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It seems that Major League Baseball is taking another image hit this summer. Alex Rodridguez and several high-profile players have received lengthy suspensions for using performance-enhancing drugs; and in Rodriguez’s case trying to cover it up. But maybe it is not MLB that is taking the hit to their image this time. Maybe the individual players will take the hit.
Many people inside the game see this as a true turning point in the fight against cheaters. The reason for this optimism is that a majority of players are coming out and lambasting the cheaters. They want to see them gone from the game as much as the fans and owners.
In the past, the players’ association has taken a fairly hard stand against severe punishment for those caught using drugs but that seems to be changing. As tests become better, the likelihood of false positives goes down. Because of this more of the players who don’t cheat are more likely to be for more stringent testing and more lengthy punishments.
Former Major Leaguers Curt Schilling and Doug Glanville, now analysts for ESPN, even suggested that players might go for a two strikes and your out policy in the future.
Realistically, I don’t think that will happen. The players’ union will be reluctant to give that much power to the owners and the commissioner’s office, but something else that Schilling and Glanville mentioned on ESPN could be a better deterrent. The clean players, which they believe is the vast majority of MLB, will ostracize the cheaters to the point that it might have a deterrent effect.
Neither man is a pie-in-the-sky dreamer type of guy and they realize that there will always be some players willing to risk getting caught in order to enhance their chances of getting a big contract, but they do believe that the sport is on track to become a lot cleaner.
This summer’s Biogenesis scandal comes on the heels of last year’s Lance Armstrong doping scandal. The NFL has not had a major scandal but everyone knows that pro football players do what they can to get a physical edge in what is a sport built on physical strength.
There will always be those who are wiling to cheat in the world of professional sports. There is too much money at stake and let’s not rule out another factor – people who are willing to work hard enough to get to the pinnacle of their profession become obsessed enough with being the best that they lose perspective and find ways to rationalize their behavior.
The question is how much are the fans willing to put up with before they decide it’s not worth the money to go see a bunch of souped up ‘robo’ men playing a game and breaking records that stood for years before science made it possible to break them.
Armstrong brought many new fans to the sport of cycling. Most Americans are not huge fans of cycling; it just isn’t exciting enough for their taste. But Armstrong went to Europe and crushed the world’s best at their own sport and Americans do love a winner. I wonder how many American fans now dismiss the sport because of its reputation for massive cheating?
Will Major League Baseball suffer a similar fate? Have Americans had enough of great players like Rodriguez, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa? These are players who were immensely popular and were seen as role models because of their otherwise circumspect behavior. How many little kids have become disillusioned or worse, taught that cheating is needed to be great at the game?
Another question came up during this latest scandal. One of my co-workers is suffering from ‘scandal fatigue’. He just wants the Rodriguez case to go away. He is sick of hearing about it and sick of hearing Rodriguez lie and make excuses.
So who knows? Maybe this latest scandal will end up being on the players more than the League. After all, MLB has done everything it could to ferret these guys out and they haven’t hesitated because one of them is considered a sure fire hall-of-famer.