Like any skirmish where the lines are indistinguishable and the people's loyalties fluid, baseball's conflict with its own dignity knows no front line, no timetable, no heroes.
Well, no heroes before this week.
Seems we've got a lawyer out there with a clock-tower perch, a sniper's rifle and an attitude.
Keep your head down, Barry.
As the Battle of the Bud-ge slogged along – no winners, a few notable losers, the faceless casualties mounting but hardly reaching public consciousness anymore – along comes what appears to be one very determined citizen intent on keeping the hostilities whipped up.
While the players' union respectfully declines to reveal the 104 members who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs six years ago (its negotiated right) and the commissioner wouldn't think to ask (he would like this to go away, not fan it), the decision appears to be no longer in their hands.
'Cause we got somebody on the roof. Personally, I hope he or she stays there for a while.
I generally lean toward the law-abiding elements of society, and there's a special bunk in Bubba's cell for dirty feds/lawyers, but I'll drive the getaway car for this one. There are no lives at stake. There aren't even any careers at stake. Not anymore.
In a sport of clubhouse codes and a lock-down union and sneaky, selfish men who cheated the game, the fans – the folks who innocently bankrolled the deceit – have a person on the inside. We have someone with a conscience, who wouldn't see the truth as Item D in collective bargaining, who loves the game or hates what the users have done to it. Either way works.
Maybe it's more than one person. I don't believe two people would risk their jobs and their freedom for a couple inches of baseball transparency. But, if there are, I hope they toasted their impact on the game, on the conflict, on my Hall of Fame vote.
Over several months, we get Alex Rodriguez(notes) and then we get Sammy Sosa(notes), with most guessing their names and indiscretions came out of the same sweaty corner of the U.S. Attorney's office. That's the agency in possession of the 2003 survey testing results, and that's the agency that as of today is not bound by any agreements between the players association and MLB.
Anyway, there's no way to know what A-Rod did to draw enemy fire – one too many photo spreads, one too many Madonnas, proximity to the all-time home run record, just general principle – but he did.
Along comes Sosa.
First, of course, he'd testified before Congress that he'd never taken performance-enhancing drugs. That was four years ago. OK, fine. He retired, for good this time, and went away. Then, this, according to ESPN, barely more than a week ago: "Everything I achieved, I did it thanks to my perseverance, which is why I never had any long, difficult moments [as a baseball player]. … I will calmly wait for my induction to the baseball Hall of Fame. Don't I have the numbers to be inducted?"
Apparently, the last part was more than our snitch was willing to bear.
Yeah, it's a special kind of presumption of bulletproof, a special kind of entitlement, to deny everything to the world and – worse – Congress, knowing there could be evidence out there to prove otherwise. So, the boys over at the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform might have themselves a new love interest. If their man Sosa intends on defending himself, he hasn't commenced the indignant act yet. His longtime agent, Adam Katz, declined comment Wednesday. But, then, maybe Sosa is still calmly waiting.
Look, it is not as though Sosa had everyone fooled, and that assumes the New York Times' report is accurate. One veteran player considered the allegation, shrugged and said, "Come on. Surprise me. Amuse me." Then he laughed. "Tell me something we didn't all know," he said.
This doesn't change the world. It doesn't change baseball. It might not even change Sosa. But, consider how long it took to get here. It's going to take at least that long to make it go away.
The next 102 names – revealed in one big splash or over five years or longer – aren't the whole list of drug users, of course, not even close. But, they'd do, no different than the Mitchell Report, no different than the random drug test that nabbed Manny Ramirez(notes). Taken one at a time, they're mostly meaningless. Put them together and we get a little closer.
I don't know why our hero took up a position in the clock tower. Maybe to defend the game. Maybe just for the sport of it. The players on the list surely can appreciate that. They were sportsmen once, before they found their chemical shortcuts.
Whatever the reason, I just hope he or she doesn't run out of ammo.