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.
Jul 12, 2014, 9:38 AM EDT
At the very least, Jordan Zimmermann will not be able to pitch in the All-Star Game next week. His availability beyond that is up in the air.
Jul 12, 2014, 8:56 AM EDT
A quick recap of a busy Friday around MLB, including another loss for the Brewers.
Jul 11, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT
The AL Roster swaps one injured Tiger for a healthy one. Ian Kinsler will replace Victor Martinez.
Jul 11, 2014, 10:35 PM EDT
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle doesn’t expect Gerrit Cole to return to the club shortly after the All-Star break.
Jul 11, 2014, 9:50 PM EDT
Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy will start for the NL All-Stars after all. Miguel Montero makes the roster, taking the place of the injured Yadier Molina.
Jul 11, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT
Marco Scutaro could make his 2014 debut on Friday night off of the bench. He will be inserted into the starting lineup on Saturday.
Jul 11, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
Mark Trumbo has returned to the Diamondbacks a little sooner than anticipated.
Jul 11, 2014, 7:50 PM EDT
Michael Saunders is out with a strained oblique, and Justin Smoak is back in the major leagues after a stint at Triple-A.
Jul 11, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT
More than a month after going on the disabled list with a left finger injury, Carlos Gonzalez returns to the Rockies lineup for Friday’s game against the Twins.
Jul 11, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT
The Mets’ Single-A affiliate, located in St. Lucie, Florida, knows just what to do with the LeBron James jerseys Heat fans no longer want.
Jul 11, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT
Jerry Sands was in line for expanded playing time for the Rays when he went down with a wrist injury three weeks ago and today the team announced that he’ll require season-ending surgery.
Jul 11, 2014, 5:04 PM EDT
Dirt may be turning soon at Wrigley Field
Jul 11, 2014, 4:52 PM EDT
Released earlier this week by the Astros, right-hander Jerome Williams has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Rangers.
Jul 11, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
“He stepped in a hole in the parking lot” is a new one, as far as weird injuries go.
Jul 11, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Not something you see players do every day.
Jul 11, 2014, 4:16 PM EDT
Joe Kelly is back off the disabled list and ready to rejoin the Cardinals’ rotation tonight against the Brewers after missing the past two-plus months with a hamstring injury that was supposed to involve a much speedier recovery.
Jul 11, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Philadelphia’s usual center fielder and leadoff man, Ben Revere, is out of the starting lineup for the second straight game because of an ankle injury.
Jul 11, 2014, 3:26 PM EDT
Too bad he didn’t sign with Seattle or Colorado.
Jul 11, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
Who’s more screwed?
Jul 11, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT
They may still make another move to add catching help following news that Yadier Molina will be out 8-12 weeks with a torn thumb ligament, but in the meantime the Cardinals have claimed veteran catcher George Kottaras off waivers from the Indians.
- Settling the Score: Friday’s results 6
- Rangers catcher Geovany Soto arrested for marijuana possession 60
- Babe Ruth made his major league debut 100 years ago today 48
- Rockies owner: “maybe Denver doesn’t deserve a franchise . . . maybe time for it to find a new home” 79
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights 33
- Masahiro Tanaka diagnosed with partially-torn UCL in elbow 113
- Yadier Molina to miss 8-12 weeks with a torn thumb ligament 31
- Carlos Beltran placed on concussion disabled list after batting practice mishap 16
- Shocker: the Red Sox publicly criticize A.J. Pierzynski after cutting him (191)
- John Lackey on Nelson Cruz: “Not even going to comment … I’ve got nothing to say about him” (143)
- Masahiro Tanaka diagnosed with partially-torn UCL in elbow (113)
- The 2014 All-Star rosters have been announced (103)
- Giants broadcaster says Angel Hernandez “does not belong in the big leagues” (102)