Tagged: Performance-enhancing drugs

Baseball Cop

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
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.

DJ

2017 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

The Winning Run will be turning five years old this year, which means we should technically be halfway to receiving an official Hall of Fame vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA). Instead of waiting until we are voting for real, why not get some Hall of Fame voting practice in to work out the bugs.

There are 34 former players listed on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot this year. 15 players are returning to the ballot after receiving at least 5% of the vote during last year’s balloting. There are 19 new players appearing for the first time. Trimming the vote down from 34 players to no more than 10 is not an easy task. Some players are easier to exclude than other but there are about 15 players who demand a hard look and who are not easily removed.

lee-smith-2016-hall-of-fame-ballot
Will Lee Smith finally be elected in his final year on the ballot? (www.si.com)

As I have stated previously, I despise the use of PEDs in baseball and all other sports. Players, like Manny Ramirez, who have tested positive for these banned substances made my job a little easier to cull the list to just 10 players. On my ballot you are removed from consideration when you are suspended. Players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were also quickly removed from my list due to their own PED connections. Yes neither player ever failed a test, but the evidence of their use of PEDs is too great for me to consider their candidacy.

The process of reaching my list of ten players meant looking at players who sustained greatness. Having a few great seasons and a decade of mediocre seasons does not mean you get into Cooperstown. Players also had to have an impact on the game, such as redefining a position or raising a team’s profile. The National Baseball Hall of Fame should only enshrine the best of the best.

X

Jeff Bagwell Jeff Kent

X

Ivan Rodriguez
Casey Blake Derrek Lee Freddy Sanchez
Barry Bonds

X

Edgar Martinez Curt Schilling
Pat Burrell

X

Fred McGriff Gary Sheffield
Orlando Cabrera Melvin Mora

X

Lee Smith
Mike Cameron

X

Mike Mussina Sammy Sosa
Roger Clemens Magglio Ordonez Matt Stairs
J.D. Drew Jorge Posada Jason Varitek

X

Vladimir Guerrero

X

Tim Raines Billy Wagner
Carlos Guillen Manny Ramirez Tim Wakefield

X

Trevor Hoffman Edgar Renteria

X

Larry Walker
Arthur Rhodes

Tim Wakefield would receive an honorary vote this year because we love the knuckleball, the longevity of his career, and he was the topic of the first ever article on The Winning Run.

mlb_g_mcgriff_576
Will Fred McGriff and his 493 home runs make it to Cooperstown? (www.espn.com)

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are the saddest cases concerning Hall of Fame voting and the steroid era. Both players had the talent and skill to be Hall of Famers without the chemical assistance of PEDs. Bonds is truly one of the greatest hitters to ever step into a batter’s box and Clemens is arguably one of the greatest pitchers ever, often compared to Walter Johnson. They would undoubtedly be in Cooperstown now if they had chosen to stay clear of PEDs. They were able to sustain their peaks and lengthen their careers through unnatural means, but at what cost? Players like Sammy Sosa, also on the ballot this year, did not have the talent to ascend to the Hall of Fame without PEDs.

Voting for the Hall of Fame, even if unofficially, is a difficult process. Many players deserve consideration for enshrinement in Cooperstown through their accomplishments on the diamond. The cases for enshrining many players who are not in the Hall of Fame are valid. However, the case that a player elected to the Hall of Fame is undeserving means the bar for gaining election to Cooperstown must remain high. Many players come close, but only the best earn admission into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

DJ

Jenrry Mejia’s Exit

Three strikes and you are out is baseball 101. Apparently, Jenrry Mejia only understands this when he is on the mound. Mejia is the first player permanently banned due to failed PED testing. He has now failed three different PED tests since April 2015. Three failed tests in ten months is a quick way to find yourself out of baseball. Everyone makes mistakes, but Mejia seems to be unable to understand his mistakes and correct them.

Jenrry Mejia floated between the minor leagues and the Mets between 2010 and 2013. He appeared in 43 Major league games between 2010 and 2013. In 2014, he finally established himself as a legitimate closer, finishing 49 games with 28 saves for the Mets. Mejia had 98 SO and 41 BB in 93.2 innings in 2014. The Mets looked to have found their closer of the future. Then the 2015 season arrived and just as quickly as Mejia’s star rose in 2014, it fell.

