How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Opinion: MLB's contention that it is attempting to rid the sport of steroids forever is a real reach

I’m not a huge fan of A-Rod. I have always found the Yankees’ third-baseman to be self-absorbed. However, I think Alex Rodriguez got a raw deal from Major League Baseball with regard to his proposed 211-game suspension. His punishment seems excessive when compared to the 50-game suspension the other 12 steroid abusers got. It appears the MLB is trying to make an example out of him, with the hope that it will deflect attention from the fact that it looked the other way for many years with regard to its players’ steroid use. The MLB’s contention that it is attempting to rid the sport of steroids forever is a real reach.

The holier-than-thou attitude of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig toward A-Rod and the other ballplayers who used performance-enhancing drugs is clearly hypocritical. A few years back, when baseball was reeling from the aftermath of a damaging, prolonged baseball strike, everyone looked the other way when Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa destroyed Babe Ruth’s and Roger Maris’ home-run records. Anyone who noticed the dramatic changes in these players’ physical appearance during the years their home-run totals skyrocketed knew something was not normal. The lords of baseball opted to ignore it, because indifference was in their financial self-interest.

I have little doubt that baseball and other professional sports have not seen the last of steroids. As long as professional sports contracts remain astronomical, there will be players who take performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), no matter their possible long-term health consequences. Further, more powerful drugs to enhance performance are constantly being developed. There is no way that baseball can prevent the use of these drugs.

So, I think it is time that professional sports accept that cheating of this kind is inevitable; they should simply roll over and allow players to use PEDs and rewrite the basic rules of the game and/or dramatically alter the playing field to reflect their use.

The times are a-changing, and baseball needs to get with the program.

The players would, of course, be required to hold the MLB harmless against future litigation resulting from harm to their body due to use of these drugs.

In a moment of fantasy, I came up with a couple of steps and rule changes to offer for baseball’s consideration to reduce the competitive advantage that drug users might have over non-drug users.

The first steps should be to clearly differentiate drug users from non-users. At the start of each game, after the national anthem, players who are using performance-enhancing substances would be clearly announced. This would be reinforced by making it mandatory that drug users wear the outline of a syringe embroidered on their sleeves.

The Baseball Players Association and MLB would need to come to an agreement as to whether the specific drug the players are using must be identified. Based on the greedy history of both parties, I suspect that an agreement of this nature would be quickly forthcoming, and they would agree to split the (substantial) revenue from drug company endorsements.

In short order, I can foresee commercials targeted at high school and college students touting a particular steroid used by various high-performing players. The cross-sport marketing potential here is mind-boggling — until such time as the evidence of the horrendous long-term detrimental health effects of steroids can be documented (as was the case with cigarettes).

The following rule changes would also be considered to level the baseball playing field:

  • Drug users would be called out after two, not three, strikes. They would not walk until five balls were thrown to them.
  • As an alternative, there could be two sets of bases. The first set of bases for non-drug users would be set at the traditional distance, while the distance for bases set for drug users would be three feet farther out, increasing the likelihood that they would be thrown out on ground balls.
  • Pitchers who were drug users would be required to pitch from a rubber three feet farther from home plate or be required to throw four strikes for a strike-out or three balls for a walk.

When I recently suggested these rule changes to a friend, he listened with a grin and came up with a far less complicated approach. He proposed a simple, sliding, non-breakable glass (so as not to block fans’ view) outfield wall that would be raised or lowered depending on whether the batter and/or pitcher used steroids. For example, if the batter was on steroids and the pitcher was not, the wall could go up by 10 feet, reducing the number of home runs possible. The height of the wall could change from batter to batter or, for that matter, from pitch to pitch.

Having grown up not far from Yankee Stadium, the big ballpark in the South Bronx, I am a longtime fan of baseball. Baseball is a fantastic game, with a great deal of subtlety and nuance. I have no doubt that it will survive the latest crisis, whether or not it adopts my dopey fantasy rule changes.