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.
Sep 2, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT
Please keep in mind that the Twins are currently in last place at 60-77 following three consecutive 95-loss seasons and only the Astros have fewer total wins since 2011.
Sep 2, 2014, 1:13 PM EDT
Polanco went 4-for-26 (.153) during his brief demotion and was in a nasty two-month slump before being sent down, hitting just .204 with a .564 in his last 40 games.
Sep 2, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
Toronto transferred infielder Brett Lawrie from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list, which means he won’t be eligible to return to the active roster before the season ends.
Sep 2, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Gambling on baseball is dumb. But Kershaw for the Cy Young Award is a pretty safe bet.
Sep 2, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT
Adams has thrown just 42 total innings for the Phillies with a month remaining in a two-year, $12 million contract.
Sep 2, 2014, 11:35 AM EDT
Or: meanwhile in weird concessions . . .
Sep 2, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT
Neftali Feliz has regained the Rangers’ closer role, but not his old velocity.
Sep 2, 2014, 11:02 AM EDT
And if their shovels are as good as their bats have been lately, they’ll probably dig a hole three miles off target and a month too late.
Sep 2, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT
Among the Giants’ call-ups for September 1 roster expansion is 27-year-old right-hander Brett Bochy, who in addition to being a Triple-A reliever also happens to be manager Bruce Bochy’s son.
Sep 2, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
Credit to Joe Girardi, perhaps?
Sep 2, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT
Overall this season the impending free agent has a 6.03 ERA in 25 starts for the Indians and Cardinals.
Sep 2, 2014, 10:01 AM EDT
Bright side: The Nats’ lead is big enough to where he can rest as much as he needs to in September.
Sep 2, 2014, 9:21 AM EDT
Maybe Houston is totally dysfunctional. But the idea that Porter didn’t know what he was getting into is off base.
Sep 2, 2014, 8:23 AM EDT
Preserved the shutout too.
Sep 2, 2014, 7:10 AM EDT
Four Phillies combine for the no-no. I’m actually surprised we haven’t seen more of these in recent years.
Sep 1, 2014, 11:17 PM EDT
Miguel Cabrera had just one home run in August. He doubled that today.
Sep 1, 2014, 10:09 PM EDT
Bailey is currently deciding whether to undergo surgery for a flexor mass strain in his right elbow.
Jorge Soler is third player in last 100 years with an extra-base hit in each of his first five games
Sep 1, 2014, 9:11 PM EDT
Enos Slaughter (1933) and Will Middlebrooks (2012) are the only others.
Sep 1, 2014, 8:12 PM EDT
Acquired from the White Sox on Sunday, Adam Dunn made an instant impact in his A’s debut this afternoon.
Sep 1, 2014, 7:21 PM EDT
Franco got off to a slow start this season, but he has been on a tear in Triple-A since the start of July.
- We’re not going to pretend that Bo Porter had no idea what he was getting into, are we? 42
- And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights 47
- The Cardinals have moved ahead of the Brewers for first place in the National League Central 29
- No-hitter! Four Phillies pitchers combine to blank the Braves 59
- Bo Porter fired by the Astros 56
- Settling the Score: Sunday’s results — and a reminder of what Labor Day is all about 47
- Reds trade setup man Jonathan Broxton to the Brewers 19
- Miguel Cabrera sits Sunday with nagging ankle injury 13
- Could women play major league baseball? Sure. Right now, though, the deck is stacked against them. (220)
- Albert Pujols plays the “you never played the game!” card (104)
- Great Moments in Drug Testing and Punishment: The NFL Edition (101)
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights (75)
- Baseball is dying, you guys, because no one would recognize Mike Trout in a bar (74)