Saturday, March 10, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

What hath befallen our great game?

Has there ever been a more depressing spring training? It seems as if every big story—except how A-Rod thinks he can finally make it without Derek Jeter’s approval—is about the use of steroids and other performance enhancers.

First, in January, we find out that Mark McGwire didn’t come close to getting the votes he needed to make the Baseball Hall of Fame. We were reminded of Big Mac’s ridiculous testimony before Congress a couple of years back when he all but implicated himself of using illegal performance enhancers with his repetitive evasions and refusal to give direct answers.

Of course, once pitchers and catchers reported, the biggest story became Barry Bonds. Unless Bonds’s bones are so brittle from all his drug use that they snap in spring training, he’s poised to break Hank Aaron’s all-time home-run record. But you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the word who believes that Bonds is innocent of cheating. He actually admitted that he used what could have been steroids, even though he says he thought it was flaxseed oil. All we can do is watch helplessly as this monstrosity marches ever closer to the sacred mark.

Now what about Gary Matthews, Jr.? He’s been pegged as receiving human growth hormone in 2004 from pharmacies he found online. Matthews was just signed by the Angels to a five-year, $50-million contract this past off-season. Funny how he had his breakout season last year, at age 31, batting .313 for the Texas Rangers after a .249 career up to that point. Angels owner Arte Moreno has asked Matthews to talk to the public. “Address the press and say: ‘Yes, my name has been linked to this story. I’m sorry this has become a distraction and we’re going to try to clear it up as quickly as possible,’” Moreno said. “I’m not asking him to admit to anything illegal. His response was, ‘I’m talking to my people and we’ll get back to you.’”

And let’s not forget that fans have to decide whether they want to root for Sammy Sosa as he tries to make a comeback for the Rangers. Was Sosa ever on the juice? We may never know for sure, but we do know for sure that Slammin’ Sammy corked his bat—an ignominious moment for one of the game’s great stars at the time. Sosa wants to try to win the fans back one last time before he retires so that maybe he will get into Cooperstown with all of his years of home runs. Yeesh! Before you know it, Rafael Palmeiro will be grabbing his mitt and heading for the field.

How many more will be exposed as cheats by the end of the season? How many more records will become questionable after athletes on performance enhancers set them? How has baseball, once a symbol of the good ol’ days, become such a pumped-up, money-crazed machine? New parks! Outrageous salaries! Ten-dollar beers! Where will it end?

And yet, I still enjoy baseball. I stumbled into great season tickets with the A’s a few years ago through a good friend—we’re about 25 rows behind the plate, just a hair to the left-field side. We sit among other season-ticket holders and we have fun socializing with them. When I go with my wife, we have a good time talking to these friends while we watch the game. It’s a relaxing evening at the park. It’s hard to think about cutting it out of my life completely when it’s part of the fun of summer.

But I want these steroid cheats to go down and stop polluting the game! How can I reconcile my enjoyment of the game with subsidizing these super-sized frauds? Will there eventually be a breaking point where I say, “No more”? How do the millions of other baseball fans today feel about this? Are we all just waiting for Major League Baseball to work with the players’ union to clean up baseball so the games can start on an even footing again? Only the ghost of Babe Ruth can tell us when that might happen!

1 comment:

Ed Attanasio, Freelance Writer, Journalist, Baseball Historian, Comedian and Ad Copywriter said...

Here's to us going to some A's games this year. Hopefully they can win, without steroids! Great piece, Meat!