Column: Baseball now dealing with the Mitchell ReportPublished 12:00am Thursday, December 20, 2007
By Jon Laging, Talking Sports
Much like the Clem Haskins&8217; &8220;Gophergate&8221; a few years ago, there is a temptation to not write about Major League Baseball&8217;s latest black eye. But like the Haskins scandal it is big news and should be commented on.
All the analysts seem to make the cheating and the surrounding fallout complicated and deserving of many explanations. It&8217;s really not. People took performance enhancing drugs and they got caught. They cheated much like students cheating on a test. Cheating is cheating. On the other hand there is no serial killing involved here. There has not been a hue and cry throughout the land. People don&8217;t seem to care all that much, one way or the other.
Cheating has long been a part of baseball and there has seemed to be a kind of a sly pleasure about it. Listen to Bert Blyleven relate how this or that pitcher used some substance to alter the baseball. His announcer buddy Dick Bremer would chuckle at the tale.
No question about it, baseball has cheaters. But is that so unusual in today&8217;s society. Not really. Cheating goes on all the time and perhaps the more money involved the more cheating. Look at Enron.
Fans like to think baseball, or any sport for that matter, as simple and honest. Not so, folks. When a player signs a contract for a quarter of a billion dollars, baseball enters the arena of big big money and a lot of people will do anything necessary to get a handful of that treasure.
Cheating is going to happen and the best baseball can do is to make it very difficult. Something like safeguarding your home. A burglar can almost always break in if they take the time and effort. What you can do is to make it very difficult and not worth it. That is what baseball needs to do.
Will baseball survive this? Of course it will. Baseball has a large amount of good will and while lagging in this last crackdown, it is reacting. Much like Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis punished the Black Sox, Commissioner Bud Selig will issue some measure of punishment and things will proceed until the next problem.
I don&8217;t mean to make light of or sugarcoat what has happened. Bad things have happened and the game, although not in deep trouble, has suffered substantial damage.
Baseball records have always been very important to the game and now they are less meaningful, for how accurate are the steroid records. Still, recent records will stand for how can they be changed? If you take away home runs, how can you not change the records of the pitchers that threw them. All record changes would have a domino effect.
It also brings into question previous heros&8217; reputations. Did Kirby Puckett juice? No, I don&8217;t think so, but other players of his time may have.
But, perhaps the most concern lies with our children. A young pitcher wants to be like Roger Clemens, the greatest pitcher of this era. The thinking might be; Well, Roger Clemens took steroids, maybe I should.
Bob Shieffer in his Sunday morning program &8220;Face The Nation,&8221; said he wanted to be a Major League player and they chewed tobacco, so he chewed tobacco. If they took steroids, he would have taken steroids.
It seems to me that while baseball&8217;s disgrace is not unusual, it is another example of our society&8217;s downward morality. However, punishment and the proper deterrents to future drug use should come swiftly to solve baseball&8217;s immediate problems. Then perhaps baseball fans can look forward to spring training and a sense of renewal.
Jon Laging writes his regional sports column from his home in Preston.