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Friday, March 31, 2006

The National Embarrassment: Major League Baseball

Most of my friends revere baseball. I can't figure out why. Maybe it is a nostalgia thing, remembering a childhood of collecting baseball cards and following the local team. I can appreciate that. I can recall summers spent with my best friend in the neighborhood playing out full baseball seasons on the Atari 2600 and pulling out the appropriate baseball cards when a player was up to bat. But has any sport sunk lower than baseball?

I bring this up because of the latest embarrassment to Major League Baseball. Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams of the San Francisco Chronicle have recently released "Game of Shadows" that highlights accusations that Barry Bonds was an active user of steroids for years. In the wake of this book, MLB has decided this week to launch an independant inquiry into the use of steroids in baseball. The biggest question I have about this investigation is "Why now?"

It is clear that this move by MLB is nothing by a PR move. Bud Selig and MLB are still reeling from Congressional hearings last year regarding the use of steroids in baseball and felt that they had to do something to show that they cared. In announcing this investigation, Commissioner Bud Selig said,

"Nothing is more important to me than the integrity of the game."
Does anyone actually believe that? Does Selig even believe that? MLB has had numerous chances for over 20 years to do something about the steroid problem in baseball.

So can anything good come of this investigation? Of course not. If MLB can somehow compel Barry Bonds to admit he used steroids (which they won't and he won't), then what? Last I checked, steroids were not against the rules of baseball during most of the time Bonds has been suspected of using them.

Of course there is talk of putting an asterisk next to all of Bond's records. How ridiculous is that? If MLB did that, then they would have to put an asterisk next to every records set over the past 20 years. It is a meaningless gesture. And it is too late.

If MLB really cared about the integrity of the game, they would have acted long ago. But MLB has long been one of the worst run professional sports leagues.
  • The '94-'95 labor strike in baseball was a perfect example of the players and the league thumbing their noses at the fans. Since that year, I have refused to pay to go see a MLB game.
  • Of course the financial structure of the league is completely messed up. Unlike other leagues, notably the NFL, there are no salary caps that enable small and midsize market teams to compete. Not that the highest payroll always guarantees success, but this system keeps many teams from every really competing.
  • The financial structure also pretty much guarantees that the best players will move around a lot and not stay with one team. Every professional sport has this to some extent, but it is greatly exacerbated in MLB. And people wonder why kids are following baseball less and less.

My friends: you are better off hanging on to those sweet childhood memories than having them sullied by following the travesty that baseball has become.

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