Culture of cheating damages game of baseball
Taking a look at some of the greatest catchers off all time.
They say that, well, uh, steroids were illegal. But so were amphetamines, and steroids were not illegal until about 15 years ago. Besides, if we’re going to punish ballplayers for illegal activities, let’s go through their tax returns and see if they cheated there. That’s illegal, too. If illegality is the issue, then we’ve got a real mess on our hands, because we’re going to have to start asking ballplayers if any of them ever had a beer before their 21st birthdays and a whole lot of other questions we don’t really want answers to.
Baseball needs to confront this head-on. Back when there were just two umpires on the field, some infielders would hook a finger into the belt of an opposing baserunner to keep him from getting a jump. Groundskeepers used to slope the foul lines one way or another to promote or inhibit bunts. San Francisco created a swamp in its infield to keep Maury Wills from running. Pitching mounds rose to ridiculous — an illegal — heights to aid pitchers who brought high heat from straight over the top. Batters shaved their bats flat in the contact zone. They also corked their bats.
The game needs to say all of this and give specific instances. It needs to talk about the bowls of greenies and bottles of red juice. It has to address the reality that teams put spies in scoreboards to steal signs.
And then it needs to relate this culture of cheating to what happened with steroids. Use of those drugs didn’t just erupt into a squeaky-clean sport. They were part of the process of trying to find an edge, part of trying to win baseball games anyway you could, whether the rulebook said it was OK or not.
Baseball also needs to admit it condoned cheating by its biggest stars, including Ford, Perry and Sutton but by no means limited to them. That attitude made it very easy to accept that Bonds and probably Mark McGwire and Jason Giambi and Sammy Sosa — among scores if not hundreds more — were probably taking something, but wasn’t it great that so many fans kept pouring through the turnstiles?
It’s not steroids. It’s cheating. That’s what we’re talking about. That’s what Selig should be talking about and Mitchell investigating.
Come clean. Start fresh. It’s the only way to go.