Congress once again steps up to the plate in a useless attempt to play ball

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For the second time in three years, baseball will have a day of reckoning before Congress as steroid use in the game is investigated.

You'd think this country's lawmakers could find something better to do with their time.

Need a list? How about finding Osama bin Laden, winning the war in Iraq or finding a way to get oil prices down. Need more? How about working on healthcare, cutting federal spending, helping students truly get ahead or even looking for ways to stimulate the economy. Not enough? How about looking into the mortgage crisis, building a fence on the Mexican border or even finding a fair way to tax the citizenry.

But baseball?

Roger Clemens announced yesterday that he will appear before a House Oversight Committee to testify about steroid use on Jan. 16. He shouldn't have to and neither should anyone else.

This series of hearings follows Major League Baseball's release of the Mitchell Report late last year. In this, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell spent more than a year investigating the use of steroids in baseball over the past decade. The report linked some 80 baseball players to steroid use over that time, including Clemens. That's surely only the tip of the iceberg.

The report, itself, was ill-timed. And years too late.

Clemens claims his innocence. Guilty or not, the steroid era occurred. It's history that can't be reversed.

And baseball has only itself to blame.

In 1998, baseball officials hid their eyes while embracing Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa who "saved the game" in a homerun chase to break Roger Maris' record of 61 for a season. No one complained then about what steroids meant to the game. The crowds were back, money was being made and all was well.

The homerun frenzy continued to be fueled as Barry Bonds broke McGwire's mark and set a new standard in 2001. Even as steroid use began to be mentioned more as a problem, MLB officials, owners and player representatives ignored the issue. Not until Jose Canseco, of all people, wrote a book naming names did the issue move to the forefront.

Congress called its first round of meetings in 2005 and the hunt for scapegoats was on.

Baseball apparently settled on Bonds as its No. 1 culprit with Commissioner Bud Selig giving little notice to Bonds this past year as he surpassed Hank Aaron's homerun record. Selig should look a little closer in the mirror.

As Selig vowed to look into every player mentioned in the Mitchell Report, he should have been more concerned with his own actions as head of MLB. To ignore the issue for so long, vowing ignorance to it all, only to now pick up the gavel of justice is way too little, way too late. He should have resigned, taking baseball's lack of action upon his shoulders. To now try and go after players is two-faced: he enjoyed the spoils while it was happening and now wants to punish the offenders who he, and baseball, embraced.

And Congress is joining in. For what purpose?

We'll never know the full extent of who and how many MLB players used steroids during that era of the game. To single out a few is a half-hearted attempt to save face.

Congress has more important issues to handle. Meanwhile baseball can't erase its past and each player must live with the choices he made.

That, in itself, must be enough.