Saturday, February 7, 2009

Denial, Steroids, Money, Lying, The Law, and The Breakdown of MLB

Wow, what a title! I can't believe I'm about to start rambling about something that's got me all riled up. So, A-Rod is a "roider". Are you surprised? Sad? Angry? I'm just a bit more cynical about everything related to this breaking story and you should be too.

The back story is that in 2003 MLB players were tested "anonymously" for steroid usage. They were promised that the results would be kept secret with each player assigned a number and the only matching databased situated in the LBC- my birthplace. A year later, the samples would be destroyed. Now that it's 2009 we find out that a) the samples weren't destroyed, b) the test results came out, c) the guilty users were named, d) Alex Rodriguez was one of them. I won't go into the concept of secrecy and grand juries and "leaks" and other breakdowns of our justice system- that's a whole separte rant. But don't you love how this simple information (that was obtained illegally) has already killed his reputation before any sort of due process?

Of course steroids are illegal, and between Jose Canseco, Ken Caminitti, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, we've covered 15-20 years of this topic being a lightning rod in MLB. Those who deny it and break records are chastised. Those who say it was a mistake are forgiven (Andy Pettitte, Jason Giambi).

The bottom line is that of course the money involved in baseball is just too good to pass up. With a few good years of service, a decent player can secure a multi-million dollar contract- never mind those blockbuster deals, I'm talking about your typical .278, 12 HR hitting shortstop. So when the competition is so fierce and the payoff so big, can you blame these guys for looking for a competitive edge? Especially when owners and people like Bud Selig turn the blind eye because to intervene would create controversy, lose fans and drop revnues? Well guess what Bud, you made a lot of money over the past 15 years, MLB has made a lot of money- and you can attribute that to steroids. You brought us back from the 1994 death of baseball by any means necessary- and that means was simply letting things go nutso gonzo. Sound familiar? Take a look at our economy in the U.S. and you'll see the same thing but on a grander scale. Nobody wants to be the guy who calls the cops to break up a great party. Luckily for him, Bud is old enough where he'll be long gone with no personal accountability- with his millions in the bank. The next generation will have to deal with the new tarnished image of our national pasttime and a solution for its recovery- so who's the Barack Obama of baseball? And like the real Obama, won't that guy just look like a flounder when the house of cards is already on its way to ruin?

Does someone really deserve half a million bucks per home run he hits? Well when the revenues are pouring in, then you can afford to pay those types of salaries. And when second basemen are hitting 35 homers, then people are excited and they will pay more to see the most dramatic event at a baseball game. And when a pitcher is close to a record but is breaking down because he's over 40, then what would he do to keep playing for another year? The money is just too much to turn down.

I remember when Tony Gwynn was nearing the end of his storied career. He played only for the Padres, and he'd turned down more money to stay with his team. But when most teams would have cut him off, he whined a bit and got a final two year contract worth about $8Mil. And he really sucked those last two years. Now I'm by no means saying that Tony should be lumped in the same sentence as steroids, but his is a good example of too much money available for players. But what if it turned out that he was a user too? What about Cal Ripken? Or Ricky Henderson? We'll never know about those guys- thank God, because I love their image the way they are (except for my lasting image of ginormous Tony diving into 3rd for the last triple of his career while I'm right above the third base dugout... and the crowd was actually laughing as he grabbed the bag safely- I swear, we could feel him pounding the dirt- but i digress)

So 104 players were found to have steroids in their system- of which A-Rod was one. So who else are we going to find out about? This is complete speculation, but I'm basing it on baseball performance- not evidence.- Jim Thome? Vladimir Guerrero? Randy Johnson? Pudge? Jeff Bagwell? Greg Maddux? John Smoltz? And before you go defend Maddux and Smoltz for being purists, would you ever have suspected a good Christian like Andy Pettitte to have done such a thing? I'm an adult pushing 40 and I love each of these guys that I just mentioned. Luckily I've never been a fan of Bonds or A-Rod or Canseco. But I was crushed about the McGwire speculation. So what happens when one of my favorites gets caught? And what about the favorite players of every red blooded American (and Domincan, and Japanese, and Venezuelan, etc.) child who loves baseball? Oh it will happen. Then where will we be? And how do you repair it? And how do you justify the records that have been broken or are on pace to be broken?

Baseball is essentially screwed- and it has been- again since 1994. This thing that we call Major League Baseball is now the latest PS3 quality video game. And in order for it to get fixed, it will have to revert back to the old Atari format. And let me tell you, nobody wants that now that they've seen this farce that has become the game. But when I was a kid, I sure loved my Atari and would play all night long- because it was awesome- just like baseball used to be.

Thank you Bud Selig. I hate you more than ever.

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