Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lack of character destroying Major League baseball...

Formerly known as Americas Pastime, Major League Baseball is continually suffering from the steroid controversy. The commissioner of baseball Bud Selig recently issued the following on New York Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez, “What Alex did was wrong and he will have to live with the damage he has done to his name and reputation.”

Feb 9th Rodriguez admitted to using steroids as a Texas Ranger from 2001-2003. If the steroid sagas of former stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens weren’t enough now we Rodriguez in his baseball prime in the mix.

There’s more. On Feb. 10 former American League M.V.P. Miguel Tejada pleaded guilty for lying under oath at the congressional hearings when questioned about steroids.

Will this steroid saga ever go away?

For the past fifteen years the game has experienced many peaks and valleys. In 1994 baseball hit an all-time low when a players strike ruined the season which resulted in no World Series. Sadly fans were forced to stay away.

In 1995 baseball returned but fans were still bitter. Wisely Major League baseball rallied around Baltimore Orioles great Cal Ripken. Ripken was set to break Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive games played. On September 6, 1995 Ripken bested Gehrig by playing in his 2131st consecutive game to take his place in history. Ripken’s feat provided a pleasant diversion as it averted fans from thinking of the strike.

By 1998 fans were back in full force because they were introduced to the “Chicks Dig the Long Ball” era. What epitomized the era was a home run battle for the ages between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. The event thoroughly captivated the sports world as both sluggers were vying to break Roger Maris’s single season-record of 61. At seasons end McGwire owned the record. He smashed 70 home runs while Sosa ended with 66.

Enter Barry Bonds.

In 2001 the San Francisco Giant slugger eclipsed McGwire’s record by cracking 73 home runs. Prior to breaking the record Bonds never hit 50 home runs in a season. Thus the whispers of his steroid use began.

McGwire and Sosa’s duel, along with Bonds power surge, fueled an unprecedented interest in baseball. Now it turns out the reason which induced fan interest serves as the reason why it’s now damaged goods. No longer known as the “Chicks Dig the Long Ball” era it’s now depicted as the “Steroid Era.”

In the future each time a home run clears the fence it will be showered with doubt. Whenever a pitcher has a great season one will wonder if he’s on the juice. Unfortunately the cheating is forcing fans and the media to look at players accomplishments in a different light.

When turmoil arises sometimes we are forced to revert to past to feel good about the present. I’d give anything to watch Bob Gibson pitch a complete game shutout or watch Willie Mays make a miraculous catch in center field. The latter fantasy appears more inviting than watching rich men cheat baseball in the present.

It would be music to my ears to hear Yankee fans chant “Reg-gie! Reg-gie!” as Reggie Jackson slowly walked to home plate.

Sounds better than chants of “A-Roid” doesn’t it?

Largely individuals are products of their choices. For those choices there are potential consequences one can face.

Roger Clemens was regarded as the greatest right-handed pitcher of all time. He was hailed for his off season workouts. But because of his choices and alleged links to steroids he’s now perceived as a cheater. His consequences are evident. He’s suffered economic loss, family turmoil, and a tarnished image. Now Clemens is vigorously fighting to save his damaged reputation that took two decades to build.

Barry Bonds was considered as one of the best all-around players of all time. In his prime Bonds stole bases, threw people out, and hit for power. Now Bonds finds himself a stranger to the game he because of his alledged choices regarding steroids. Like Clemens, his consequences are clear. After breaking two of the most revered records in baseball Bonds will shamefully have an unofficial asterisk by his name. This assures his many accolades will be forever clouded with doubt.

One event that transpired recently in baseball that was positive occurred days before Rodriguez was forced to go public. On Feb. 5 the great Hank Aaron quietly celebrated his 75th birthday. While Bonds was in court facing steroid charges Aaron was dining with former President Bill Clinton, Bud Selig, family, and friends.

Unlike Bonds and Clemens, Aaron’s legacy is in tact. When Aaron hit his 755 home runs and had a career batting average of .305 he wasn’t questioned about cheating. When he collected his 3771 hits (3rd all-time) and played in 24 all-star games he did clean.

Aaron encountered turmoil during his career as well but it wasn’t because of his bad choices: endured turmoil because of the color of his skin.

When Aaron embarked upon eclipsing Babe Ruth’s home run record he was subject to a ruthless onslaught of racism. In 1973 Aaron received over 3,000 letters per day that was mostly hate mail and death threats. Aaron needed F.B.I. security and a bodyguard to ensure his safety. Regarding Aaron’s hate mail Commissioner Bud Selig stated, “I saw a lot of the mail and it was heartbreaking-just horrifying.”

Despite the racism Aaron endured. Even though Aaron technically lost his home run record to Bonds he remains in a league of his own on and off the field. He’s a class act and his image is in tact. Unfortunately the likes of Bonds, Clemens, and now Rodriguez can’t assert such claims.

I think Major League Baseball is a reflection of our nations’ economy: it's in a worse state than what we're being told. Continued character and integrity issues are killing baseball. The sport formerly known as Americas’ favorite pastime needs to quickly find a way to get past the consistent turmoil it’s now faces.

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