Big Trouble in the Big Leagues

Who is Alex Rodriguez? Can anybody tell me who this guy is? I can’t seem to find anyone that tell me what has been happening in his world recently. I might just have to file a missing persons report, maybe the cops can find him?

By following all of the coverage for the last 2 weeks, through all day yesterday, and the MLB games last night, all that I heard anyone talking about was ARod. Not the 12 other players that got suspended for 50 games. Not the couple of other players that get cleared of “wrong doing”. Everyone was talking about a third baseman for the Yankees, who hasn’t played a game yet this season, and who many fans don’t even want on their team anymore. This is part of the problem that is plaguing MLB and its teams. They don’t care about bad press because it is better than no press. 

MLB has seen the popularity in its sport, teams, and players waning recently. The main problem was the last labor stoppage that they had. Baseball anytime that it has received a black eye in public relations has had some type of performance or feel good story, just anything that gets the public to come back to the sport. After the last player strike, that saving grace was Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chasing down Roger Maris’s single season homerun record. That story is turning out to open the public’s eyes to the biggest scandal in the sport’s history, PEDs or Performance Enhancing Drugs.

During the race itself, McGwire was seen with a bottle of supplements that were “legal” at the time called Andro for short. Since ’98 it has been included on the banned stuff and McGwire has been said to have been on other things that gave him an edge. He, like many other players, have stated that nothing in a bottle can help you hit a baseball. Others that have admitted to using PEDs have stated that they did so in response to some type of injury or illness, to help them recover. I don’t care why you took the illegal drugs, IT IS WRONG. There is nothing else to say. Yes some types of steroids are prescribed to help with recovery, but always through your medical doctor (the one doing the procedure or aftercare), and always closely monitered. I am going to take a leap of faith here and guess that if you tell your doctor that they are not allowed in your profession, than that doctor will figure out another method for recovery.

MLB and Bud Selig knew that something was causing these huge home run numbers but didn’t want to “look a gift horse in the mouth”. They saw attendance numbers and tv ratings climbing and thanked their good luck. That has lead the sport to the climax that it reached yesterday. The ending of an investigation that left 14 players suspended (pending their appeals), and everyone talking about the players, not what is fundamentally wrong with the sport or how to fix it. The following is my discussion on how to go about revamping and improving the MLB’s image along with the public’s support of the sport. 

STEP 1: Cooperation
Not 2 people cooperating, but every person that has a stake in the sport. A top down renovation, from the Major Leagues to the Little Leagues. Take a page out of the NFLs playbook on how they are attacking the problem of concussions. The commissioner needs to meet with the lead representative from the team owners and the MLBPA (players’ association/union) just to begin with. They need to decide what they want to do but have the meeting open to public records or even broadcast it. Do they want to clean the sport up or let them play it out. “If” they want to clean it up, then they all need to work together. Stop working at odds and agree that cleaning PEDs out of the sport is in the best interests to everyone involved.

STEP 2: Education
The drugs that do actually help performance. How to better test for those drugs. How the drugs are masked or cleaned from the system. The league, the teams, and the players all need to know these results. Add in a education system for everyone involved to help police the using of those drugs. Make everyone responsible to cleaning up the game. No more excuses like “I didn’t know.”, “I respect peoples’ privacy.”, or “It’s not my job to judge.” 

STEP 3: Punishment
While all of the education is going on, tell them explicitly how the parties involved will be punished. I personally, and have heard a bunch of players agree, think that the punishments need to be increased. Right now, a player can still benefit more from taking PEDs than he will lose by being caught. One positive test, is a 50 game suspension and the forfeiture of their salary during. A 2nd is a 100 game and the 3rd is a lifetime ban. I can understand for there to be a transition period but the 1st step needs to be removed. My idea is 1 season on the first failure, lifetime ban on the 2nd. If baseball wants to stick to 3 strikes, 2nd is 2 seasons, and the 3rd will be lifetime. I don’t see how this is less of an infraction against baseball than the Black Sox “throwing” a World Series or Pete Rose betting on baseball as a coach.

Extend the punishments beyond the players. Make the teams responsible for their players. Make the teams culpable for the cleanliness of their players. First offense for a player is a warning to their team and every other team in the league. The team is not liable for the salary, but on a player’s second offense, the team has to donate the player’s salary to a prevention fund, and have to still count the salary against their team luxury number. I heard that if ARod is suspended, the Yankees actually benefit hugely. They have been above the luxury cap number for a while (no surprise there), but with ARod’s contract gone, their number returns below and their penalty is lessened. That will free up more money for the team to go buy more players with no regards to how the players get their results.

The MLBPA needs to allow the league and teams to void any contracts or at least renegotiate them for any violators of the PED policies. The league should share their evidence with the MLBPA to help avoid the appeals that accompany every suspension. This will help the occurrences of what happened last night, ARod is suspended for the rest of this season and all of next season, but is allowed to make his 2013 debut. How does that show that you are fighting against drugs? Also, no announcements should be made until the entire case is settled including any appeal. 

CONCLUSION: Top Down Change
Have the teams, league, and players all work with colleges, high schools, and childrens’ leagues to promote fair play, policing, and overall education of the drugs and their effects. Teach them young what PEDs can do to negatively impact your body. Work with parents, coaches, and players on what signs to look for in use amongst players. Team up with players that have been caught and players that no longer play, to track down clinics, doctors, and other people that sell and distribute these drugs. Team up with broadcast networks, news outlets, web services, to not promote or talk about guilty players more than just reporting the story once and moving on. 

Baseball is being killed by PEDs. Gone are the strategies for the game. It is won and lost purely by the “long ball”, not teamwork. Baseball is becoming an individual competition masquerading as a team sport. Gone are the teams that play better than the individuals that play. Double switches, hit-and-runs, delayed steals, suicide squeezes, and sacrifice bunts and flies are all disappearing. Strikeouts are rising and walks are diminishing. It is apparent that a free swinger is more sought after than a player that knows the strike zone. 200 strikeouts for a batter is okay as long as he hits 30 HRs and drives in 90 runs. Return the game to the smart players, and take it away from the dumb jocks.

Ultimately Bud Selig and the MLB need to do something. The worst thing in pro sports is apathy from your fans. People care less and less what the sport is doing and that needs to change. And when you promote every at bat of a player that just was announced to be suspended for a year and a half, it is no wonder why that is. Kick out the cheaters, hold those who help the cheaters culpable, and promote those who support clean competition.

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