Aug 5, 2013, 9:18 PM EDT
WASHINGTON — Yes, there were lots of questions (at least 211 of them) Monday after Major League Baseball suspended a bunch of players and Alex Rodriguez for taking performance-enhancing drugs, but one question kept echoing.
Question: How many times over the last dozen years do you think Bud Selig looked jealously across the field toward those National Football League suits?
Think about how many different ways Selig has tried to tackle this PED scandal over the years.
– There was the PIDE (Pretend It Doesn’t Exist) Era. That led to disgrace, ignominy, a tainted home run record, another tainted home run record, another one after that, a dressing down from the U.S. Government, a few thousand yottabytes of bad publicity and an empty Hall of Fame ceremony. So that didn’t work too well.
– That was followed by the MCTIS (Most Comprehensive Testing In Sports) Era, where everybody seemed to think the game was dirty but the Commissioner bragged anyway about how proud he was about the way the game was cleaning itself up. This coincided with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens trials that produced almost nothing, fewer home runs and absolutely no confidence that baseball had anything under control.
– Finally, we moved into the GAROD (Get A-Rod) Era, also known as Fryin’ Ryan, in which Selig and baseball folks put on their deputy badge, loaded the single bullet into the gun, did some investigatin’, and fired serious suspensions at former MVP Ryan Braun, good players Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz, a bunch of other guys and, mostly, Alex Rodriguez, who they slammed with a 211-game suspension because, um, I think because it’s a primorial prime number.*
*Look it up! I did!
And what will be the reaction to this? Will people say: ‘Good for baseball! Cleaning up the game! I think it’s much cleaner now! I’m more of a baseball fan today than I was yesterday!’
Will people say: ‘Good for Bud Selig! Yeah, maybe he was a little bit clueless or entirely negligent in the early days of the steroid scandal but he’s made up for that by punishing these cheating ballplayers and, especially, for coming up with some crazy suspension number for Alex Rodriguez that probably won’t hold up in appeal!’
What will people say? Most of them will say nothing at all because they’re studying for their fantasy football draft.
Yes, how many times has Bud Selig looked across the way and grumbled bitterly about professional football. The NFL has 330-pound offensive linemen who can lift forklifts. The NFL has 250-pound linebackers who move faster than Porsches. The NFL has running backs who can sprint like Usain Bolt, then stop instantly like the Road Runner from the cartoons. And so on.
Meanwhile, if a baseball player hit four home runs in a week, Twitter is dancing with steroid allegations.
The NFL drug tests will get a few players here and there, though few stars. The punishments will be a handful of games. And generally speaking, nobody seems to care too much (or at all) about any of it. Some players have been hurt by players who were found to be using steroids – there seems almost no outrage about any of it. As more than one baseball official has muttered over the last few years: “How does football avoid all of it?”
The answers always seemed too pat to me. I’ve heard it said that the difference is record-keeping – baseball’s records are cherished while nobody cares about football records. I’ve heard it said that the difference is familiarity – fans feel like they KNOW baseball players while football players are hidden behind facemasks and under armor. I’ve heard it said the difference is the violence – football players have to endure so much pain and brutality, that it would be almost cruel to deny them PEDs just for survival.
I have another theory, but first it’s worth taking a moment to discuss Baseball getting A-Rod. It’s worth noting that for all the talk about steroids, MLB has rarely actually caught anybody. They never punished Barry Bonds (unless you believe the owners colluded to keep him out of the game at the end), never punished Roger Clemens, never punished Mark McGwire. Jason Giambi admitted using – no suspension. Gary Sheffield said he might have unknowingly used – no suspension. Andy Pettitte admitted using HGH twice … no suspension. The list goes on and on.
There are good reasons Baseball did not suspend any of these people by the way – but it still paints a picture. And the picture is of a bunch of kids trying to sneak into the ballpark without paying, and the helpless ticket guy (representative of MLB) trying to grab as many as he can, while shouting in a funny Irish accent: “You … little … squirts … get back here … oh … when … I … get … my … hands … on … you!” And in the end the guy catches one, holds up him by the scruff of his neck, and says, “I’ll make an example of this one, I will.”
So Baseball wants to make an example out of A-Rod, and he’s the obvious choice because almost nobody likes him. Well, he brought that on himself. He’s pompous, a bit delusional, strange, certainly a cheater, certainly a liar, and anyway not good enough anymore to have many Yankees fans in his corner.
When a governing body can unload on a wildly unpopular figure they tend do so with gusto and fury and all measure tossed out the window. So Baseball floated the crazy idea of a lifetime ban, cut off negotiations with A-Rod’s people, talked about keeping him off the field in the best interest of baseball and then slammed A–Rod with a suspension four-times longer (and many millions more expensive) than the others. None of it exactly seems “fair” – the guy used steroids to become a better baseball player, like many others; he didn’t torch a village — but when it comes to A-Rod, how many people care about fairness?
“Hit Da Roid!” the New York Daily News cover advised Rodriguez.
“Just Go!” the New York Post said a bit more succinctly.
So, at the moment, most people figure to side with Baseball no matter how big a suspension they give A-Rod. If they ruled that A-Rod should be imprisoned in the Tower of London, it would probably get 73 percent approval rating. But now the court shifts away from public opinion. The appeal process will probably take a while, allowing A-Rod to play. Baseball’s case against A-Rod might rely heavily on Biogenesis’ Tony Bosch, who isn’t exactly Walter Cronkite in the credibility department. They will have to make a strong case that what A-Rod did was SO much worse than what the others did. Maybe they have the goods. Maybe they don’t.
In other words, it could all still lead to another pie in the face for Bud Selig and baseball.
