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:: Friday, March 25, 2005 ::

:: Clean up Baseball ::
As a diehard Baseball fan, this steroid controversy is a little distressing. As if past labor disputes weren't enough to nearly ruin The Game, this latest hurdle could potentially irreparably derail baseball for the next few years as every little achievement will be scrutinized and overanalyzed in an overzealous witch-hunt.

As much as Jose Conseco's book is a revenge piece against baseball for blackballing him, as much as it's a lashing out to a former teammate whose legacy and admiration is a source of bitter jealousy, that book - and it hurts to write this - just might end up being good for Baseball in the long run. Yeah, it's a book written by a guy who's desperately trying to milk his last few seconds of fame but if the collateral effect is that The Game of Baseball is cleaned up to the point where even the most powerful hitters are beyond reproach, damn the source. I'm usually not one to advocate the "any means to an end" a mentality but it's not like I have much of a say.

But let's look at some facts before pointing the accusatory finger and those indicted; at the time steroids, THG, and other performance enhancing drugs were not illegal. Players could take them without fear of repercussion since technically, it wasn't cheating. By no way am I advocating or condoning steroid use but you have at least seen it from the player's perspective during this period. No one will ever convince me that at least half of the players were on steroids as some have alleged, since by this time there was enough information available to the general public about the risks involved. Still, I'm sure there were a number of players who felt the need to juice up in order either remain competitive or make themselves a few extra dollars. And if there was nothing in the rulebooks mandating its absence, who’s to tell them otherwise? But I think the majority preferred to do it the old fashion way: through hard work and training.

Professional athletes, sports analysts, physical trainers, and numerous other knowledgeable pros will agree that one of the hardest acts in all of sports is to hit a baseball traveling 90 mph with a bat that has a circumference not much larger than the ball itself. Steroids will not help someone make contact with the ball. Pete Rose, one of the greatest hitters of all time, wasn't known for hitting homers. Will it make a person who can hit a baseball hit it further? Even that’s debatable since you have to factor in not just strength but timing, bat speed, swing angle, etc. Case in point; 6'3"240lbs., 28 year old Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski hit 35 home runs (and a very good .294 career batting average) in the last 4 years playing in a ballpark that’s known to allow a higher than average number of homers. He's likely in the prime of his career. 6'3" 215lbs., 36-year-old NY Mets catcher Mike Piazza has 100 homeruns in the last 4 years, this is while competing against the slightly better pitchers of the National League as well as playing in a large pitcher's parks his entire career. (In fact, six times Piazza hit more homers in one year than Pierzynski had in the last four.) All during the waning years of his career, where his body is starting break down. Neither has ever been accused of steroid use, yet both are, in their own ways, very prolific hitters. Now, I know that this is an overly simplified, not-even-close-to-scientific sample of the MLB but I’ve made my point. (I think.)

And this whole Congressional hearing circus... The House Government Reform Committee issuing subpoenas for who know what. Shouldn't they be more focused on reforming, I don't know, government? (I'm just saying.) As if congress doesn't have enough to deal with - war, Halliburton, Weapons of Mass Destruction and they decided to focus on: Baseball. Good choice. That went absolutely nowhere. Government has many roles but one thing they absolutely cannot do is try to legislate morality. It's something that the league has to do itself. All it did was sensationalize an abrasion on the skin of America's pastime and the result was embarrassment for The Sport and a tarnished legacy of one its most beloved figures. (Never mind the endless fodder for late night jokes: Mr. Palmeiro, what are you most embarrassed of: the steroid allegations or your Viagra commercials?) All Mark McGwire had to do was say "I did not use steroids. Ever." Did he really think anyone would believe Conseco's word against his? And yet, on such a grand stage, he choked. He was overcoached. He went against instinct. Instead of swinging away, he was thinking too much. He had a meatball over the plate on a full count and he struck out looking.

As many problems as Baseball as had over the last couple of decades, it didn't need this to drag it down any further. Fortunately, the comeback that it has made the last several years seems to be holding since interest and ticket sales have held steady. I really want to believe that in a few years, thanks to heavier policing and stricter accountability, Baseball can be played and viewed without any questions. I wrote this last summer:

"...if Webster was a baseball fan, you'd see a picture of a baseball diamond next to the word 'good.' Even when the baseball is bad, people will still show up in droves because it's still good. This is what something as storied as baseball can do. It inspires. It draws people together and unites them. People will revere it, people will write songs and create movies about it. Families and friends will not only go to a ballpark, but will a make pilgrimages to one.

"Baseball is good."

More than ever, I want those words to ring true.

:: Miscellaneous Ramblings by Dan-E at 1:07 AM [+] :: | 0 comments

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