Wednesday, August 05, 2009

No, The Players Union Can't Just Release The List

It's a bad thing - for my confidence in the team, not my standing as a fan - when I walk away from a tied game going into extra innings because I know they're going to lose, right? Maybe that "2 and 12 at the Trop over the past two seasons" thing that was lurking in the back on mind. In any case, I'm glad I didn't lose any sleep to see the result. Besides, something else has been on my mind recently:

A few days ago, Bob Ryan wrote a column demanding that the Players Association end the Steroid Era by releasing The List in its entirety. His motives - and the point of this post is not to question Ryan's motives, so I'll accept them at face value - were pure: that disembodied concept known as The Game will never recover from the scandal of PEDs if the names of those unfortunate enough to test positive keep leaking out in a slow drip for years to come, much as they've done since The List's compilation in 2003. To wit:

The union should be taking the lead, the idea being that the cleaner the public believes the game to be, the better life will be in every way for its members. The Players Association should be lending its support to any effort that would catch the cheaters. It is completely in its best interests.

All parties involved should be united in the desire to protect a precious asset - the game of baseball. Baseball has survived assorted crises in more than a century and a half and should be able to survive this one, too. But like many other good things in our society, its day-to-day greatness is sometimes overwhelmed by an aberrant negative occurrence.

Yesterday, Hank Aaron echoed Ryan's call for a release of names and his sentiments about the release being necessary in an interview with the AP and I started to wonder if anyone voicing these sentiments had really contemplated the logistics of such an action. After all, there are some pretty thorny issues at stake.

First, there's the comparatively minor legal problem. The List is, after all, under a court seal (however ineffective it may be) to stop the government from using it in its investigation. The Players Union could request the removal of the seal, but even the slightest hint of such a request would be the death knell for any union executive's career and quite possibly for the union itself, as angry players question whether the group that's supposed to represent them is acting in their best interest. Just as importantly, imagine the precedent that such a decision would set: not only would the union lose any ability to make requests of its constituents, but by releasing the names to the public, it would be destroying the players' expectation of privacy. Cleaning up the game is important - although Jonah Goldwater gives an excellent demonstration of how our feelings about steroids has its roots in a poorly-defined unease - but preserving the sanctity of The Game isn't such a noble concept when you talk about violating the right to privacy. List or no List, we'll can never know the full impact of PEDs on our beloved game. With any luck, the Supreme Court will rule in favor of the Players Union, and we can finally - finally - end this fruitless quest for knowledge we don't really need and move on.