It’s that time of year again!! Football is over, and it’s time to start gearing up for baseball season. Time to sharpen those needles and find that vein. Time to hit the gym and figure out how to get rid of that unwanted “backne”(that would be back acne in case you were wondering, one of the oh so very lovely side effects of steroid use). You know it’s a damn shame that that’s what comes to mind when you think about America’s pastime. A once sacred game has since been tarnished by the greed of its players and the utter disregard of its commissioners. It has forced us to see the ugly truth; baseball is strictly a business and everybody cheats. Now by everybody I don’t actually mean everybody. I’m sure there are honest hardworking athletes out there that want to succeed 100% naturally(I applaud this group which at this point is most likely the minority). It’s just that all professional sports have been linked to steroids in some way, especially baseball. Baseball has actually named a significant period of time in it’s history the “steroid era”. You would think that since I put steroid era in quotation marks it would be a joke, but it’s not. If you wanted to write a history book about baseball, there would literally have to be a chapter entitled the steroid era(It would probably be the longest chapter of the book). See, baseball in the late 80’s and early 90’s was moving in the wrong direction. Ratings were down and labor issues became more prevalent. In 1994, those labor disputes brought about the longest work stoppage in major sports history. This effectively became the lowest point in baseball’s prestigious history. The aftermath of the strike left baseball in complete disarray. Fans became disgruntled and attendance dropped significantly, television ratings plummeted, and the fans that continued to show up to games expressed their anger through protests and childish behavior(throwing objects on the field). Baseball desperately needed a savior, and boy did it get one. Unfortunately, that savior wasn’t one individual or an inspiring story that could bring baseball back from the depths of hell. Even though Major League Baseball had many options as to how to save it’s beloved pastime, they went with a solution that only has two options, and no it’s not paper or plastic, it’s liquid or pill form. So as players, managers, and commissioners alike turned a blind eye to what was going on in the 90’s, baseball made its resurgence. Baseball had been saved by the likes of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, and the home run race of 1998. The summer of 1998 could possibly have been the most exciting three months in baseball history. Major League Baseball watched along with the rest of us as their baby was resurrected and their ratings began to climb along with their bank accounts. The players were ecstatic because they were propelled to new levels of fame and notoriety, and of course the MLB suits were jumping for joy because they could once again drive home to their mansions in their Ferrari’s instead of to their condos in their BMW’s(oh thank god, what a pity that would have been). However, what all the enablers of the “steroid era” failed to recognize was the consequences this would have on the future of the game. And, that brings me to my next point.
Baseball is in a precarious place right now. Every other day someone new is being brought up in PED scandals, and those names are being thrown straight into jail(do not pass go, do not collect $200). See, the court of public opinion doesn’t exactly work the same way as our judicial system here in the United States. In fact it works in the exact opposite way. You are guilty until proven innocent, and if you happen to be proven innocent you’re still guilty(i.e. Roger Clemens). This is causing every fan and media person to jump the gun and cry foul whenever someone accomplishes something spectacular. This needs to stop! I know this is a complicated issue, and everyone and their grandmother thinks they have a solution that will rid the sports of illegal drugs and cheating. That is why I’m going to try to paint a picture of what I believe will set us on the road to recovery. The first step to recovery as everyone knows is admitting there is a problem. I think we can all agree on that, so let’s move on to the next step; highlighting the innocence and purity of the game and how we can get it back.
Now, let’s do a little mental exercise. Try to remove yourself from the present day and let your mind travel back in time. Let’s aim for an age of innocence, and let’s say you are about 10 years old. The world is new and exciting. You are at the age of no responsibility and all you want to do is have fun. Fun for me at the age of 10 was baseball. Baseball and ummm nope just baseball. When you’re 10, you don’t really think that people cheat, or lie, or steal. Now, if I sat down the 10 year old you and tried to explain that 90% of your favorite baseball players lied and cheated to get where they were, you wouldn’t believe a word that came out of my mouth. That right there is the feeling we need to get back. We’ve all lost touch with that gut feeling in regards to sports achievements. How do we get that back you ask? I’m going to tell you just hold your horses. Since I truly believe this problem won’t be fixed by the collective actions of the players union and MLB executives, I believe it should start with us. The fans control everything that matters in sports. Think about it. If we don’t buy tickets or merchandise they don’t make any money. If we don’t turn on the television to watch the games, they have no ratings, therefore they make no money. As we’ve already established, all anybody cares about in sports is money, so the only way to really bring about change is to hit em’ where it hurts; the wallet. If we protest that we won’t watch or spend another dime, maybe the game will be brought back to it’s purest form.
