Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Move On!

If there is anything worse than a ballplayer who was juiced on steroids finally admitting his usage albeit in a qualified prepared "confession" it's the sanctimonious chorus of media hounds who wanted more blood in the water.

Mark McGwire's carefully prepared mea culpa before a national television audience (on MLB's channel, by the way, clearly an installed base far less than, say, that of ESPN) wasn't sufficient for a lot of folks who wanted a prostrate, guilt-wracked, shell of a man to plead for his future Hall of Fame votes. Forget it! He admitted using PED's though stopping short of saying they helped his power numbers and that's all he could be expected to do. Did these PED's help him to the temporary record he set for home runs in a single season? Probably. Will his long-term use of these substances prevent his entry to the HOF? Probably. Did he wreck the game? No more than a lot, a whole lot, of other players who were his contemporaries.

But here's the rub: the game wasn't wrecked. It has prevailed. Baseball has a lot of other problems, some of them much bigger, to solve. The people who clamor for truth and reconciliation commissions, many of whom looked the other way at the height of the steroid era, are the ones who need to search their souls now. In private.


Some Guy said...

While I agree that McGwire’s steroid use didn’t wreck the game much more than the other PED users out there—and their numbers seem to be growing every day—I don’t think that means he should be let off the hook.

And I’m not convinced the game wasn’t wrecked to some degree. Sure, games are still played, teams still make the World Series, tickets still get sold, and owners, players, and agents are still making money hand over fist, but an entire era’s worth of players are viewed not as good players or potential Hall-of-Famers, but as potential suspects.

I’m a casual baseball fan that didn’t get in to the game until early adulthood (when the Rockies first came to town), so it’s not like baseball’s steroid abuse shattered some sort of childhood view of the world for me, but I got into the game with the assumptions that PED use was not a rampant problem (probably a bit naive); that if it was a problem, the media covering the sport would have the guts to work to expose it at the time instead of years after the fact (clearly naive); and that it was silly to think that the players’ union and the league itself would not just sweep steroid use under the rug, but essentially fight for it (with the union's stance against testing) and even make it a fundamental part of marketing their game (with, for example, all of 1998’s home run hype).

I think just moving on is a bad idea, although I don’t expect many to agree with me. (Even the buddy I blog with doesn’t see eye-to-eye with me on this.) Players from the steroid era have, for the most part, already made their money and are past the statute of limitations for prosecution. It's too late for me to get my money back, but I don't think it's too much to ask to know which of them were cheating me out of it.

Sorry for the giant essay. I'm kind of long-winded.

Tom Goodman said...

Hardly a long-winded comment. Indeed, a thought-provoking and welcome one.

Did PEDS wreck the game? Well, not exactly, or more precisely, not without a lot of outside help. The games go on but not as pleasantly as I recall from my youth and young adulthood.

Television hasn't helped the game, dictating late starting times, expansion of the playoffs, scheduling games into November, etc. The owners have sucked at the TV teat so long they cannot give dictate any terms on that front!

Bud Selig hasn't helped the game, refusing to deal directly with a number of major issues including ample early evidence of PED's at one end of the scale and the DH at the other. I never thought I would recall Bowie Kuhn in any favorable light, but his refusal to allow Charles Finley to make some ruinous deals (largely motivated on the Commissioner's part by abject antipathy for the A's owner) looks good to me some days. Basically, every commissioner since has allowed to haves to grow at the expense of the have nots in general.

Salary madness hasn't helped the game. Neither has salary dumping.

he draft as currently constituted hasn't helped the game and apparently baseball is going to act on this front to make their draft better.

Use of public funds to subsidize large portions of construction of new stadiums hasn't helped the game unless one's definition of "the game" means the owners' bottom lines. No owner ever lost money selling as opposed to operating a franchise.

Multimedia extravaganzas at these stadiums haven't helped the game. Being there is quite the unpleasant experience, frankly. Loud, distracting, and, BTW, expensive. The sounds of the game have been literally drowned out by loud music.

As for "moving on", many writers are eager to see it happen largely because they refused to rain on the 1998 parade while it was going on despite overwhelming evidence that guys like McGwire and Sosa were abusers.

Some players want to move on for obvious reasons; they haven't been exposed yet. Only in the last few weeks has a pitcher, Fergie Jenkins, come right out and say he resents having been cheated.

The problem with dwelling on this sordid past is in part what to do with the records of the abusers. How can anyone determine at what point they began cheating? Should baseball strip McGwire of a portion of his home runs and then welcome him back into the fold? Truth and reconciliation is hard enough when it comes to character, but nearly impossible when it comes to numbers-crunching.

Some Guy said...

I definitely agree with you about the "multimedia extravaganza" element of live baseball. To me, it seems like the team is admitting "we know this game isn't interesting enough to hold puny attention spans for more than a few minutes, so we're going to jazz it up with music or flashing lights every chance we get," and that's just sad.

What's sadder is that it may well be true for a lot of people, and even worse than that is by making every stoppage of play a barrage of sight and sound, they're actually detracting from the appeal of the game itself, and basically shooting themselves in the foot in the process.

Maybe I'm a grumpy old man (I'm not old, but I'll admit to being grumpy), but I'd rather see them turn the noise down specifically because one of the appeals of baseball is that its slow, mellow pace is different (and getting more different) from the barrage of everyday life.

This might just show that I'd be a crappy marketer, I don't know.