Ideas and Issues Personal Writings

New Orleans Former Senator George Mitchell’s report was crawling across the screen as we toasted the end of an interesting labor retreat before the Year End meeting. The morning papers were full of the reports of various juicing that major league baseball players had reportedly used to stay in the game at the top of their abilities, or perhaps even past whatever their tops might have been. More than 80 players were named, largely by just a couple of sources. I have to believe there were way more.

Some of the puritans are yelling that an asterisk should be placed next to records. Some argue that great players should be denied admission to the Hall of Fame.

All of this seems absurd. As if this were not a game, and as if there were not millions and millions of dollars at stake for every little statistical and physical edge a player could get to stay in the game, make the key hit, or deliver the heat.

My cut is different.

Seems all kinds of players were involved. Great hitters and great pitchers, players from every team, and we don’t likely know the half of it, so why should there be any asterisk: seems like everyone was equal in a weird drugged up way.

The real issue is wins and losses in a team sport. No one has proposed taking away a World Series title or a division title. This is all about punishing a few individuals for a systemic problem. Ridiculous! The teams were allowed to make more money from the entertainment and the faster pitching and quicker hitting, and they did so.

Back to dollars, if a player knew, as almost all of them must have known that a lot of players were using a little something in a professional sport played for millions and millions of dollars per year, until the Commissioner’s office and the owners moved to equalize the playing field, then not using was in fact an instance of a player’s sportsmanship overruling his self-interest, so I am sure this happened, but it is more unusual than predictable.

This is all pretty simple. For a period of almost 15 years this was simply the way the sport was played. Mitchell was right in this respect. Everyone shares plenty of blame. The issue is how the game will be played for the next 15 years. Get over it and get on with it.

Barry Bonds