Mission ’13: One of The Worst-Kept Secrets

We’re back to our Mission ’13 tag since, like Major Tom’s mission so many decades ago, this mission is also going to end poorly. Our focus now is to wring every ounce of value out of this season and prepare for 2014.

As usual, some of our stories will not be on the Jays. Today’s piece is about Alex Rodriguez and some of baseball’s other cheaters. The worst-kept secret in sports is that some athletes cheat by taking substances that are designed to enhance performance. Major League Baseball’s had its share of these athletes.

If “C” is for “cookie”, then “D” is for …

The second-worst-kept secret is that today was D-Day for the cheaters in Major League Baseball. If you remember Sesame Street, “D” is for discipline. Well, it’s actually hard to imagine anyone but Oscar the Grouch coming up with that D-word, but you get the point…

Ryan Braun was suspended last week, and will miss the rest of the 2013 season (65 games). His story is one of the more irritating, as he failed a test but the chain-of-possession of his test samples was broken and his test was ruled inadmissible. Good for MLB, right? After all, the man just named NL MVP wasn’t technically a cheater. Right.

Alex Rodriguez, Everth Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, and Jhonny Peralta joined Braun in a statement made by MLB today. Others will follow but these are the highest-profile players that have been disciplined in today’s ruling.

Alex Rodriguez (ARod) will be suspended for the balance of this season plus all of 2014, meaning that if he accepts the ruling, his suspension will be for 211 games. Apparently he has no intention of accepting the ruling; he plans to appeal the decision. The risk of this choice is huge: Commissioner Bud Selig has stated definitively that if ARod appeals, MLB will ban him for life. He will join the likes of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and the rest of the ‘Black Sox’ and Pete Rose as being ineligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

The other players will receive a 50-game suspension, as first-time offenders under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Several players, among whom are Bartolo Colon of the Oakland As, Melky Cabrera of the Toronto Blue Jays, and Yasmani Grandal of the Padres, were implicated in the Biogenesis scandal, but have already been punished by MLB for their ‘crimes.’ They won’t be punished further by MLB. A drug-free Melky Cabrera with gimpy gams is a shadow of the player he was in San Francisco. Conversely, Bartolo Colon is enjoying somewhat of revival in Oakland this season. The 2005 AL Cy Young winner is again one of the top pitchers in his league.

Conclusion

I think MLB really dragged its feet on this one. As was suggested in our piece about peds in MLB, they decided to ride the crest of the ped-wave through the mid-to-late 1990s, as records were challenged and gaudy stats were the norm rather than the exception. Baseball’s image is worse now than it was if they’d acted quickly and decisively to clean up the game. They didn’t, and now they’ll pay for their decision, whether it was intentional or unintentional.

That said, I doubt very much that the effect will be either as dramatic or as widespread as the reaction to the labour disputes that cost MLB and its fans the ’94 World Series. The repercussions from that scandal are still being felt in the game today.

Bud Selig and his crew have consistently represented MLB’s stance on drugs in the game as among the most advanced in sports. I disagree. I’m Canadian, and I was shocked by the Ben Johnson Olympic scandal. That was 1988. I think Bud’s a wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed compromiser. I feel let down by those who cheated and by those who should have disciplined them long ago.

Bud Selig has been a popular commissioner among owners because he’s been instrumental in reviving fan interest and helping the game grow. That’s why they pay him somewhere in the neighbourhood of $20 million per season. He’s earned an awful lot of money while baseballs’ reputation has been tarnished even further. I don’t think I can dredge up a lot of respect for him knowing that.

Personally, though, I’m probably not going anywhere. I’m a resilient fan who’s lived through several scandals and I’m more-than-just-a-little familiar with the history of several others. That means I’ll take the long view on this particular scandal. I’ll be cheering for the Jays (and Giants) long after Bud Selig and this generation of baseball players are gone.

The ones for whom I have the greatest feelings are the clean players, the ones who competed at the top of their ability but were relegated to the back seats by the cheaters. I have a great deal of respect for them. The temptation to join the cheaters must have been almost intolerable, but they didn’t yield. It’s on their shoulders that the game will rest in 30 years time.

Think about these guys when you think about baseball:

Jim Thome, Carlos Delgado, Ken Griffey, Jr., Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Derek Jeter, Omar Vizquel, Jeff Kent, Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Larry Walker, Paul O’Neill, Jeff Bagwell, and hundreds of others. There isn’t even a hint of this scandal associated with them. They played the game with honour and integrity.

Wes Kepstro

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