A few weeks ago, Major League Baseball responded to increasing calls to investigate steroid abuse on the diamond. Congress had been breathing down their neck for some time. They turned to former senate majority leader George Mitchell (who previously oversaw peace talks in Northern Ireland), and he handed down 20 recommendations that he hoped the media would focus on rather than the names he named.
By some fluke of allegiance, I'm a Baltimore Orioles fan (feel free to post any comments you have about the potential Bedard trade, by the way). The Mitchell Report named 18 Orioles. That's enough to field two teams, and based on the Birds' performance over the last ten years, neither would win should they meet on the field.
How is it that a rubbish team can be so rife with substance abuse? Aren't these things supposed to enhance performance? A great number of the people mired in the controversy aren't record-holders like Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds. They're marginal players, trying to hang on the majors.
Under baseball's current Collective Bargaining Agreement (pp. 23-34), major leaguers make a minimum of $390,000. In the minors it's $62,500. And we're talking bare-bones, if-they-are-even-considering-keeping-you-around-it's-more, bottom of the barrel salary.
I can't help but wonder how much it really has to do with cheating as I think of it in regards to sports: trying to gain an unfair advantage to win. You can't help but think they're not trying to win games for their teams, but an advantage specific to themselves. Which leads down its own slippery slope of wondering if you wouldn't do more to level the playing field by allowing more supplements to be used.
With the Patriots heading to the Super Bowl with a perfect record that has distracted from their early season spying scandal, it seems like we don't care as much as we used to. And that's real-deal help-us-win cheating. People still talk about the 1919 World Series that was thrown by the Chicago White Sox. How would we respond if that happened today?
I think it would be a big story, leading every newscast and on the cover of every paper and magazine. But somehow I have trouble believing it wouldn't fade into the news cycle, and somehow matter less to the average person. I think we're pretty cynical about sports these days.