Monday, August 5, 2013

For the Love of the Game

For the Love of the Game
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
August 5, 2013

While Alex Rodriguez was neither the first, nor unfortunately will he be the last Major League Baseball player linked to the PED scandal, his is the biggest bat in the latest line up of suspensions handed down by the league since late July. The 211 game suspension will run through the remainder of this season and all of the 2014 season.

This scandal stems from the Miami clinic, Biogenesis, now closed, supposedly having provided nearly two dozen professional baseball players with performance enhancing drugs (PED). Rodriguez, according to Biogenesis, utilized PEDs during the years 2010-12. There have been allegations he used PEDs since 2003 when he played for the Texas Rangers. His nickname should be changed from A-Rod to A-Roid.

The combination of the performance enhancing drug/steroid scandal has given MLB a rather enlarged black eye and a potentially permanent stain on the game of baseball if the statistics racked up by players such as Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, et al are permitted to stand – even with an asterisk.

All statistics and records should be expunged, all awards such as, but not limited to the Cy Young and MVP should be rescinded and awarded to the next qualifying player, and none of the tainted players should ever be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Pete Rose should earn his rightful place in the Hall before any of these cheaters is allowed to set foot into Cooperstown without first having purchased a ticket for admission.

“Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” ( This is the standard by which the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) is to do their jobs when considering membership to the vaunted Hall, as they are the arbiters of admission.

The recalcitrant Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers finally sucked it up and took his 65-game suspension, costing him approximately $3.5 million. Well, boo hoo, cry me a river. MLB called Braun’s behavior “violations of the collective bargaining agreement and joint drug agreement.” If Braun feels any contrition, and after two years of denials, I suspect he does not, he would have the decency to return his 2011 National League award.

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig needs to conjure up the stones to hand down a lifetime ban to Rodriguez and set an example and precedent that this kind of cheating and any kind of cheating will not be tolerated or permitted. A first time offender should be handcuffed with a one year suspension sans pay, of course. A two-time loser should earn a lifetime ban and a loss of pension. This should also pertain to those laboring in the Minor League system – with no chance of seeing life in the MLB.

A lifetime ban of Rodriguez would have been appropriate based upon invoking Article XII (B) of the MLB collective bargaining agreement, stating: “Players may be disciplined for just cause for conduct that is materially detrimental or materially prejudicial to the best interests of baseball, including, but not limited to, engaging in conduct in violation of federal, state or local law.”

Contracts of the miscreant players should be considered null and void and all future contracts going forward from this MLB decision, if they do not already, should contain a morals/substance clause. However, MLB teams should not be allowed to benefit from the dissolved players’ contract. Those dollars should remain on the books used to calculate the league’s luxury tax threshold, therefore not allowing such teams to load up on available free agents or attempt to raid other teams who may not be able to afford to keep certain players. Teams should not be entitled to benefit from a player’s bad behavior. In the case of Rodriguez, he stands to forfeit roughly $31 million. Boo hoo, cry me another river.

For the love of the game, restoring integrity to America’s national pastime should be priority one for Selig, the sport as a whole, the teams, the players, as well as the fans who expect to watch a clean game.

For the love of the game, these overpriced primadonnas, and make no mistake, I am a huge fan – dumb enough to come back after the strikes of 1981 and 1994, should have more respect for the game, themselves, and the fans. While I do not begrudge the players their salaries, and I must not as I still attend the occasional game, this is a capitalist society, and those who don’t want to put money in the players’ pockets, can stay home, a strong financial impediment should also be attached to the game suspensions.

So many players say they play for the love of the game and that they are privileged to be allowed to play at such a high level. Let them put their money where their mouths are. For returning players following their 50-game suspensions, they should play for minimum wage. Not the current MLB minimum salary of $490,000, but the national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Additionally all professional baseball players should be subjected to five random drug tests per season, at their own expense, of course.

And for the love of the game, keep the players’ union out of this mess, as they will only make it worse, further tarnishing the game many of us love so dearly. Yes, baseball is a business, and the players’ union has a job to zealously defend their clients, but some things should be above the business of the game.

Aside from Rodriguez and Braun, three other players have already served their suspensions: Melky Cabrera, OF, of the Toronto Blue Jays, Bartolo Colon, P, of the Oakland Athletics, and Yasmani Grandal, C, of the San Diego Padres.

Seven additional major leaguers and five minor leaguers have also been sentenced to, and accepted, their 50 game suspensions. From the bigs are Antonio Bastardo, R-P, of the Philadelphia Phillies, Everth Cabrera, SS, of the San Diego Padres, Francisco Cervelli, C, of the New York Yankees, Nelson Cruz, OF, of the Texas Rangers, Jesus Montero, C, of the Seattle Mariners, Jhonny Peralta, SS, of the Detroit Tigers, and Jordany Valdespin, OF, of the New York Mets, along with minor leauguers Fautino de los Santos, Sergio Escalona, Fernando Martinez, Jordan Norberto, and Cesar Puello. The MLB players are eligible for post-season play should their teams make the playoffs, which is another mistake, as they should not be given such a reward for their deleterious behavior.

Rodriguez should be banned for life, a punishment with which former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent agrees. “I hope he does it,” Vincent said of Selig and punishment to be meted out before Monday, August 5. “It’s right for baseball.”

While that was not the ultimate decision handed down by MLB, Selig must garner an iron fist regarding substance use if he is ever to salvage his legacy as commissioner. And while this issue is certainly not about the salvation of Selig’s legacy, cleaning up the game of baseball, which is what gave the MLB its initial commissioner following the Black Sox scandal of 1919 in the first place, should be paramount.

A message must be sent not just to major and minor leaguers but to all those who play baseball and softball at any level of the game from little league through college. PEDs and steroids are body altering substances whose effects can be long term and far reaching, and most definitely injurious to the body.

Alex Rodriguez is merely a symptom of a greater problem in baseball. For the love of the game, Rodriguez must go and go now. His fellow PED users and any future ballplayer considering their use had better take heed to the ramifications of such actions. For the love of the game, let’s get the dopes and doping out, and get back to our old ball game.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

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