It was another dismal day for the reputation of the national pastime.
Major League Baseball suspended 13 players Monday for links to a clinic that allegedly supplied them with performance-enhancing drugs. The lineup included the game’s highest-paid player, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees, who is appealing his 211-game suspension and thus playing on. The rest quietly accepted their 50-game bans.
It was a good day, however, for the clean players who rely only on practice and hard work to master their craft. For minor leaguers who might not get cheated out of their big-league chance by drug abusers. And for fans who cherish the game and its century-plus of records — but don’t like asterisks.
And needed debate will go on about whether baseball really means it this time; whether 50-game suspensions deter ballplayers with multimillion-dollar salaries; whether it should be one strike and you’re out. Hall of Famer Joe Morgan makes a compelling case: “What is the reward? Getting a $150 million contract. What is the risk? A 30-day suspension, a 60-day suspension? The risk doesn’t outweigh the reward. Until that happens, it’s not going to change.”
Still, there was some positive news in this round of penalties, thought to be the most at once for off-field conduct since eight Chicago White Sox players were banned for life for throwing the 1919 World Series. More and more players are saying they’re fed up.
“We’re sick of it. Tired of it,” said Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis. “We don’t want the fans thinking everybody cheats. You listen to people talk and they associate baseball with cheating.”
After years of drug scandals in baseball and other sports, it’s too late to offer much comfort to the disillusioned, like that Chicago kid who faced “Shoeless” Joe Jackson after the White Sox scandal.
But if clean players really have had enough, if their union is ready to stop fighting drug tests and team owners are ready to stop rewarding cheaters with high-dollar deals — then say it is so, Joe.