Usually, when these things happen, I'm quickly reminded of why I am not even tempted to pay for it on a regular basis.
One of the crown jewels of the network is Bryant Gumbel's series Real Sports. They tackle some generally important topics on that program, and they do it with highly-respected journalists who rarely get caught running out of bounds in their stories. Gumbel does a commentary at the end of each show, and even that is usually well-reasoned and articulate.
However, no one is perfect.
Tuesday night's show ended, predictably, with some thoughts from Gumbel on Mark McGwire's steroids admission from last week. I don't think it's surprising that people are still laying into McGwire. They should be, because it shouldn't take a decade for someone to admit something they did wrong and then act all sorry about it.
You might remember that McGwire issued a brief statement, then took to MLB Network for an hour-long chat with Bob Costas, who used to host an HBO show himself. McGwire did some other interviews, with the well-stated but unrealistic goal of putting the issue to bed before spring training.
If he really wanted to do that, he would have admitted to using steroids in front of Congress, or at any point before he was hired as the Cardinals' new hitting coach.
Anyway, Gumbel used the scorched-earth philosophy of commenting. He named names, left no stone unturned, and may have ruffled a few feathers.
"Finally tonight, an open letter to baseball's usual suspects. Dear Barry, Roger, Sammy and Rafael, I'm writing in hopes you saw Mark McGwire's phony non-apology last week and learned from it. I'm assuming that you, like most people not named Tony LaRussa, got a good laugh out of Mark's crocodile tears and his self-serving claims about truth, guilt and the pharmaceutical way.
"So on behalf of all fans, do us a favor. If and when you're ready to come clean, don't insult us with talk of how much of what you did was God-given and how much was chemically induced. Let us figure that out, OK? And don't play us for idiots. Spare us the lies about talking 'roids for health reasons. We're all grown-ups. You took stuff for the same reason most of us break or bend rules. You thought you could get away with it. And you did.
"You did because commissioner Bud Selig, being Bud, was, of course, asleep at the switch when you suddenly grew Shrek-like necks and bloated biceps. But even Bud's selling absolution these days. He's cheering any and all mea culpas, even half-assed ones. If you don't believe me, just ask A-Rod, Manny, Papi, Jason and the others who've come forward because they had to. There may be no crying in baseball, but there is forgiveness, maybe even enough to get you to Cooperstown.
"In closing, guys, please feel free to share this letter with Bagwell, Nomar, Pudge and all those others who went from hitting homers to power outages overnight. Tell 'em fans are ready to accept what happened. Tell 'em we're ready to move on. Tell 'em that most of us get it...even if they, like you, still don't."
Emphasis mine. I still haven't seen video of the commentary, so I have no clue how it was actually delivered on the show.
I'm all for naming names. If we had taken to this practice from the start, we wouldn't be in this mess right now. And I don't think there's anything remotely wrong with reminding people of names that have been named in the past.
(Especially guys like Ortiz, who continue to deny using PEDs as if drug tests routinely fail miserably and lead to false positives and wrongly ruined reputations.)
However, we should stick to naming names who can be fairly connected to the Steroid Era. While Jeff Bagwell admitted to using andro during his playing career, there is no known connection between Bagwell and drugs that were actually against the rules in baseball.
I can find no actual connection between Pudge Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, and drugs. Yes, Nomar's career was derailed by injuries, and many have assumed that he used, but we have nothing but circumstantial evidence. Same for Pudge, who is still playing.
The reality is that Gumbel's commentary likely does more harm than good. He turns people who may have done nothing wrong on the defensive. Not only that, but he gets away with something we wanted to hang a blogger for doing: speculating.
That Gumbel has been a journalist and worked in media for decades doesn't make it okay. In fact, it makes it more wrong.