And this stuff never happens in football – at least not with performance enhancing drugs. My theory on that: There’s a fundamental difference in the way many people watch baseball and football. People watch football as pure spectators. Oh we get into the game. But I know of very few people who watch a football game and think, “Oh, I could see myself out there.” People may gripe when a quarterback takes a bad sack or a receiver drops a ball over the middle or a linebacker misses a tackle. But you don’t often hear them say: “Oh man, I could have done better than that.”
But in baseball, many people are more than spectators. Here in Washington at this Nationals-Braves game, for instance, I just saw Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche botch an easy ground ball. And the thought popped into my head before I could stop it: I could have made that play. Of course, I couldn’t have made the play – but I will never convince my mind of that.
I never once see a receiver have the football and his body forcibly separated by a kamikaze hit from a safety and think: “Oh, I would have held on to that.”
That’s baseball. There’s a closeness to the game that baseball fans feel, a connection to the field, a memory of a diving catch made in Little League, a lingering feeling of a softball home run, a sense that if one or two things had gone right that it might be me out there. The players out there are stand-ins for our own baseball fantasies. We want them to entertain our delusions. That’s not necessarily fair, but that’s the game.
Aug 27, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
The Pirates need McCutchen more than any playoff contender needs any single player.
Aug 27, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT
With an $11 million salary for next season Mets right-hander Bartolo Colon is apparently out of the Angels’ price range as they try to upgrade the injury wrecked rotation, but Diamondbacks right-hander Trevor Cahill could be an option.
Aug 27, 2014, 9:46 AM EDT
A guy who has been snakebitten is on his way back to the Snakes.
Aug 27, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT
“That game was probably more impressive than a lot of no-hitters.”
Aug 27, 2014, 9:23 AM EDT
We may not have reached the bottom of the barrel yet, but man, we’re getting close.
Aug 27, 2014, 9:07 AM EDT
Hamels was removed from last night’s game before he wanted to be. And was all passive-aggressive about it in interviews afterward.
Aug 27, 2014, 8:32 AM EDT
There’s cool stuff going on in Kansas City right now. Maybe Ned Yost should focus on the cool stuff.
Aug 27, 2014, 7:09 AM EDT
I don’t believe in destiny. I don’t believe in fate. I’m even pretty skeptical about momentum and the hot hand. But these Royals are testing my beliefs.
Aug 27, 2014, 12:14 AM EDT
We interrupt this regular old Tuesday night to inform you that Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner is working on a perfect game at San Francisco’s AT&T Park. He has not allowed a hit or a walk through seven innings and he’s thrown just 78 pitches despite striking out nine Colorado hitters. Updates to come.
Aug 26, 2014, 11:18 PM EDT
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina took a round of batting practice on Tuesday night at Double-A Springfield and has been cleared to catch five or six innings there Wednesday in his first minor league rehab game.
Aug 26, 2014, 10:05 PM EDT
He didn’t cover very much ground before the dive, but A’s outfielder Jonny Gomes saved a couple of runs with this two-out grab in the bottom of the third inning Tuesday at Houston’s Minute Maid Park …
Aug 26, 2014, 9:23 PM EDT
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen returned in just 15 days from an avulsion fracture in his left rib cage and had hit three home runs in six games since being activated from the disabled list. But he aggravated the injury on this catch against the outfield wall in the third inning Tuesday versus St. Louis …
Aug 26, 2014, 8:56 PM EDT
Joey Votto is finally beginning to make some progress in his recovery from a severe quad strain. According to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, the Reds first baseman began taking dry swings and throwing lightly on Tuesday afternoon.
Aug 26, 2014, 8:01 PM EDT
Watch as Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo reaches 30 home runs for the first time in his young career with this moonshot to the right-center field seats at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park …
Aug 26, 2014, 7:17 PM EDT
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro flew home to the Dominican Republic last Wednesday following the death of his cousin and three close friends in a car wreck. He is back in the Cubs’ lineup Tuesday, having been activated from the bereavement list.
Aug 26, 2014, 6:32 PM EDT
From Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star comes word that Yordano Ventura has been scratched from his scheduled Wednesday start against the Twins due to stiffness around the middle of his back. Liam Hendriks will pitch in his place.
Aug 26, 2014, 5:50 PM EDT
Not so long ago Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik was on the hot seat–and rightfully so, after four consecutive losing seasons–but then he broke the bank for Robinson Cano this offseason and now the Mariners are 71-59.
Aug 26, 2014, 5:35 PM EDT
Mark Cuban may have good reason not to like Bud Selig. But if he’s going to go after him, he should at least do so with facts, not fantasy.
Aug 26, 2014, 5:20 PM EDT
Recently there have been conflicting reports about the status of David Wright’s injured shoulder, but the Mets third baseman is out of the lineup tonight for the second straight game and admitted that he’s still hurting.
Aug 26, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
Here at the end of his tenure, baseball is closer to Selig’s nirvana than perhaps ever before.
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights 31
- Andrew McCutchen departs game versus Cardinals after aggravating injured left rib cage 3
- Mariners extend general manager Jack Zduriencik’s contract 12
- Money, money, money (and Bud Selig’s nirvana) 14
- These days, the correlation between payroll and winning is historically weak 60
- And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights 49
- Report: Cubs calling up top prospect outfielder Jorge Soler 40
- Shin-Soo Choo to undergo season-ending bone spur surgery on elbow 13
- The Cubs grounds crew was short staffed because the Cubs were trying to avoid Obamacare (247)
- Forgiveness for Pete Rose? Not in this lifetime (142)
- Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to sign with the Red Sox for $72 million (96)
- A pitch clock in Major League Baseball? No thanks. (92)
- Even if he’s reinstated, does Pete Rose make the Hall of Fame? (89)