The average Major League Baseball player salary was just over $4 million a season last year for the 988 guys lucky enough to play in the big leagues. At that salary, I suppose we should be happy to know players care enough to want to cheat to win. I know if I hit a Lotto winner that paid me that much money just once, I would be a happy camper. I can’t imagine being paid that much each year and feel the need to cheat to win.
Now imagine being an above average player, one who earns in the ballpark of $20 to $30 million a year. Would you still feel the need to cheat to win or could you handle losing well enough to not let it eat at you while you vacation anywhere you want in the off season?
I mention all of this because by now most of you have heard about the cheating done by the Houston Astros baseball team. It was not a one-time deal. It was not a ten times deal. It was something that went on for three seasons, which is enough time for an average player to rake in $12 million dollars. To date, it has cost three managers who were all linked to the scheme their jobs along with a general manager; two have been suspended from MLB for a year. Don’t think for one second the problem is solved.
There is a reason no one has been banned for life like Pete Rose was for gambling. These four represent the tip of the iceberg. Houston, you have created a problem.
Just how far MLB goes with an investigation will determine whether the sport remains relevant or falls into oblivion. The fact no player has been punished tells me MLB wants to either pressure the two suspended with the possibility of a lifetime ban if they do not cooperate and give up the names of players involved (hint: anyone who played one game on the Astros roster during their cheating is a start), or they hope to sweep it under the carpet in hopes the controversy will fade away before it ruins the game again.
The crime of cheating is survivable, however, a cover up is not. Consequently, once Astro players are named, count on players, managers, and GM’s from other organizations to be outed for some form of cheating. A code of Omerta, much like the one in professional cycling that kept quiet about Lance Armstrong, exists in all sports. In the sporting world, just like in the mob, no one likes a rat so players who chose not to cheat keep quiet because let’s face it, where else are they going to make $4 million dollars to play a game for a living?
Steroids — HGH, and TUE’s (Theraputic Use Exemptions) have replaced steroids which replaced corked bats which replaced amphetamines. Last season juiced baseballs flew out of ballparks like never before, at the blessing of MLB. Sandpaper, hidden nail files, and good old fashioned spit are crimes against mankind, but anything that makes a baseball fly out of a ballpark is a godsend to a game with a long history of cheating.
There is a reason why I have not mentioned the names of the four who have lost their jobs so far. I have no idea who they are because I stopped following baseball once it was apparent guys named McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, and A-Rod were cheating. Baseball should add the letter E at the end of its logo and call itself Major League Baseball Entertainment. Vince McMahon ought to be its commissioner. It’s no longer a sport. The same goes for the NFL and NBA. Heck, half of the fans who follow these sports do so because they belong to fantasy sports leagues or have a gambling addiction.
This summer, one-fourth of the athletes at the Olympic games will have asthma, a sluggish thyroid, or some other ailment that will allow them a TUE for a drug that will give them an advantage against their opponents, all because their private coach knows a couple of doctors who will sign off saying the athlete suffers from a chronic condition. From those sweet smiling pint sized gymnasts to behemoths tossing a 16-pound ball of lead, athletes and their coaches will go to any extreme to gain an unfair advantage.
How do you stop cheating in sports? You don’t. Not if you are an athlete. Maybe you would never cheat, but if you played sports, even at the high school level, you knew those who did and most likely you looked the other way or became disenchanted enough to stop playing.
The line between what is professional sports and entertainment has been cross bred to the point you can hardly tell the difference. An actor puts on 40 pounds of muscle to play a superhero in a film and shares the three workout a day training secrets he followed and we think he is fantastic for his dedication. So he leaves out the stuff about PED use because his image is everything. Besides, it’s not like he is competing in a sport where there is big money at stake, right? Wrong.
A smash hit superhero film becomes an entire franchise of films, each one resulting in a lot of folks making a ton of money off of film goers, just like a dynasty in football, baseball, or basketball does. Beyond the money is a drug called fame and it is as intoxicating as heroin and once tasted, the user will go to any length to get their fix. If 50 home runs one year brings a ball player a certain level of fame and notoriety, what will 60 or 70 bring?
Today the San Francisco 49ers, a team I followed to great extent for much of my life, plays the Green Bay Packers for the NFC Championship and a shot at the Super Bowl. I won’t be watching it. The Boston Celtics are having a surprisingly good season according to the headlines I read. I have no idea how the Montreal Canadiens are doing and can’t name anyone who plays for the Oakland A’s. I do not follow sports anywhere near as much as I used to simply because I no longer know what I am following.
Tipping off a batter for the next pitch that is coming is the same as tipping off a corner drug dealer the cops are on the way. Unfortunately, we live in a society where we have a president who will cheat at anything to get what he wants and then call the honest people (and those busted and looking to cop a plea) who speak out against him “rats.”
Four scapegoats for an intricate and on-going system of cheating is to baseball what an ice cube was to the Titanic. It’s what lies beneath the water’s surface that will sink baseball and I am one hoping the same determination that uncovered the likes of Lance Armstrong, A-Rod, and Richard Nixon will bring us all the names of those involved in MLB’s latest cheating scandal. However, the cynic in me thinks there is a better chance of me winning a $4 million lottery even though I do not buy lotto tickets.
Top photo of the Astros’ train at Minute Maid Park by Claudia Gestro
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.