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Fennelly: Storm clouds on baseball's horizon

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Published:   |   Updated: June 8, 2013 at 08:37 AM
ST. PETERSBURG -

A storm is coming. You wouldn't have known it Friday, as the Rays and Orioles gathered at Tropicana Field — or in the 14 other ballparks where series are being played this weekend.

But the storm is coming. It's going to be a whopper.

The Biogenesis PED scandal is about to bust open. Major League Baseball has turned seedy dude Tony Bosch. He's going to inform. Bud Selig will be lighting cigars with 100-game suspensions. Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and others look like goners. It'll be the biggest drug bust in baseball history. The game's lawyers have issued subpoenas for phone records. Gosh, couldn't they just call the NSA and get them?

A storm is coming. It will be historic.

“It's going to have some kind of connection to the Black Sox scandal,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It's going to resound that way.”

Good.

There's no way this game should allow a second generation of steroids cowboys. The last one, the days of Bonds and McGwire and Clemens and Palmeiro, tainted an entire era.

It's true that there are a lot of you yawning right about now. Who cares about steroids anymore?

Well, we should care.

One of baseball's darkest days is on its way. And it should be.

“It's no one in here, no one on this team,” Rays all-purpose man Kelly Johnson said. “But it's good if it happens. It's only a matter of time before we make this completely clean. We're not there yet, but this will be another step. But it's going to be such a weird and unprecedented deal.”

The storm is coming. And when it is over, A-Rod will look like a bigger snake than he is now, which is saying something, and Braun will look like the rascal in chief, having denied PED use again and again. He'll be Lance Armstrong without the bicycle.

“This is going to be a bit of a mess between baseball and the union,” said Rays outfielder Sam Fuld. He's right. Baseball is risking labor peace in becoming a PED avenger, going after past users who've mostly beaten the testing system.

Who cares?

The sense I get is that the time has come, that there are actually ballplayers who are clean, lots of them, and they're tired of holding their noses as the union defends some of these cheaters.

“I think we're all happy that they're continuing to weed out some cheaters, eliminate the cheating,” Fuld said.

There's a storm coming, a big one.

It didn't have to be that way. If only Selig and baseball owners and players had been even remotely interested in cracking down on steroids, before McGwire and Sosa bashed their way through the summer of love in 1998, or Bonds, with a hat size equal to Mr. Potato Head, rode into the records books. We wouldn't be in this current mess.

“I do believe this is probably going to be the last mega-storm to hit us,” Maddon said. “I think after this, and if the punishments are harsh enough, no one is going to want to go down that path again.”

I'm not sure that 100-game suspensions will be enough. Melky Cabrera was suspended last season. He then signed for two years and $16 million with Toronto. These losers just keep on winning.

It's about integrity and right from wrong. It's about swinging a real hammer. We stood by and watched the last steroids generation soil the game, even if it didn't put a dent in attendance. We don't need two steroids generations.

Maddon made a great point, Rays-wise.

“It matters because the level playing field is what permits the Rays to be consistent contenders,” he said.

The logic: The rich teams go after the big numbers guys, whether the numbers are drug-inflated or not, which drives up the prices on even the clean guys, who the Rays already can't afford.

“With PEDs part of the game, it totally prevents us from being able to win consistently,” Maddon said.

Plus, it's cheating. And it's time to stop it.

Enjoy the games, but know this well:

A storm is coming.

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