Jenrry Mejia.jpg
Jenrry Mejia could have been the Mets closer of the future, but now it is all gone. (Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)

On April 11, MLB announced Mejia had tested positive for stanozolol and was suspended for 80 games. Stanozolol is a synthetic steroid, made famous by Canadian Sprinter Ben Johnson who tested positive for stanozolol at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics and subsequently stripped of his Gold Medal. Mejia served his 80 games and returned to the Mets on July 12. He pitched in seven games before MLB announced on July 28 that Mejia had again failed a PED test. Mejia was now suspended for 162 games having tested positive for two different drugs, stanozolol and boldenone. Boldenone is a veterinarian steroid, not meant for human use, that builds muscle and endurance when used in humans. It is bad enough to be suspended twice for failed PED tests, but Mejia failed the test twice for stanozolol. When you fail a test the first time, whether the failed test was due to a mistake or an attempt to use PEDs, it would make sense to alter what is going into your body to prevent another failed test for the same substance. Instead, Mejia doubled down on the same drug and added another drug for good measure. Coming so soon after his rise, the Mets and the rest of professional baseball must wonder if Mejia’s performance was real or if it was chemically enhanced.

Mejia managed to make it through the rest of 2015 without failing another PED test. He would serve the remaining 99 games of his suspension in 2016 and then rejoin the Mets for what, the fans in Queens are hoping, will be another trip to the World Series. Instead, on February 12, MLB announced Mejia had failed a PED test again, the third time, for boldenone. While he finally stopped using stanozolol, Mejia failed a second test for boldenone. This third failed test means Mejia is now permanently banned from MLB.

Jenrry Mejia Prayer.jpg
Jenrry Mejia’s only hope now may only come from above. (www.remezcla.com)

There are many reasons a player would want to be mentioned in the same sentence as Pete Rose, but joining Rose as the only other living member of the permanently ineligible list is not among them. Mejia’s stupidity has cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars, potentially millions. His banishment from baseball reaches beyond MLB. Mejia cannot simply sign with a team in a league in Japan, Korea, or elsewhere as international leagues usually respect MLB suspensions and refuse to sign those players. Mejia finds himself on the outside of baseball looking in. He could potentially sign with a team during Winter Ball, but the paychecks and length of the season are much smaller. There is some good news for Mejia. He can apply for reinstatement after one year. If granted, Mejia would have to sit out an additional season, meaning he would miss two complete seasons before he could return to the diamond. Mejia is only 26, so it is feasible for him to return to the mound. Although time is somewhat on his side, I am not sure how forgiving MLB will be with someone who has failed three tests within 10 months.

In some ways, MLB may use Jenrry Mejia to set an example. Mejia may not be a superstar like Andrew McCutchen or Bryce Harper, but he is far from a player who barely made it to the majors. Mejia was looking at a long and successful career with the Mets. They believed in him enough to resign him even after two failed tests. The reality is the number of chances a player gets depends on their skill and Mejia’s skills on the mound made him a risk worth taking. Now the failed PED tests change everything. A player failing a test when they are barely hanging on in the low minor leagues can kiss their career goodbye. A superstar,like Ryan Braun, can continue his career without worrying about job security. It will be a tarnished career though and shows that MLB’s drug testing is accomplishing its intended goal. It will never catch every drug cheat, but catching Mejia three times shows it is not giving players a free pass.

Any time news comes that a player has failed a drug test, there is usually a quote from the athlete saying something like, “I do not know how this substance got into my body. I never knowingly took this substance.” People then roll their eyes or believe in the statement, but the player remains forever marked as a drug cheat. Personally, players who fail drug tests make me sad, sometimes angry. It’s hard to believe a banned substance accidentally entered their body. I’m sad when I believe they made a mistake and angry when the player appears arrogant with their bluster exploding after their failed test. Players like Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez are the public face of those players who no longer get the benefit of the doubt, and it is all due to their own egos and how they handled the media fallout from their failed tests.

ryan-braun-steroids-miami-clinic
After multiple failed tests, Ryan Braun seems surprised no one believes he did not cheat. (Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)

