Baseball’s Roid Woes
Monday, 01 March 2010 03:41 | Written by Josh Hoffman
America’s Glorious Pastime a Thing of the Past?In what has been dubbed America’s pastime and the national game, Major League Baseball is deeply rooted in U.S. history like special interests in American politics or Microsoft software in PCs.
Baseball is the longest-tenured professional sport in this country, 48 years older than professional hockey, 51 years older than professional football and 77 years older than professional basketball.
Several presidents have pledged allegiance to the sport: Abraham Lincoln often played baseball on the White House’s front lawn; Andrew Johnson was the first president to invite a professional team to the White House; FDR’s infamous “green light” letter to then-commissioner Kenesaw Landis expressed his personal interest on behalf of the country to “keep baseball going”; Richard Nixon was offered the commissioner position following his presidency; George W. Bush, former owner of the Texas Rangers, has a 250-plus collection of autographed baseballs; and Barack Obama is a well-known White Sox fan. Heck, there is even a book titled, “Baseball: The Presidents’ Game.”
Moreover, Wrigley Field and Fenway Park (as well as the former Yankee Stadium before it was demolished) aren’t just ballparks; they’re practically national monuments, indicative of the simplistic and sacred nature that baseball has always rendered.
If that’s not enough, can you name another professional sport that provided more success for the civil rights movement than baseball did when it permitted Jackie Robinson to don a Major League uniform in 1947, paving the way for African Americans across the nation to drink from the fountain of opportunity? And is there a more heated rivalry in all of sports than that of Red Sox-Yankees, which dates back to 1901 and spans over 2,000 games?
Yet, amid the engaging beauty of a sport that has forever bled red, white, and blue, the current state of MLB is about as morbid as today’s economy, both of which apprehensively reflect the sentiment: “When is this going to end?”
As the now-countless number of players who have been linked to performance-enhancing drugs continues to trickle out like water from a leaking faucet– the latest being Manny Ramirez and David “Big Papi” Ortiz, both of whom reportedly tested positive in 2003– the time for someone within the system to step up and demand accountability and extreme change without accepting “no” for an answer occurred long ago, even before the news surfaced that these drugs had infiltrated the beloved sport.
Regardless of who is to blame for the influx of performance-enhancers and the lack of confrontation that ensued, the American public has perpetually supported baseball through thick and thin, most recently following the 1994 strike that led to the cancellation of over 900 games, including that year’s World Series. (Let that marinate for a second.) Was the strike-shortened season well-received by fans the very next year? Considering the average attendance per game plummeted from 31,000+ in 1994 to just above 25,000 in 1995, probably not. Even so, the drop-off could have been significantly worse given that the work stoppage– the eighth in baseball history– agonizingly signified the first time a professional sport had to cancel its entire postseason due to labor issues.
So what does MLB do now that its once-disguisable “don’t ask, don’t tell” modus operandi is more conspicuous than OJ Simpson murdering his ex-wife and her friend? Does it continue to gradually change only because of incessant pressures from outside sources, like congressional committees and the circus media, or does it take matters into its own hands and overhaul the powers that be?
In June, Donald Fehr announced he will resign as executive director of the MLB Players Association by March of next year. I suggest Commissioner Bud Selig follows that same route.