"One of the game's greatest players has engaged in a variety of acts which have stained the game. And he must now live with the consequences of those acts." - A. Bartlett Giamatti, announcing Pete Rose's lifetime ban from baseball, 1989.
"I accept my suspension under the Joint Drug Program and I will try to move on with my life. I am deeply sorry for my mistake and I apologize to my teammates, to the San Francisco Giants organization and to the fans for letting them down." - Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera in a statement through the MLB Players Association.
"Heard it from a friend who, heard it from a friend who, heard it from another you been messin' around." - REO Speedwagon.
I don't see the difference.
People keep excusing the Major League Baseball steroid era which with each passing day seems like less of an era and more of a backdrop for the past, present and future.
In 1919, eight Chicago White Sox were banned for life because they allegedly took part in throwing a World Series.
Seventy years later, the game's all-time hit leader, Pete Rose, was given the same punishment when it was found out that he had bet on games.
The reasons given for baseball's version of the death penalty being doled out was because these men compromised the integrity of the game.
But the word "integrity" has a flexible meaning in baseball, and I'm still trying to figure out why.
The focus of the scrutiny of the steroid era has been on the individual. Admitted steroid users like Mark McGwire and alleged steroid users like Barry Bonds hold records that are generally considered bogus. The blame and the discussion falls on the individual and his contributions to the game.
But no one ever seems to ask about the contributions a steroid user makes to his team.
No one has said that the San Francisco Giants should vacate their 2002 National League title, even though it's clear they wouldn't have been in that position without Bonds.
What is different now is that players implicated in the use of performance-enhancing drugs can't use the admittedly flimsy excuse of "it wasn't against baseball's rules." Players caught now - like Cabrera - knew they were cheating and took the risk of getting caught.
But here's the thing: As I write this, the Giants are 65-54, a half-game ahead of the Dodgers for first place in the NL West. Cabrera was a huge reason for San Francisco's success. When he was suspended, he was leading the league in hitting at .346, with 11 homers. Beyond that, he was named the All-Star Game's MVP, helping the National League gain homefield advantage for the World Series (in fairness, he wasn't solely responsible for the win, as the contest's 9-0 score can attest).
I'm not suggesting the Giants should vacate the wins in the games Cabrera played, but his cheating helped the team get where it is. But Cabrera's season is fraudulent. His 11 homers were achieved with the help of a banned substance. San Francisco won games because of a fraudulent performance.
Cabrera will pay for it. But will the Giants? In the future, probably, but it's likely they don't feel too bad about acquiring him, if only for the number of games he helped them win so far.
My contention is that cheating not only creates unfair statistics, it creates unfair pennant races.
Some would argue that's worse than anything Rose ever did.
One other thing: If you read Cabrera's apology, it's notable because of those he didn't mention - the clean players. Every failed test only enforces the idea that drugs are still very much a part of the game, and fuel skepticism to every great performance, every great season that follows.
Starting next year, Hall of Fame voters get to decide if players like Bonds and Roger Clemens will make the cut. Both are alleged users, and both, it could be argued, would have made Cooperstown without PEDs. Some likely will use that argument to cast their votes for the pair and others like them.
But to me, it's not about the Hall of Fame, it's about the message. Cheating doesn't just damage a player or a franchise. It damages a sport.
And it looks like the damage is far from done.