Friday, January 16, 2009

Much Ado Begets Nothing

The Common Man has inadvertently turned the comments section of Shysterball into his own private soapbox for the day, and rather than continue to take up valuable space, bytes, and whatever else over there, he thought that perhaps he could move his part of the discussion to his own personal fiefdom. Speaking about Roger Clemens, Shyster argues,
"I’d probably boo him if he were pitching again. What I’m talking about is treating him like a social leper. Disinviting him from stuff. Taking his name off of things he donated money to make possible. It’s just so sanctimonious and cowardly.... Clemens isn’t evil. Once he figures out how dumb he’s been for the last year he’s going to go back to being a big rich bullheaded Texan that could probably do a lot of good in the right situation (charity work; informal coaching, etc.)."

As usual, he is right. Baseball gains nothing tangible by shutting players like Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro out of the game. Instead, they get what they've always been seeking, cover meant to dissuade Congress, media, and fans from looking closer at the game and those who play it. It keeps the heat off while baseball struggles to catch up to dopers and dope-producers who remain (and almost certainly will remain) a step ahead. Baseball has and will continue to use these men as scapegoats for the steroid era, and declare itself largely free and clear of the steroid era.

This, of course, was the purpose of the famous Mitchell Report, a document eagerly anticipated because it promised a) to name names (creating the scapegoats that baseball needed) and b) to be the beginning of the end of the steroid era. And it was incredibly effective in doing so, in shutting down or blunting the most pointed of critics in Congress, and in shifting the perception of MLB to that of a sinner trying to attone.

And The Common Man believes that Bud Selig and the MLB were and are, in fact, honest in their desire to clean up the game. But in their desire for damage and spin control, they missed the best long-term opportunity to clean up the game. By using the Mitchell Report and Congressional hearings into steroid abuse to shift the onus onto the players and the player association, MLB has created a generation of pariahs whose ostracization makes them virtually useless to any further efforts to clean up the sport.

But think for a moment how powerful these former giants of baseball could be if they were invited back. Here is the vision that The Common Man wrote in Shyster's comments (with pronouns changed to respect this forum, in which The Common Man is all-powerful), "Do not keep the McGwires from the game. Invite them back and ask them to talk about what they did, why they did it, and what effects taking supplements and/or steroids have had on their body, mind, and life. The Common Man thinks everyone will all be better for it if they allow themselves to become better educated." Indeed, think about these men, whose alleged-PED use brought them to the pinnacle of the sport, making them national heroes who graced the cover of Time, and appeared on The Simpsons. What if they were to tell the players who are coming up today, high schoolers, and college players, and minor leaguers, about how it ultimately was not worth it to juice? What if they could tell the kids about the shame they caused their families, their mothers and wives (hello, Roger) and their kids? What a tool to cut down interest in taking steroids from its source! Indeed, without demand, the supply will dwindle as producers find other, more profitable fields to go into.

Sure, Americans can continue to be angry and bitter over steroid use, but what good is that? Just because Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds allegedly took PEDs, does that mean that you had less fun watching them in 1998 and 2001? So why are vocal critics of steroids so angry? Anger isn't productive. Let baseball aggressively test for steroids, let it fairly punish those who are caught using, and give those who have sinned a chance for redemption. Invite them back, tell them why you want their help, and ask them to save baseball again, just like they did in 1998.

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