Jenrry Mejia failed three different tests with two different drugs. While it may sound a bit odd, I would be more willing to believe any plea he might offer of innocence if he had failed the tests for a different drug each time. The counter-argument there is that he may have been changing drugs in an attempt to avoid detection, plausible and likely true. However, it would have been equally likely that he stopped using the source of the drug to avoid another failed test, but as bad luck would have it, he was negligent again of knowing exactly he was taking. I readily admit that failing three different tests on accident is extremely unlikely, though still possible. Mejia, however, seems to have believed that he could beat the test. He failed spectacularly three different times. You fail the first test, whether you are dirty or clear you will reexamine and adjust what is going into your body. Instead, Mejia continued as he was doing and added another layer of drugs. Not surprisingly, he failed another test. Again, you would think he would change what was going into his body. Instead, he only stopped using the stanozolol while continuing to use boldenone. Coming as a surprise to no one, Mejia failed his third test. Why would you continue to take the same drug you failed a test for before when you know the next failed test could end your career?

Jenrry Mejia was stupid, either willingly or through neglect. Either he is the worst drug cheat in baseball or he is extremely unlucky. Regardless, he has failed three separate PED tests. Ultimately, it does not matter how Mejia has found himself banned from baseball, he now finds himself on the outside looking in. The argument about whether gambling or PEDs are the bigger threat to the game is moot; both sides have a legitimate case but are both being equally addressed. While Mejia hopefully collects himself and cleans up, baseball is left to savor a bittersweet victory. The MLB Drug Policy is working. It is not catching every player using PEDs, but it is catching some. Once they are caught they are serving their punishments, which in the case of many are career altering and in the case of Jenrry Mejia the punishment can be career ending.

DJ

Hall of Fame Class of 2016

Congratulations to Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza on their election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Both players are deserving of this, the greatest honor that a baseball player can have bestowed upon them. While the destination was the same, the path to Cooperstown could not have been more different.

Ken Griffey Jr. is the son of three-time All Star, Ken Griffey Sr.  He was drafted first overall in the 1987 MLB Amateur Draft. Griffey reached the Majors on April 3, 1989, less than two seasons removed from playing in high school. Griffey’s swing was beautiful, pure grace, often imitated but never duplicated. His combination of speed and power seemed to be effortless. The smile of Griffey’s face never waned. Ken Griffey Jr. was the face of baseball for a generation.  He was cool, and he brought swagger to the batter’s box. His love for the game made him loved by his fans and respected by his rivals. Ken Griffey Jr. will be the first player selected with the first pick in the Draft and inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Griffey was an almost perfect baseball player, and his 99.3% of votes (the highest of all time) means he was almost the perfect candidate to be enshrined in Cooperstown.

Seattle Mariners

Ken Griffey Jr. was nearly the perfect baseball player, his spot in Cooperstown is deserved. (Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Mike Piazza was and is tough. No player has ever made it to Cooperstown without being tough, but Piazza practically wrote the book on being the toughest. Piazza was drafted in the 62nd round (1,390th overall) of the 1988 MLB Amateur Draft. The Dodgers selected Piazza only after Mike’s father asked his childhood friend Tommy Lasorda to draft Mike as a personal favor. Piazza finally made it to the Majors on September 1, 1992. During his career, Piazza displayed his toughness by catching 1,630 games (13,555 innings); there is nothing easy about playing catcher in the Major Leagues. Piazza had power. His swing was muscle-driven and unique yet it could send a baseball into orbit. He was unwilling to back down from anyone. Even when Roger Clemens sawed Piazza’s bat off then threw the barrel of the bat back by him. The whispers about PEDs use have remained that, just whispers. The moment Piazza stepped on a Major League diamond, he proved that he belonged. For me, that goes a long way towards silencing those whispers. Mike Piazza seized the opportunity to play professional baseball through toughness and hard work. He went from being a draft pick the Dodgers took only to fulfill a personal favor to a Baseball Hall of Famer.

Mike Piazza Swing

Mike Piazza’s toughness took him from the 62nd Round to the way to Cooperstown. (www.espn.go.com)

The National Baseball Hall of Fame will welcome two new members in the summer of 2016.  Their paths to Cooperstown could not be more different, but that is what makes baseball so wonderful. A player whom everyone believed in and a player whom no one believed in can both forge careers then deservingly be enshrined among the greatest players to ever play the game.

Congratulations Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza! Thank you for everything you did on the diamond. Welcome to Cooperstown.

