Not one for the record books

Published 5:25 pm Wednesday, August 7, 2013

It’s not really easy to cheat in baseball. Sure, the sport has withstood a few scandals, including the notorious Chicago Black Sox-thrown World Series, the lengths to which many pitchers have gone to manipulate a baseball — giving it that extra little impossible-to-hit zing — rigged bats, spiked cleats and more. But unless there’s a corrupt umpire on the field, there’s very little opportunity to cheat during the game itself.

Or so we thought. Cheating just happens to come in a different, and sometimes undetectable, form: Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, Johnny Peralta, Jordany Valdespin, Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon are on the latest list of cheaters. But they’re by no means the biggest names, or the best players. No, the biggest name topping the cheaters list is New York Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

Some say the 211-game suspension (which is being appealed) is too much for one of the best players in the game: he made a mistake; he’s paying for it. Others say his suspension is deserved because of assertions that A-Rod never played a game — even in high school — when he wasn’t functioning with the extra pop of performance-enhancing drugs.

When you see a baseball cap these days, it seems like nine times out of 10, it’s a Yankees cap. The franchise makes more money from its sale of merchandise ($328 million in 2010) than it does from ticket sales ($319 million in 2010). Why? Because they’re the best — maybe not this year, but there’s no question the Yankees have had a baseball dynasty since the mid-1990s. And we, as a culture, are naturally drawn to the best.

But what type of example is being set when, in order to get the best, the best come with statistics tainted by performance enhancing drugs? For all our Little Leaguers who look up to the best in the game, to A-Rod, should it really be okay to send out the message: “It’s OK to cheat, as long as you’re the best.”

Would we be tolerant of the same message if a local Little League team was juicing up to win the tournament? Or a high school coach made sure his team took home the championship trophy?

The answer is no — not on the professional level; not on a local level. A-Rod should take his suspension on the chin, issue a real apology to all the little baseball players in the world, acknowledging he’s done them, himself and the entire game of baseball a disservice, then quietly sit out the rest of his contract.  

This subject of this scandal is not one for the record books.