Let’s keep our mind in time travel mode and continue to pretend you’re 10 years old. Do you remember why you couldn’t wait to lace up those cleats and head out to the ball park? I sure do. Think about grabbing your bat and glove and heading out to your local ball field. Spring time is upon us, the smell of freshly cut grass in the air, and the diamond is glistening just begging you to step on to the field. Maybe you are with your little league team getting ready for a big game, maybe you and your friends are gathering to play a pick-up game, or maybe you are heading to the field with your father to work on your game. Whatever the reason was, we all remember what we loved about the game. For me, it was heading down to the local field with my father. After a long day of work, he used to take me to the field and hit ground-balls and fly-balls to me until the sun went down, or until my mom came looking for us because it was dinner time(no she didn’t call us on the iPhone, believe it or not in the early 90’s we didn’t have cell phones). That is where my passion for the game came from. That is the reason I dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player. That 10 year old inside of you is the only thing that can bring about change.
I truly believe that everything that happens in the world starts at home. It’s not the video games, movies, television, and music that corrupts your child’s mind. It’s the parents that don’t educate their children on the subjects in those video games and movies. It’s the parents that don’t teach their children right from wrong, and that there are consequences for their actions. If it was your father who taught you and inspired you as a child, it should also have been your father who was your role model. And as your role model your father should have taught you right from wrong. Right, a foreign concept, is following your dream through a solid work ethic. Wrong, a common occurrence, is taking illegal drugs and performance enhancers to succeed while leaving that honest hard working kid in your dust. By the way, it is absolutely ridiculous that I need to explain the difference between right and wrong to grown men! Now, I understand that uniting a nation to stand up for what’s right is probably unrealistic(I mean look at our government), but nothing would make me happier. I’ve personally spoken to people that have no problem with steroids and PED’s in sports. They feel that it allows the organizations and franchises to put out a better product, and in turn they are happy. They’d rather deal with the heinous side effects of illegal drugs and watch 520 feet home runs than do what’s right and clean up the game. These ignorant people make my blood curdle. At the same time, I feel sorry for these people because they have been brainwashed by the Barry Bonds’ and Alex Rodriguez’s of the world. By the way, I wonder if Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez tell their children that it’s okay to lie and cheat. Maybe if they thought about their children every time they were shooting up, they would have thought twice about it. It also wouldn’t have killed them to spend a little more time on the field before games signing autographs and interacting with fans. As a professional baseball player in the spotlight, making hundreds of millions of dollars, it is their obligation to be a role model. These players are confused, and it’s not all their fault, but they think they are special. Millions of dollars can go to a persons head and effect them as a human being. They think they are better than others in “regular” society and they think their time is more valuable than ours. That is simply not the case. Players need to remember where they came from and remember why they always dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player. If players can find that mentality again, maybe the game can return to it’s rightful place.
With all this being said, I still can’t wait for the baseball season to start. As a true baseball fan who watches all year round, I am excited for the upcoming season. I am not one of these fare weather fans who only watch come playoff time. Baseball at its purest form is a beautiful sport to watch. To me, 1-0 pitching duels are just as exciting as 12-10 home run fests. On any given night you may see a leaping catch at the wall to rob a home run or a curve ball that buckles a batters knees. It’s time to get excited that pitchers and catchers report to camp next week. It is time to put a countdown to opening day on your calendar. Baseball is on the way. It is time to get excited!
Look for my preview of the upcoming Major League Baseball Season including team previews and predictions.