DJ

The Home Run King, 40 Years Later

40 years ago today, April 8, 1974, Hank Aaron surpassed Babe Ruth as the all-time home run king with his 715th career home run. The most revered record in Major League Baseball, perhaps in sports, passed from arguably the greatest player ever to a man who faced increasing racism with every home run he hit as he approached Ruth. The grace which Aaron displayed in the face of the ever increasing threats and media pressure showed the true character of the man. He was, and remains, a well-spoken and confident man, but you would never confuse his confidence for arrogance, he let his greatness speak for itself. Hank Aaron remains one of the great ambassadors for the game of baseball.

715 Sailing into the night.

715 Sailing into the night.

Aaron’s 715th home run is one of the most memorable moments in baseball history. The packed house at old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium with the Atlanta Braves playing the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers before a crowd of 53,775. Al Downing pitching for the Dodgers. The high kick and Downing delivered to Hank Aaron. The ball flying over the ball over the left-centerfield fence with the quick and easy swing. Announcer Milo Hamilton and Vin Scully each giving their own infamous call of the home run. Braves centerfielder Dusty Baker pointing towards the fence as he rose from a knee on the on-deck circle. Dodger leftfielder Bill Buckner climbing the wall trying to make a play. Braves relief pitcher Tom House catching the ball, and eventually returning it to Aaron. Davey Lopes, the Dodgers second baseman, and Bill Russell, the Dodgers shortstop, congratulating him as he rounded second base. The two fans running onto the field and running along with Aaron as he headed for third. The mob of people who greeted Aaron at home plate, the bear hug his mother gave him. The short, yet eloquent speech,

~“Thank God it’s over.”

While I was not even born yet when this happened, I have seen and heard about Aaron’s 715th home run enough to feel like I was there. Just watching a video of it gives me a bit of butterflies in my stomach. It is a truly magical moment in baseball history.

Fans running with Hank Aaron.

Fans running with Hank Aaron.

The man who broke Aaron’s record had a very different experience as he marched towards the record. The closer Barry Bonds came to hitting 756, the louder the noise become regarding his use of performance-enhancing drugs. More and more debate about whether he should even be, playing or if he should be suspended for his transgressions, or if his accomplishments should have an asterisk next to them. Yes Aaron faced an onslaught of racism, and no doubt Bonds did too from similarly ignorant people, although it seems less so which showed the progress of American society during the in the 33 years which Aaron held the record. However, I believe much of the ridicule and animosity against Bonds was due to his own actions. Aaron is by no means a perfect person, but Bonds epitomizes the steroid era and its assault on the record books. This for many baseball fans was, and is, unforgiveable.

Bonds is the all-time home run record holder, I do not dispute this. I was alive when it happened, so you would think I would remember more of the details of his breaking Hank Aaron’s record. It happened less than seven years ago, so it has not been that long ago. However, if I were to be put on the spot all I could tell you is the game was played in San Francisco in 2007. Not much else.

The story of Bonds’ historic night is much less romantic. On August 7, 2007 Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s record during the Giants game against the Washington Nationals. He hit the home run off of Nationals pitcher Mike Bacsik, before a crowd of 43,154. Bengie Molina was on deck. It was not nearly the same celebration of the game and its records which Aaron passing Ruth elicited. Bonds passing Aaron should be a moment that is played over and over again by Major League Baseball, but it is not. Putting it mildly, Bonds is a polarizing figure in baseball, ask Jeff Kent. His mere presence at Giants Spring Training this year set off a media frenzy about whether he should be there. He was also asked again about his performance-enhancing drug use, which he still tap dances around. Bonds will never be the beloved figure that Aaron is; it is just not in his personality.

Barry Bonds launching 756.

Barry Bonds launching 756.

Where does this leave us? In my opinion the Home Run King remains Hank Aaron, even though Barry Bonds has hit more home runs. The performance-enhancing drug cloud which surrounded Bonds’ career, especially after he became a San Francisco Giant, has led to cries for him to be stripped of his records. I am strongly against the use of PEDs, and believe those who are found guilty of using them should be punished, as I have previously stated here. Throwing someone out of baseball is not the same as removing their records and statistics from the game. Pete Rose was thrown out of baseball, but his records remain. Pose like Bonds is an integral part of baseball history which should not be forgotten, good or bad. Bonds, judging by the 36.2% and 34.7% of votes he received in his first two years of eligibility for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame, will never receive the ultimate honor of being enshrined with the immortals of baseball. This will have to suffice as his punishment.

