Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Baseball To Ban All Player Punishments

How much money was spent compiling the Mitchell Report? How much time? How many hours were spent interviewing people, being denied interviews with people, researching phone and email and credit card records, searching through dumpsters, and finally writing the 409-page report?

Last week the players' union boss and the commissioner of baseball did exactly what the report recommended: they totally disregarded it and decided they will not and will never punish anyone named in the report who was found to have cheated.

Why did they make this report? Why was it news? Was the only intent to ruin the names of players and former players, without actually formally punishing anyone? Do you know what I would do if I was caught red-handed doing something that was illegal but had made me millions of dollars, but then was told I would not be punished? I would probably find a way to keep doing it. Even if I get caught again, the union will probably get me off, and even if not, I will make millions in the meantime.

The LA Times' Bill Dwyre wrote a column yesterday about this and he used Marion Jones as one example who was actually punished for cheating. Yes, she lied to Congress, but that had nothing to do with her being stripped of her Olympic medals and records. She was stripped of her medals because she cheated. But not a single baseball player will be stripped of a single single!

Cycling is mocked and discredited for being saturated with cheaters, but the governors of the sport are leading the way (along with the Olympics) in showing how to clean up a sport - they enforce rules. Cycling tests riders constantly, goes into their hotels during races and does searches for drug paraphernalia and bans riders for two years for a single positive test. Do you know who won the Tour de France, his sport's most glorious crown, last year? Probably not, but you know he was clean (2004 brain surgery survivor Alberto Cantador, by the way). Do you know who won the home run crown, baseball's most glorious individual crown? Probably, but you aren't sure if he's clean or not. So which sport is in trouble?

Not that Cycling has it perfect either. Last year, two American cyclists were banned for a year each because they failed to appear for random tests at an event that they were not competing in! The bans on Cale Redpath and Alice Pennington were later lifted of course, but at least the US and World Anti-Drug Administrations actually act in their sports and will admit if they are wrong.

Baseball players did not get what was coming to them. They just signed bigger deals, raised my ticket and hot dog prices and laughed their way to the bank (and in the near future the hospital, no doubt). How many World Series rings are resting on the inflated fingers of cheaters? How many innocent guys should be stripped of theirs because their teammates were cheaters. But that is messy - you can't go back and take away awards and titles, right? Tell that to Marion Jones' Olympic Gold medal winning, world record setting teammates.

Selig made this grand move to have the Great Senator George Mitchell, the Man Who Saved Ireland, come in and clean up his sport. And in the end, he found out the who, what, when, where, and how (we knew the "why") of baseball's cheating ways and promptly brushed it under the rug. But I am sure the players' consciences are killing them and they won't cheat again, even knowing there are no repercussions.

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