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Friday, July 19, 2013

BIOGENESIS, THE FANS & THE LOVE OF THE GAME

As the news continues to come out about Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Biogenesis clinic, it occurred to me how much baseball fans have lost because of this scandal. As most sports which struggle with cheating, banned substances, and fair play, baseball has to get it right. Baseball fans hold Major League records in the highest regard – think about the excitement generated by the breaking of home run records, or from watching imminent perfect games and no-hitters on TV – and those accomplishments have to be credible. Baseball’s credibility that has come under attack, fairly or unfairly, and Major League Baseball must restore it.

What we know is that Biogenesis is a company which produced nutritional supplements, and that they were alleged to supply banned performance-enhancing drugs to baseball players. Anthony Bosch, who ran the clinic, has allegedly provided a client list which includes many baseball players – most notably Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun. In a bid to clean up the sport they are preparing to take some kind of action against the players on the list, which probably means fines and/or suspensions. While they may succeed in removing the rule-breakers from the sport, I believe the damage is done with the fans and that it will be a long time before the good faith of the fans in the sport can be restored.

This past January, I had the pleasure of attending SABR's annual NYC chapter meeting in midtown Manhattan. The speakers were very good, and there were many great things going on. One of the sessions was covering the steroid issue, presented by T.J. Quinn of ESPN. I expected the usual stuff that we read regularly in the news and on various websites.


 I was actually surprised at what T. J. had to say. One of the biggest losses that we have suffered in this era, he pointed out, was having lost the "awe" we had for our sports heroes. My childhood friends and I were in awe of what Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle accomplished in their respective baseball careers. If they did today what they did in their day, would anyone believe that they didn't use PED's?

T.J. raised a good point. It got me thinking. When I was a kid, Reggie Jackson and Ron Guidry were heroes to me. I collected their baseball cards, and I still have them. I tried to emulate their stances and wind-ups. Ironically, they are both left-handed and I am a righty, so I learned how to mirror them. At the plate, my hands were just above waist-high and my bat was straight up, parallel to my right arm, just like Reggie. When I pitched, I tucked in my knee to my waist before reaching back and firing, just like Gator. I loved seeing Reggie bars and Baby Ruth’s at the candy store, even though I was not allowed to eat them (I am diabetic). Whatever they were into, I was there. When the Yankees released Reggie at the end of the 1981 season, I was crushed. I actually stopped watching baseball for a while.


Then came another set of heroes - Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield, to name two. These stand-up athletes played their hearts out and understood their responsibility to the community at large. I do not know what I would have done if they had been talked about in stories like the ones we hear about today's athletes.

I feel bad for all of the kids that watch what is going on in baseball today. These stories are terrible. I cannot help believe that this is having some influence on them. It is heartbreaking to read about 10-year olds throwing away their baseball cards because their hero is now under investigation, read PEDS HAS DESTROYED THIS GREAT GAME OF BASEBALL for more on that.


Worse, I fear that the next generation of baseball fans will grow up thinking that this kind of behavior is acceptable. Back in my younger days, I had heard about steroids and how athletes used them to build muscle and get stronger. I was not exactly the biggest kid on the block, and other kids would bully me often. I remember thinking that if I could just pop a pill and develop muscle, I would have taken it faster than you can imagine. Honestly, the ONLY reason I did not take steroids as a teenager was that I could not get my hands on them. So today we have athletes who are reputed to have rubbed a cream on themselves or mixed some powder into a milkshake and they become batting champions. They become home run champions. They go to All-Star games. They win World Series rings. They become filthy stinking rich. Yet somehow, we are supposed to teach our kids about integrity, honor, hard work, and values that make a person respected and successful.

It is painful to watch the media circus that has become of MLB’s investigation into Biogenesis. It hurts to see athletes that we cheered for and loved turn out to be associated with cheating. It is hard to grasp that they might be a dull shadow of who we thought they were. Therefore, MLB has to get this right. They have to clean this up, using whatever means necessary. They cannot get involved in blanket purges that sweep away the innocent with the guilty. At the same time, they must leave the guilty by no means unpunished. Then, maybe, we can get back to the game we all love.

 
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Writer
Twitter: @KingAgamemnon
My blog is: Shots from Murderer's Row

   


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