Like Pete Rose, Bonds will be remembered but never honored in Cooperstown for his accomplishments. The argument against removing Bonds from the record book is simple, if you start with him, where do you stop? Do you remove Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, what about Leo Durocher for his relationship with known gamblers, or Ty Cobb for his pronounced racism, and the list goes on and on. If baseball does decide to throw all these players, coaches, and other associates of baseball out, who plays the judge and jury? This is an entire other debate. You can ban someone from baseball, but you cannot change what they did. It would alter the outcomes of games, and there would be no end to revising the history of the game. Revising history makes the record book a mockery and without any value to be reverenced. Bonds and the steroid era are a part of the history of baseball, not necessarily a good part, but nonetheless it is a part that should be remembered.

Bonds watching 756

Bonds watching 756

Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds are two very different people. Aaron goes about his business with a quiet confidence and people truly listen when he speaks, as they have respect for his insights and opinions. Bonds has always had more flair and more of a demonstrative personality, which has rubbed many people the wrong way, just ask Bonds’ Pirates Manager Jim Leyland. People tend to only listen when Bonds speaks because they are waiting for a confession, not because they respect him. Neither Aaron’s or Bonds’ approach are completely right or wrong, they are just different. Both players were among the elite when they played. Both were clearly Hall of Fame caliber players, however Bonds chose to hang on to his youthful strength a little longer than father time would naturally allow. While Major League Baseball and the Players Union have in recent years become serious about weeding out the cheaters in the game, Bonds was like many players before him and after him seeking an advantage. Some players use a corked bat, like Sammy Sosa, or a foreign substance on the baseball, like Gaylord Perry, Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs. While I wish all sports could rid themselves of these drugs, the past is the past. It happened. Baseball, and sports in general, has two choices. They can remember the past, both good and bad, and learn from it. The other option is to revise or erase the past and over time repeat the same mistakes. There are two options, but only one should ever be taken. It is best to remember the past and its blemishes and to work to never repeat those mistakes.

The Home Run King

The Home Run King

40 years ago, Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’ record for most career home runs in Major League Baseball. While Aaron no longer holds the record he is still the Home Run King. Simply having the most of something does not make you the king of something in sports; rather you are the record holder. Cy Young holds the record for most career wins, but he is not the King of Pitching. Arguments can be made for Sandy Koufax, Christy Mathewson, Tom Seaver, and a few others. The title of King is reserved for those who are among the elites, yet also receive the reverence of the fans. Aaron had the record and lost it. However, Bonds has not been enthroned as the Home Run King because he lacks the admiration from the fans, and I doubt he ever will, and he has only himself to blame.

D

The Dilemma: The Pete Rose Story

Pete Rose. Just the mention of his name can flood the minds of baseball fans with memories of Charlie Hustle. Sprinting to first after drawing a walk. Sliding head first into third. Colliding with Ray Fossee during the 1970 All-Star game. Standing on first trying to hold back tears after passing Ty Cobb for the all time hits record. Shoving Umpire Dave Pallone during an argument. Commissioner Bart Giamatti announcing Rose has been banned from baseball for life. Being interviewed by Jim Gray during the All Century Team ceremony and avoiding all discussion of his ban from baseball. Everyone of these memories and countless others are how we remember Pete Rose, but the good is overshadowed by the bad. Pete Rose was and continues to be banned from baseball for betting on games he managed.

Baseball, and those who run it, have long been concerned about keeping the integrity of the game intact. They have gone through gambling scandals, recreational drug using players, racist and insensitive players, owners, and executives, steroid and performance-enhancing drug using players, and numerous other unsavory episodes throughout baseball’s history. However, the one which has the greatest ability to damage baseball is gambling. Fans want the games to be played on the level with everyone trying to win. Fans often do not care what a player thinks about different issues, nor do steroid using players do so to lose the game. They are seeking an advantage over their opponent. If you take away the belief that everyone is playing to win, then you could reasonably see the death of any sport, including baseball.

