Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The question of cheating

My dear friend Bruce, one of over four people, world -wide, who sometimes look at this blog, and forgive it's grammar and spelling errors, believes that I should write about the steroids scandal in baseball. I generally stay away from sports stories because I don't know as much about them as I used to. I could not name more than half a dozen quarterbacks in the NFL, and when the Mitchell list came out, there were a number of players whom I could not identify.

But the steroids story is more than simply a baseball story, it is a story on the nature of cheating, in sports.Not life itself, sports, there is a big difference. I suppose that none of the players involved were technically cheating at anything.For the years involved, baseball did not have a specific rule, or testing program for steroids. Then again, there was no specific rule in baseball against homocide either, but I doubt one could have gotten away with killing a fellow player, although Roger Clemens, one of the alleged drug users, once through a sharp, broken bat at Mike Piazza as a Mike ran to first base.'Roid rage ? who knows ? If Roger had hit Mike in the right spot, it would have killed him. No action was taken against Roger because it was early in a prime time World Series game, and a little thing like attempted murder was not going to get a star thrown out of the game and risk several million potential Budweiser drinkers switching over to "Desperate Housewives"

Cheating has been around baseball for as long as there has been a baseball. Gaylord Perry made the Hall of Fame because of an ability to control an illegal pitch. Whitey Ford used to wear a wedding ring to the mound to nick the ball. Mike Scott of the Houston Astros was never caught scuffing a ball, but a team once collected a dozen foul balls hit off Mike and the all had a scuffmark in the identical spot. The 1951 National League Pennant race was probably decided by the fact that the Giants had a spy in their scoreboard who could pick up a catcher's sign and relay it to the batter before each pitch. Bobby Thompson knew exactly what pitch was coming when he hit his "miracle" homerun. Mike Scott's old teammate, Billy Hatcher once broke a bat and cork came spilling out (causing an opponent to say, "geez, it's like playing the Dalton Gang").The immortal (and steroid laced) Sammy Sosa went to a corked bat after drug testing finally came into the game. I could literally go on and one without having to go back to the players at the turn of the last century, who used to actually trip baserunners or hold onto their belts to slow down advancements on the bases.

And what about drugs ? Since the late 1960s, until just last year, when they finally began testing for it, ballplayers took, as a matter of course, amphetamines, or "greenies". John Milner of the New York Mets said that the immortal Willie Mays used to drink some mysterious special juice to boost his energy.I suspect, no, I assume, that hundreds and hundreds of ballplayers have played the game using performance enhancing drugs over the years. We have hearsay evidence ,from an admitted felon ,that about 80 were using over the past 20 years. One, by the way, was that little shit Lenny Dykstra who hit a walk off homerun for the Mets against my beloved Astros in game 3 of the NCLS in 1986.I knew at the time that that little creep was juiced and believe that the results of that game should be reversed. But other than that one incident, in which any reasonable fan would agree with me, I see no reason to get bent out of shape over any of this. I think that the absurd issue, that the players are a role model for the youth of our country, got put to bed long before Mark Mcguire decided that he wanted to look like Paul Bunyan. Heck, look at football. I read that the Bengals had seven arrests on their squad of 40 last year. There's some real role models for you. A child's role models are his/her parents. As a parent it is up to you to explain to your child how these guys are often the "anti-role models" of society, and to point out their problems and transgresions.

The problem with most of this is the hypocrisy of it all. The Astros released their everyday shortstop a few years ago because his wife claimed he slapped her in the parking lot. A charge later dropped. He was released the day the accusation was made because the Astro owner had promised the one female officer the team had, that they would have zero tolerance for such behavior (admittidly not a bad policy). Assuming Julio Lugo really did slap his wife, the team did the right thing. Now they have picked up a shortstop who has "hard evidence" against him (apparently checks) that he took performance enhancing drugs. But the Astros can't afford to make their new general manager look any dumber than he has already looked this off season, so they will do nothing.

Should the sacred baseball rcords be wiped clean, purged of illegal enhanced performances ? Hell, all baseball records are is one big asterisk. Cy Young pitched from 55 feet, Babe Ruth never had to play a night game or travel coast to coast,Jeff Bagwell had lasik surgery, giving him eyesight that no one but Ted Williams ever had before.Tommy John became a ground ball machine after he had a new procedure done to his elbow that had never been tried. A procedure that would have given Sandy Koufax another 100-150 wins.Walter Johnson never pitched to an African-American player in a regulation game.I'd leave the records alone.

Should the abusers be kept from the Hall of Fame ? Are we going to throw out Gaylord Perry ? Are we going to reverse the 1951 Pennant race ? There is a procedure on entering the Hall of Fame. It is a very stupid one, but there is procedure none the less. Let these maniac baseball writers do what they want to do. Who cares ? If they want to vote against someone who they personally watched grow a head as big as a double Texas Cantaloupe, let them. If they don't want to, fine. For better or worse, they have the vote. If we find out that Hillary Clinton is on steroids, I still want to vote up or down on her next year.

In the final analysis, the baseball fans over the last 100 years have collectively decided that they won't hold cheating against someone. Gambling, yes, throwing games ,yes, making insensitive racial remarks,yes giving up Grand Slams to Roger Freed in critical games(hell yes, Joe Sambito) yes, but not cheating. We have decided that, in the end, it's only baseball.

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