
I'll admit I was transfixed by the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa duel to break Roger Maris' season home run mark. But the old saying goes "Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you." And baseball managed to out one over on all of us. And they did it over and over.
I remember seeing Alex Rodriguez at his first spring training with the New York Yankees. I had seen him years earlier when he was a youngster with the Seattle Mariners. When I saw him in Tampa, I told my wife he looks like a cartoon character. I never believed he was clean again. And I think it would be absurd to believe that he and all the others caught using steroids and their cousins did it just "once" or a "few times."
I know baseball Commissioner Bud Selig tells us the game has never been more popular. And by the numbers he's probably right. But I can't help thinking something has been lost. Maybe for others baseball still evokes looks of wide-eyed wonder at long home runs and amazing seasons.
Yes, I still love the game. And I still cheer when Prince Fielder sends a missile 500 feet into the bleachers. But in the back of my mind I always wonder if what I am seeing is based on chemicals.
I hope someday baseball will regain my total trust. In a way it shocks me to see the media pump out Bautista stories just like they did about McGwire, Sosa and all the rest. And when someone dares mention the possibility of performance enhancing drugs, he is met with disdain of Internet readers.
I'm not sure what comes after "Shame me twice ..."