Charlie Hustle

Charlie Hustle

Baseball’s first Commissioner, Kennesaw Mountain Landis, understood this in the years following the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Gambling could destroy baseball and something had to be done. In 1927, after several more isolated occurrences of gambling in baseball, Landis created Rule 21 in 1927. Section D of Major League Baseball Rule 21 states:

  1. Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform, shall be declared ineligible for one year.
  2. Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.

It is plain and simple, you do not have to translate the rule from legalese to understand that if you bet on baseball you will be suspended for a minimum of one year, if you bet on your own team, even to win, then you are gone forever. Not just for life, forever. Or as Michael “Squints” Palledorous from The Sandlot would say, “Forever. FOREVER. FOR-EV-ER. F-O-R-E.-V-E-R!”

All Time Hit King at work

All Time Hit King at work

The latest round of attention on Pete Rose and his banishment from baseball is from the book by Kostya Kennedy, Pete Rose: An American Dilemma. Sports Illustrated has an excerpt from the book in its March 10th edition. We are also approaching the 25th Anniversary of Sports Illustrated reporting that Rose bet on baseball, which the magazine first reported on March 21, 1989. The question of whether it is time to reexamine the ban on Pete Rose is posed in the except. Rose remains extremely popular in Cincinnati and with his former teammates. Fans flock to see him and to get his autograph at shows. Portions of the media, including baseball fanatic and ESPN’s Keith Olbermann support the reinstatement of Rose. While I enjoy listening to Olbermann talk about baseball and its history I could not disagree with him more that Rose deserves to be reinstated.

Is there really a dilemma?

Is there really a dilemma?

Rose should remain banned from baseball for his transgressions, as there are some violations of the rules which deserve a death penalty of sorts. Yes, America is the land of second opportunities but Rose chose to abuse his second chance. Rose broke the rules, much like the performance-enhancing drug users I have referenced in previous here. The difference is Rose sought to alter the game through means which had been against the rules of baseball for 36 years prior to his first appearance. The performance-enhancing drug users were going around baseball’s lack of drug testing and enforcement to gain an advantage. Once the rules changed, only then the rules were reflective of creating a level playing field based upon what a player could and could not consume.

Gambling was and is forbidden by Major League Baseball and yet Rose chose to ignore the rules. He had opportunities to come clean long before he did, but never did. He could have admitted what he did to then Commissioner Bart Giamatti and pleaded for mercy. I am in no way suggesting that admitting he had bet on baseball, specifically on Reds games, would have softened the penalty levied against him by the Commissioner. I would suggest however that being honest and forth coming could have changed the hearts and minds people over the last 25 years and potentially allowed for Bart Giamatti in the weeks after handing down the ban, or his successor Fay Vincent, or Bud Selig, or the next Commissioner of Baseball to alter the punishment. The truth could have set Rose free. He could have been credited with good behavior and had his sentence commuted to time served. Instead he continued to lie and to profess his innocence against the charges against him until he released his autobiography, My Prison Without Bars, in 2004. Even his confession was unbecoming a player of his stature. Rose tried to stick it to Major League Baseball as he was making money on his confession through the sale of his book, instead of coming to Major League Baseball to beg for mercy. He never faced the truth until it was also a way for him to benefit from it. I have no issue with people making money off of their accomplishments, such as former Presidents writing books about their time in office or entertainers selling their memorabilia to the highest bidder. The problem with Rose is that he could have made money off of his accomplishments and come clean, but he chose to do them both at the same time. To say the least this is in poor taste. This raises the question: are you confessing because you are ready to tell the truth or because you want the book to sell more copies?

Commissioner of Baseball, Kennesaw Mountain Landis, doesn't play games.

Commissioner of Baseball, Kennesaw Mountain Landis, doesn’t play games.

If Bud Selig or any future Commissioner decides that Pete Rose should be allowed back into baseball and is removed from the permanently ineligible list I believe it would do two things. It would set an extremely bad precedent and it would also be unfair to the other individuals on the permanently ineligible list. Why should Pete Rose be allowed back in and not the others. Allowing Rose back into baseball would enable people in the future to cite his reinstatement as the precedent for reducing their penalties. Imagine if Rose had been reinstated three years ago. Would Alex Rodriguez been able to point to Rose and argue that his season long suspension should be reduced to 100 games? Would Ryan Braun been able to argue that his first failed test should not count against him because he had not been previously warned not break the rules? The what ifs are too great. The reinstatement of Rose has the potential to allow the worst of baseball to remain in the game and to continue robbing the game of its integrity and the fans of their belief in the sport.

