As the birds begin to slowly make their way back to the trees, the days grow longer and warmer with each passing hour. All signs point to the beginning of my favorite season in sports. Every year, I am buzzing with excitement regarding the upcoming baseball season. This season, that buzz is not there. Sure, there is a little excitement about watching some Cub games, but that natural high that I have grown accustomed to having is not there this year. Perhaps it’s due to the new drug testing in baseball this year that has caused me to have to cycle off the juice. God knows I would not want to leave my readers high and dry for 10 days while I served a suspension. Or maybe, just maybe, it is due to something more important.
My lack of excitement this year, i’m convinced, is directly caused by the constant barrage of steroid talk, drug tests, and nit picky accusations this offseason all of which have led to the dreaded mention of asterisks. It has taken all the joy out of a typically high excitement part of the year for me. The question now is how did it come to this, and what does baseball have in store for it as it moves through it’s 2nd full century.
The fact of the matter is, MLB not only accepts, but promotes cheating. Let me say that again, because you read it right. MLB not only accepts, but promotes cheating. Sure, there have been times when MLB has “lowered the hammer” on offenders and offenses that would be considered cheating, but only when those instances directly affect the popularity of the game. For example, with the Black Sox or Pete Rose, both were dealt with harshly due to the stain they brought to the game. All the while, baseball has turned a blind eye to “lesser forms of cheating”, which has as a result brought even greater shame to the sport we all love. In the last two, going on three decades, MLB has turned a blind eye to drug abuse. Players have been given free reign to put anything and everything into their body at anytime. It has gotten to the point now that it is “Use or Lose” So you want to follow the rules and play clean? Better be prepared to not make as much money, probably not win a World Series, and quite possibly not even make the major leagues. I was always taught growing up that “Cheaters never win”. Apparently my mom and dad left off the last 3 words of that cliche, “except in baseball.” For years now, the Olympics have led the way in trying to make their sport as drug free as possible. Competitors are rigorously tested and penalized with penalties as severe as banishment for life. Why are the professional sports, namely baseball, not following suit? It all goes back to this statement. Baseball accepts cheating.
The game looked the other way through the 80′s and 90′s as stars like Lyle Alzado, Doc Gooden, and Lawrence Taylor all struggled with drug abuse. Did they just assume no one else was using? Of course not. The knew players were using, they just chose to keep it unannounced. Baseball knew and still knows that increased muscle leads to increased homeruns. Increased homeruns lead to increased scoring, which leads to more fans in the park, which ultimately leads to more money in the coffers. MLB continuously falls victim to a lost ability to promote it’s own product. Instead of simply marketing a wonderful sport that features so many intricacies, baseball chooses to doctor it product to make it as fan friendly to all. Now, they are paying the price as a dark cloud hangs over the game as a result. Not only does MLB accept cheating, but they promote it. Baseball puts so much emphasis on scoring, that is has forced itself to juice the players and the baseballs they hit, to be able to deliver the type of product the are marketing. Cork Bat? No problem, we’ll just sit you down for a few days, slap your wrist and you’ll be back in action. Baseball promotes cheating.
Oh what a mess we’re in. It’s no wonder i’m not excited about this year. All this mess has led to talk of a horrible, horrible word, the asterisk. Everyone wants one these days, but who really deserves one? That is the question I will seek to address in part II of the post tomorrow.