Baseball has warts. Imperfect people create a flawed baseball system. We love the game, but some things need to change. Many of the warts are off the field and behind the scenes. They often impact vulnerable players progressing through the Minor Leagues. Some warts become public with dramatic headlines and scandals, but they often exist out of sight to most fans. Removing the warts is painful, but necessary. People like Eddie Dominguez work to clean up baseball every day.
In the aftermath of the Mitchell Report, Major League Baseball created the Department of Investigations (DOI). Baseball’s own investigators assigned to root out problems surrounding the game. Eddie Dominguez was an original member of the DOI. He previously worked with MLB and the Red Sox while with the Boston Police Department. Dominguez recounts his work with the DOI in Baseball Cop: The Dark Side of America’s National Pastime.
Eddie Dominguez’s work with MLB and the DOI is a gripping story. Multiple scandals played out in public, while others stayed in the shadows. Dominguez translates the DOI’s work, steering away from a police story designed only for those well versed in law enforcement. There is a need to police baseball and the world revolving around the game. When money can be made, people can show their worst side. The most vulnerable within the game need protecting.
Baseball Cop is an engaging book that follows baseball’s recent dark history. Baseball Cop: The Dark Side of America’s National Pastime by Eddie Dominguez hits a solid Triple (7) in our score book.
Spoilers if you continue reading beyond this point. You have been warned.
Baseball Cop is worth your time to learn about the ugly side of baseball. (Hachette Books)
Baseball produces many positives, however there are negatives. The DOI is tasked with investigating and stopping those harming people and the game. Human traffickers control the futures of players, particularly those defecting from Cuba. The traffickers harass, intimidate, and extort players after they arrive in the United States and sign professional contracts. Living their baseball dreams can turn a player’s life into a nightmare.
The abuse of players can start the moment their professional career begins. Coaches and advisers skim part or all of a player’s signing bonus. Signing a professional contract changes the lives of many players and their family, especially those from Latin America. Skimming the signing bonus perpetuates the poverty players are trying to escape.
Beyond the abuse of players, baseball’s concern focuses on what players put in their bodies. The Mitchell Report was an embarrassment, and MLB has sought, at least publicly, to clean itself up. Cracking down on Performance-Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) was top priority for then Commissioner Bud Selig. Baseball instituted harsher penalties for failed drug tests and began investigating the sources of the PEDs. The DOI focused on a Florida health clinic, Biogenesis, run by Tony Bosch. Their investigation connected several players to the clinic and its PEDs. The most prominent player associated with Biogenesis, and Bosch, was Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez eventually received the longest suspension in baseball history for his involvement.
The investigation into Biogenesis exposed cracks between the DOI and MLB. The investigation included the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Baseball did not want another public embarrassment like the Mitchell Report. MLB wanted the Biogenesis case handled in house. The clash between the DOI and MLB played out alongside the investigation.
There are limits to baseball’s willingness to clean itself up. Baseball Cop exposes the good and the bad within baseball. Hopefully the good has a winning record.
You can call me fanatical, old school, oblivious, or just stubborn but I believe there is a right way and a wrong way to play baseball. I cheer for my team, some times maybe a little too hard, but never to the point of being irrational. I prefer the hit and run or the sacrifice bunt to playing for a 3 run home run, although I do not believe there is anything necessarily wrong with home runs, I just prefer to see runs manufactured instead of waiting for the long ball that may never come. This is just how I prefer to see the game played.
There is however, one thing that I absolutely hate seeing in baseball and wish it was completely removed from the game, it is players gaining an unfair advantage through drugs. I do not mind it when players try to gain an advantage by kicking rocks into a speedy runners shoes, selling an umpire on a catch they did not make, pretending to get hit by a pitch, and a million other things that players have long done to try to gain an edge on their opponents. Plenty of people will say that this is a double standard, that both are cheating and therefore they should both be looked down upon. This is how I make the distinction between the two. One allows you to theoretically gain an advantage in winning a game. The other has the potential to do physical harm.
