In order to preserve the sanctity of the game, MLB commissioner Bud Selig seemingly believes he must first destroy the sanctity of the game. That's a grave concern for me, a relatively younger fan who came of age watching baseball in the 90s and 2000s, who was first wow'd by Roger Clemens and the 40/40 club, then later on the edge of his seat as Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds hit home run after home run.
Everything is in question. Was Pedro clean during his 1.74 ERA season? Sure, he says he was. But we've heard that story before, haven't we? Was that Yankees' dynasty clean? Nobody wins that often. The 116-win Seattle Mariners club had to be on something right? Nobody wins that much.
Selig and the self-appointed protectors of the game won't be happy until you question absolutely everything. And they won't be happy until they tell you again and again just how fictional baseball has been the past two decades. I expect a display at Cooperstown to be entitled "Baseball: The WWE Years." Even now Winston Smith is probably working hard in the background. Jeromy Burnitz was the 1998 National League home runs leader with 38. He was always the National League home runs leader in 1998.
So today Selig wants me to know he's doing everything in his power to make baseball honest again. But here's what I want him to know: He's doing everything in his power to destroy it instead. If it continues to thrive, it's despite his efforts, not because of them. It turns out the game is just as dirty now as it was in the 90s, despite self congratulations about how clean everyone was and a much ballyhooed handshake between MLB and its players union that was supposed to clean up the game once and for all.
Ryan Braun, the 2011 MVP, was suspended for the rest of the season. Alex Rodriguez may be suspended for life. (What comes next? Do we strike his home runs from the record? Maybe we can go back and recalculate how the standings might look if A-Rod never existed like some sort of perverted It's A Wonderful Life. The Atlanta Braves won the 2002 World Series, any talk of the Angels will result in re-education.)
But it doesn't end there. Another 20 players, nearly the number of players on a team's active roster -- and including possibly the Tigers' Jhonny Peralta -- face suspensions of 50-100 games. Hey, maybe we can wipe their contributions out of the standings, too. They cheated, right? Let's see what happens when Peralta's .239 batting average in 2012 is wiped from the books.
Here's a sentence Winston Smith could write:
Baseball Sports are clean.
I'm not going to say nobody cares about whether the game is clean. Clearly, some people do actually do -- they're not just grandstanding in some sort of self-promoting ways. That's commendable. But let's be clear here. Cycling was at its peak when Lance Armstrong and others doped -- that's because they put on a show. Baseball's popularity soared in the late 90s and through the 2000s not long after the game shot itself in the foot with a canceled 1994 season for a reason -- the players put on a show. Baseball was soaring again, with a large audience returning and large TV contracts coming along with them. People by and large want to be entertained by their sports. They just don't care how the sausage was made or, I suspect, if the sausage has a couple of chemicals in it.
But you know what, Bud, just go ahead and fall on the sword again. Enjoy making the sport you protect the target of jokes. Take some of the pressure off football -- with its body-damaging and brain-destroying hits that cost players years off their lives, the sport has serious, life-changing issues -- by telling everyone just how serious you are about cracking down on HGH or something that might be ingested accidentally in an over-the-counter supplement.
And if you've still got fans after all that, just realize that maybe they don't care about PEDs half as much as you tell them they should. I know I don't. I just want to be entertained, just as I was when I was a kid.
I'm not saying allowing the Wild, Wild West to continue is in the game's best interest -- but much-publicized witch hunts aren't going to create a positive image either. Clearly, you need an even playing field. Yet I can't think of a league that more gleefully shoots itself in the foot -- not even the NHL, despite all the outcry I hear about Gary Bettman, than baseball.
MLB, Selig, self-appointed protectors of the game: It's time to let it go. Baseball would be just fine without your "protection."