Baseball Controversy: Steroids, Canseco & A-Rod

by Suzie Raven

When did baseball stop caring about its image?

We shouldn’t expect Jose Canseco to act with integrity or care about a game that blacklisted him. In his most recent shameless ploy for attention, Canseco claims to have introduced reigning Most Valuable Player Alex ("A-Rod") Rodriguez of the New York Yankees to a steroids dealer currently identified only as "Max." Canseco even wrote a book called Vindicated, about his exploits with steroids in baseball. If Canseco truly wants vindication, he would give baseball authorities evidence against Rodriguez. Then A-Rod could get a hearing and possibly be punished. Instead, Canseco laughs smugly while Rodriguez squirms in the face of threats.

We shouldn’t expect Rodriguez to put the integrity of the sport above his $28 million dollar a year salary, which is the highest in the sport and more than the Florida Marlins' entire roster. Rodriguez has denied steroid use in the past and wisely refuses to comment on Canseco’s allegations. If you don’t have anything smart to say, don’t say anything at all.

We shouldn’t expect Simon Spotlight Entertainment, publisher of Vindicated (the sequel to Canseco's Juiced), to care about baseball’s integrity. Why should these publishers care? Business-wise, a name like Canseco will sell books and bring them publicity. As publisher Jennifer Bergstrom said, "It was a very difficult decision, but we decided it was up to Max to come forward himself." Read: it’s not our problem.

We should expect baseball to protect the sports' integrity, like it has always tried to do. After the White Sox threw the 1919 World Series (now collectively known as the Black Sox Scandal) in exchange for kickbacks from gamblers, Major League Baseball hired its first commissioner. During the labor dispute of the 1970s, owners argued that player demands would ruin the integrity of the sport. Yes, the average salary for a player rose from $34,000 in 1971 to $185,000 in 1980, but that isn’t the point. The owners claimed they wanted to retain baseball’s integrity.

If baseball leaders still cared about the image of a national pastime built around the love of a game, they would investigate players who are accused of cheating. It’s the same song and dance we saw last year with Barry Bonds. Commissioner Bud Selig formed an investigative unit that can explore steroid use by players who have not failed a drug test, after the recommendations in the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs and substances. So far, Major League Baseball hasn't disclosed whether A-Rod is under scrutiny. Canseco says no one has contacted him about it.

During the 1951 Celler Hearing on baseball’s reserve clause, Commissioner A. B. "Happy" Chandler said, “I think it would be a sad day for the game, and a sadder day for the American people if the American people ever got the idea it is a big business and not a sport.” It’s too late for that, but Major League Baseball needs to salvage what it can for the game's integrity. Baseball has been steadily losing ground as America’s favorite pastime and cannot afford to slip anymore.

(For more on the current state of baseball, please see: "2008 Baseball Season: Or, Franz Kafka Takes Batting Practice.")

(Photo by Scyza of Meppen, Germany via stock.xchng. To see Alex Rodriguez talk to CBS News about steroids in baseball in the wake of the Mitchell Report, please check below.)

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Anonymous said...

The worst part is how much it hurts kids. Steroid use among youth athletes is growing at a scary rate.

Dancing Deer, a baking co.from Boston, just came out with an All Natural Batter cookie. It says no artificial ingredients and no performance enhancers. It's a big statement. It's on their site - www.dancingdeer.com. They raise a good question for this time of year, "Why Do You Play Fair?" Makes you think...

Suzie Raven said...

It's sad that cheating, particularly with steroids, has become so prevalent that an "All Natural Batter" is something we feel is unusual...

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