Shoeless Joe Jackson's ban needs to be reexamined by MLB.

Shoeless Joe Jackson’s ban needs to be reexamined by MLB.

George Bechtel, Jim Devlin, George Hall, Al Nichols, Bill Craver, Dick Higham, Jack O’Connor, Harry Howell, Horace Fogel, Hal Chase, Heinie Zimmerman, Eddie Cicotte, Happy Felsch, Chick Gandil, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Swede Risberg, Buck Weaver, Lefty Williams, Joe Gedeon, Gene Paulette, Benny Kauff, Lee Magee, Phil Douglas, Jimmy O’Connell, and William Cox. These are the 26 men who for various reasons ranging from gambling, to jumping between teams before free agency, to car theft are on the permanently ineligible list for Major League Baseball. Pete Rose is #27. If you reinstate only Rose, then I fully expect an explanation as to why he received special treatment. Is it because he is the only living member of this exclusive “club”? If you allow Rose back in for time served then the rest of these men should have been reinstated a long time ago. William Cox is the only person to be banned since 1925 besides Rose. If reinstatement is to happen then you cannot pick and choose. Baseball would be at best hypocritical to allow Rose in while keeping another one of the games great hitter, Shoeless Joe Jackson, out of the game. I firmly believe that Jackson’s banishment should be reexamined as there is sufficient evidence that suggests he was not a part of the Black Sox Scandal. It is impossible to know for certain, however I do know that the cries for letting Rose back in should fall on deaf ears so long as there is not a serious consideration of allowing the rest of the banned players, an umpire, and an owner back in. They should all be in or all be out, not split up. None of those who were thrown out for betting on baseball were breaking the rules, they are the reason the rule was put into place. They were thrown out because they broke the trust between players and fans about playing to win every game. Rose does not have that argument, as the rule was in place long before he got to the Majors and he still chose to ignore it.

The Black Sox, did they all throw the 1919 World Series?

The Black Sox, did they all throw the 1919 World Series?

Rose is banned from baseball but he is still getting along fine. He is a constant presence in Cooperstown during the Hall of Fame inductions each summer. The Hall of Fame in which his accomplishments are recorded, but which he will never become a member. He makes a good living doing public appearances and signing autographs, and so long as he pays his taxes he has little to worry about financially. The realization that time is no longer on his side and the ban from the game he love has teeth is becoming, I believe, more painful every year. His ban does have some holes in it. He has been allowed back on the field for being a part of the All Century Team and on the anniversary of breaking Ty Cobb’s hits record. He was on hand when his son, Pete Rose Jr. made his Major League debut. Rose has not been totally thrown out in the cold. He is close enough to the proverbial fire to feel a little of its warmth but not close enough to bask in its glow, and for me this is as close as he should ever get.

Rose broke a single rule of baseball. The impact which his transgressions could have on the entire game warranted the measures Commissioner Giamatti took and all subsequent Commissioners have upheld. What Pete Rose accomplished on the field should be celebrated by those who love baseball, but he should also serve as a warning. No one, regardless how great they are, is bigger than the game. There is no dilemma about Pete Rose for me. He is and should remained banned from baseball. His gambling could have fractured the foundation upon which the game has been built upon for over 100 years. Everyone is playing to win. He should not receive special treatment while the other members of the permanently ineligible list are ignored. Major League Baseball cannot pick and chose who they will and will not reinstate. You either reinstate them all or you leave them as they are, banned. Pete Rose made his mistakes and now he has to pay the price, the only living member of a club no one wants to join.

D

Is This Real Life, Or Is This Just Fantasy

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.

Fooled ya!

Fooled ya!

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.

Imagine stepping into the batters box if Aroldis Chapman threw 5% harder.

Imagine stepping into the batters box if Aroldis Chapman threw 5% harder.

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. You can only add a new player to replace the dirty player after the 7 days have passed.

  4. Each player will police themselves in regards to hating dirty players.

  5. If you draft Alex Rodriguez or Ryan Braun, you are a complete moron.

  6. 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.

Better to have a broken bat than broken face.

Better to have a broken bat than broken face.

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.

D