I was reading the USA Today this morning and I stumbled across the opinion section of the sports page. In it, at least 3 people had written letters about how they were fed up with baseball and all of its dishonest behavior. The main focus of all three letters was Barry Bonds, who is the most recent player revealed to have used steroids. They raised the valid question about what should be done with Bonds and his chase to pass Hank Aaron.
Those letters started to get my brain thinking about what my opinion on the whole situation is. For the most part, since the beginning of last year when players began checking into spring training “noticeably smaller”, I tried to use the tested old plan of “close your eyes and pretend it doesn’t exist.” If I didn’t see it, then it wasn’t there. As a fan, it’s my right to try my best to ignore an issue so big it could single-handedly bring down the sport I dearly love. The problem is, Major League Baseball has also seen fit to follow the same age-old plan.
Fan’s Conversation with Selig
Fan: Mr. Selig, there is a growing steroid and drug problem these days.
Selig: There is? I don’t see it, are you sure?
Fan: Mr. Selig, you have your eyes closed.
Selig: I don’t have time for this. I have to get back to working on a deal that would put election candidates pictures on all the bases. Think of the revenue that would generate for our sport.
Bud Selig, the MLBPA, and the rest of the suits that run Major League Baseball have been closing their eyes to a problem that has existed for far too long. It’s time to wake up and realize that the slap on the wrist penalty scale for drug abuse is not working. If it was, why did Camaniti die? Why did Strawberry waste his career? Why did Barry Bonds head swell to the size of a watermelon compared to his rookie year? The fact of the matter is it’s time for a change. It’s time for both the owners and the players to step out, put their differences aside and save the game of baseball.
Everywhere I read, players talk about how they love and cherish the game of baseball. Ripken said it, David Wells says it (in his book “Perfect I’m Not”), and Selig says it. If you all cherish this game that much, then why is no one outraged at the news of the game’s most heralded slugger cheating? Here is my plan.
Drug Testing: Drug tests will be given randomly throughout the entire CALENDAR year, not just the season. You never know when you may be tested or how many times.
1st Offense: 1 year suspension and mandatory drug rehab
2nd Offense: Banned from baseball.
I believe in forgiveness. I understand a guy may make a mistake and accidentally buy something over the counter and fail the test, but with this penalty system in place, you better make darn sure you know what you’re putting in your body or pay the price.
I also believe that MLB and sports in general need to get guys like Victor Conti, BALCO’s lead man, in the lab with their drug testers and use his knowledge to design tests that will not be as easily fooled. He has told interviewers that he would love to be the lead man in charge of the Anti Doping Agency. It’s really not a bad idea. If you’ve ever seen the movie Catch Me If You Can with Tom Hanks, you know that one of America’s greatest counterfeiters of all time eventually joined the FBI as a head of investigation. Some of the best detectives are criminals themselves. Get Conti in there and pick his brain.
Until baseball steps up and opens its eyes, our sport will continue to sink deeper and deeper in controversy. Every spring will be greeted with accusations rather than acclimations. Every World Series will be marred with scandal and resentment rather than joy and celebration. The record book will become more and more tainted and irrelevant. Worst of all, the fans will become more and more jaded. Maybe one day the suits will realize, hopefully it won’t be too late.