Friday, December 03, 2004

Baseball Can't Stand Success

It was only five weeks ago that the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series in eighty-six years. It was a great moment for everyone associated with the game, even Yankee fans. Somehow, baseball is never satisfied with success and they have to go out and screw things up. Instead of a player strike, they have now given us a massive scandal involving performance enhancing drugs and the game's best players.

Got Juice? Major League Baseball does.

Tim Kurkjian of ESPN is claiming that what Pete Rose did is worse than that of baseballs juice guys. The guys at TalkingBaseball.com disagree,
I am in no way excusing Pete Rose's behavior. But what these men have done over
the past few years is much worse than betting. They used drugs, illegal ones at
that, to cheat and gain an edge. That is, in my mind, all there is to it.

BaseballMusings.com however, agrees with ESPN’s Kurkjian,



Betting on your own team to win is a form of cheating, because Pete didn't bet
on his team in every game. So he sent a message to gamblers on days he didn't
bet on the Reds that the Reds were going to lose. He also very well may have
managed differently with money on the game or not. It's not a victimless crime.

Personally, I think the difference is in how the sport addresses the issues of gambling and drugs.

Baseball is forever scared because of the 1919 Black Sox scandal in which nine players were paid to throw the World Series.

Because of this scandal, there is a sign posted in every major league clubhouse which states that gambling is the cardinal sin in the game and would lead to permanent banishment.

Pete Rose is such an unsympathetic figure not because he has never shown any remorse, but because he never thought the rules should apply to him.

Players have taken illegal drugs for decades. You could even say the Babe was taking illegal drugs when he was boozing during prohibition. Anyway, the problem of performance enhancing drugs is a relatively new one. Until 2001 the game did not even acknowledge them. Even today, the penalties are absurdly light.

The sad fact that the most powerful union in the country represents people who make an average of $2.3 million per year.

When the steroid problem hit the papers a year ago, Jonathan Leshanski of AtHomePlate.com made a great point,


The truth is that everyone in baseball, with the exception of the clean
athletes, benefits from this illegal use of supplements and stimulants. The
owners get more home runs, more records being broken and more star players,
which will put fans into the seats. The agents want huge numbers and huge
seasons so that they can negotiate bigger and longer-term contracts for the
players and make bigger commissions for themselves.

Perhaps the biggest factor however is the fans - the average fan does
not care that someone’s production jumps 50% from one season to the next or that
a player puts on 40 lbs of muscle during the offseason. They love to see 73 home
runs, 300 wins and other records being shattered. Only the purists, those who
really love the game, are concerned about tainted records and artificial numbers
that are not in line with a player’s lifetime production.

I guess that makes me a baseball purist.

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