When Derek Jeter pretends to get hit by a pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays, what harm is done by his cheating? Rays Manager Joe Maddon is ejected for arguing, Jeter is awarded first base, the pitcher must now face another hitter but now with a runner on first, Jeter can potentially score a run which could decide who wins or loses the game, and the American League East or Wild Card standings could be altered. This is not good as it could change how the game plays out. Emphasis on this being a game. Jeter did exactly what I believe many other players would do, he sought to, and was successful at, gaining an advantage for his team. Yes he cheated, but ultimately baseball is just a game and there are much more important issues facing the world other than who won today’s game.
When Ryan Braun is taking whatever drug he is using to allow him to play better there is a real danger involved, to himself and to others. Many of the drugs that are available to players do not have a long history of testing so the long term ramifications of using them is not fully understood. There may be long term health concerns associated with these drugs, but I, nor anyone else, should be able to tell a grown man what he can and cannot do to his own body. Everyone has the right to do what they would like with their body, so long as they are not harming others. This is where players like Braun and Alex Rodriguez cross the line. Their use of performance-enhancing drugs puts other players and fans in increased danger. If their drug of choice makes them 5% stronger then it also means that a thrown pitch or a batted ball back to the pitch will move 5% faster. This cuts down on the reaction time for other players or fans to protect themselves against the baseball. In 2012 the average fastball in Major League Baseball was 91.35 mph. A batter has 0.399 seconds to react to the pitch. In this small amount of time they must determine if the ball is a strike or a ball, if they will swing or not, or if they need to protect themselves from the pitch. Ultimately it all comes down to reflexes, because no one can truly think this quickly. Now back to the performance-enhancing drugs taken by a player. If the pitcher is taking the drugs then the 5% boost they get means the opposing batter now has an even shorter amount of time to react to decide to swing or not or to protect themselves. The 91.35 mph fastball is now traveling at 95.91 mph. Giving the hitter 0.380 seconds to react. The lose of 0.019 seconds to react can mean the difference between having your head turned away, your shoulder raised, or your back turned. If the batter is using the the 5% boost could mean a pitcher does not have time to raise their arms to protect themselves, open their glove to try to deflect or catch the ball, or even seeing the ball coming at them at all. Remember this is just the difference which a 5% boost in performance can make on an average fastball. Imagine how short the elapsed time becomes if the pitch is already an above average fastball and the performance increase is more than 5%. The baseball could easily permanently injure a player, or worse.
Major League Baseball is cleaning up the sport and those players who test positive for the performance-enhancing drugs or are associated with them are ostracized from the game. Personally I wish the penalties were harsher than they currently are, but that will hopefully come in time. The average fan has no recourse against these dirty players other than boo them. Giving people a second chance in life is important, but when you damage something that I love it is harder to allow for that second chance. This is why I do what I can to see the game cleaned up and for the good guys in the game to get their time in the sun. the fantasy baseball league I play in has the following six rules:
Any and all players who have been suspended or accused of PED use are ineligible to be drafted or added to the roster later in the season.
If you play a player who have been suspended or accused of PED use, whether knowingly or unknowingly, you must immediately drop the player and leave an open spot in your line up for 7 days.
You can only add a new player to replace the dirty player after the 7 days have passed.
Each player will police themselves in regards to hating dirty players.
If you draft Alex Rodriguez or Ryan Braun, you are a complete moron.
- The following players are on the banned list, plus any who get busted during the season:
I in no way contend that my banning of all dirty players from my league has any real impact on someone like Ryan Braun. I am not delusional enough to think that he remotely cares what I think. However, it gives me and the people I play against the satisfaction of knowing that the players who we use in our league play the game the right way. It is our way of hitting back against the players who cheat in such a way that it could potentially hurt someone.
I love baseball and do not want anything or anyone to ruin it. Yes fans and the media come down harsher on players when they are busted or suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs, but it is because baseball is held to a higher standard. It is America’s past time. During World War II, the Japanese did not yell “to hell with Sammy Baugh”, they yelled “to hell with Babe Ruth”. Baseball and its records are the most haloed among the major sports in America. The media coverage is not as intense or as long when a basketball player starts closing in on an all time record, but with baseball the media attention can become overwhelming when a player closes in on a single season record. Baseball and its fans deserve to have players who respect the game and its history. Major League Baseball has become serious about cleaning up the game and the growing disgust and animosity toward those found to have used performance-enhancing drugs is a sign that the game is on the right track.