To Begin Baseball’s Healing

bizarro-baseball-without-steroidsI love baseball.  I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember.  I have vague memories of Tito Francona (my first favorite player) hitting .361 in 1959 and watching on television the Dodgers/White Sox World Series that year.  As a child growing up in the ’60’s the numbers that I knew by heart were 61, 2,130, 56, .406, .367, and the previous year’s .era and batting average of every Cleveland Indians player.  I loved Bubba Phillips, Daddy “Wags”, Jim Perry, Jimmy Pearsall, and Woody Held.  Friends called me “Pedro” after Indians second-baseman Pedro Gonzalez.  Baseball records and statistics were only surpassed in affection by glossy pictures of my heroes and bubble gum.  And when a great record was broken, it was so impressive, I could hardly believe it.  But my days of heroes long ago ended with Pete Rose’s betrayal of the game I thought we both loved.  I captained my college baseball team in SW Ohio while Pete played in Cincinnati and always wished I could play like him.  But Pete sold out.  How could he betray “the greatest game ever invented!”

But Pete Rose now looks like a choirboy.  The “Roid Boys” of the last twenty-five years now have destroyed the game in ways “Shoeless Joe” and “Charlie Hustle” never imagined.  There is now only one solution-throw out all the statistics of the last twenty-five years.  They never happened.  It was only a St. Elsewhere’s dream.  Let’s begin the season of 2009 all over again.  We can put 2009 in the record books right after 1985 and throw out all championships, records, all Hall of Fame inductees, and all records as if they never happened.  For forty years I followed the mediocre to horrible Cleveland Indians, until the teams of the mid-nineties arrived.  Tears swelled my eyes in 1995 when the Indians actually made the World Series.  I really didn’t believe that I would live to see that day.  My dreams of pennants had always been trashed by injuries to the arm of Steve Hargan or discovered holes in the swing of Cory Snyder the year he and Joe Carter graced the cover of Sports Illustrated predicting the year of the Tribe.  But were my 1995 tears wasted on players who were juiced?  Will we ever know what caused the rapid demise of Carlos Baerga, whether Albert Belle’s outbursts were roid-rage, how Jim Thome became so big, or whether Manny Ramirez really is the greatest “natural” right-handed hitter of this era or any era?

The recent revelations concerning A-Rod are the final straw.  Like Raphael Palmeiro he looked into the camera and lied about being juiced.  Now we know that truth about Bonds, McGuire, Clemons, Sosa, Giambi, Rodriquez and many others, some named, some yet to be revealed.  Is the lowly Jose Canseco the only one who has been speaking the truth in the last few years?  I want to know the names of the other 103 who tested positive in 2003.

Nothing about the steroid era can now be believed or trusted.  These users and abusers must be castigated.  There is no place in the game for cheaters and law-breakers who “doctor” not the equipment but rather their own bodies.  Do we really realize how immoral this is?  Can we begin to grasp the depth of theft involved in illegally obtaining statistical success for fame and fortune?  They have significantly diminished the immense challenge of the grand game of bat and ball.

I’ve read stories of those who swam in the 1972 Olympics against East German women who had the muscles of men from their steroid usage.  They had an unfair advantage as do any who distort the game by perverting their own bodies.  Ben Johnson had his medals removed when it was proved that he tipped the scales in his favor to win Olympic Gold; the baseball rings, championships, and records of baseball players who betrayed the game, their opponents, and the fans by “fixing” the challenge of the contest in their favor should suffer the same fate as Ben Johnson.

Asterisks are useful and can be placed in the record books, but why stop there? Let’s remove their names altogether.  No juiced player should enter the Hall of Fame.  They should be whited-out from the game and quarantined like Rose.  And what are we to do with a commissioner who has turned his back on the game while lawlessness prevailed?  Selig ignored the obvious in the 1990’s while Sosa and McGuire were reviving interest in the game through their mythical home run race.  Selig sold his soul and the soul of the game for the enhanced revenue brought in through these bionic behemoths.  Every owner and journalist who truly loves major league baseball should immediately jump on the bandwagon to derail Bud from his position of authority for failing to be the watchdog of integrity during his reign.  We are angry and disgusted.  We want justice through prosecutions, suspensions, bans, asterisks, whiteouts of records and resignations.  These actions and time alone will provide the healing for the game and the fans who have been pierced to the heart by those we trusted as its stewards and inheritors.