Thursday, February 12, 2009

Allegations & Asterisks

For those of us who truly love the game of baseball, the ongoing steroid investigations and allegations surrounding Major League Baseball in the news this week have been awfully hard to read and watch.

There is more to this for fans of the game than simply whether or not Alex Rodriguez used steroids in response to the pressure of being offered the biggest monetary contract in the history of professional sports. There is more to this for fans than whether or not players like Roger Clemens and Miguel Tejada were stupid enough to assume that their denials before a congressional committee would never be double checked or tested. There is more to this for fans than whether a court of law will agree to release a list of other players, some already listed in the Mitchell Report, some not, who used steroids during their careers. We love the game too much for the specifics of this scandal to really matter to us.

Realizing that the individual season home run record race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa revived baseball after a strike that nearly ended the professional sport for all time, it still isn't acceptable for either McGwire or Sosa to simply apologize for their usage of anabolic steroids. They owe thousands of kids an explanation. Thousands of kids became baseball fans watching that very home run race and they deserve to be apologized to and they deserve every benefit of an anti-steroid campaign. That cannot be the responsibility of the league alone. Make the guilty players pay for that campaign out of their own winnings. Make the guilty players, who wish to remain playing in the league, travel around to baseball towns offering clinics about baseball and educating kids on how disastrous steroid use is. If they want to continue playing in the league a simple apology isn't enough, sitting down with Peter Gammons and claiming your ignorance isn't enough, saying you've been under immense pressure is not enough. Make them pay for it.

There was an article written by a sports reporter for McClatchy that appeared in my local paper yesterday that proposed closing the doors to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown forever. Basically he proposed that the league simply shut the doors and never admit another professional baseball player again. The problem with this proposal is that there are still good and decent players who have been clean their entire career and have treated the game with the respect it deserves. What about a Cooperstown entry for them?

Baseball may be the laughing stock of professional sports these days, but this doesn't mean there aren't still good men playing the game because they love it. Asterisks or not, there are still plenty of young kids who love the game and look up to the players who suit up to play it.

It has been a hard and sad week for baseball fans, but the game remains fundamentally the game we love. This week seems to have made last week's celebration of Hammerin' Hank Aaron's 75th birthday all the more poignant and special.

1 comment:

The Freeman's Journal said...

This editorial (below) appeared today in The Freeman's Journal, Cooperstown's local paper. Baseball is a human institution, and therefore can be reformed like any other. The question is, where is the reform impetus going to come from?

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Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire – and now A-Rod.
Another Hall of Fame Weekend shot to wherever.
If the National Baseball Hall of Fame financial folks really want to get depressed – or some similarly inclined local business person – they can figure out how much revenue will be lost at the HoF gate and by Main Street cash registers because of this suppurating sore on baseball's behind, the continuing revelations about the misuse of steroids and HGH.
How much, on average, did the 84,000 people who came to the Cal Ripken Jr. induction in 2007 spend locally? $10? $15? $20? Even at those low levels, we're talking a lot of money.
(One fellow who came to The Freeman's Journal table in Pioneer Park mentioned his budget for the weekend was $200, but carried away by memorabilia-buying fever, he'd spent $1,000.)
Hard-line baseball fans say the whole thing's been blown out of proportion, that cutting corners – amphetamines in the '60s, doctored bats, spitballs, betting – has long been part of the game.
But that's not the game Americans revere.
The Steroids Scandal is indeed that. The MLB and Hall of Fame response has been insufficient. It's not simply going to go away, and it shouldn't.
To repeat a modest proposal.
As it stands, Bonds, Clemens, McGwire – and now A-Rod – are never going to get into the Hall of Plaques.
But they can if, as Elmer Gantry had it, they're washed clean in the blood of the lamb.
At least A-Rod, when caught, didn't lie about it, which gives him an edge on the rest of them.
The Hall of Fame should reach out to A-Rod and the other headliners and announce a Blue Ribbon Commission, populated by the great-but-tainted stars of recent years. On the steps of 25 Main, they should declare their intent to rid baseball of the scourge of illegal substances, and then they should go ahead and accomplish it.
In five years, baseball will be repaired, and Barry and Roger and Mark and Alex's reputations will be reburnished sufficiently that they can enter the Hall as baseball's saviors. The Hall prospers. Cooperstown prospers. What's not to like?
There are second acts in American lives, and third and fourth and so on. Monica Lewinsky got a TV show. Joe the Plumber has an agent.
We've learned in recent years we can't expect Bud Selig's MLB to do the right thing. So the burden falls to Jane Forbes Clark, the HoF board of directors and its executive staff. They're up to the challenge. Let's get it done.