Saturday, August 10, 2013

Destruction of the National Pastime

Baseball, the national pastime.  Hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet, what's more American than a ballpark in summer?

Not much, but like everything else in America these days it seems to be an institution crumbling from within.  The lure of millions has led many in the sport astray--in ways that far eclipse what happened with the Black Sox scandal or the existence of spit-ballers or sign-stealers or Pete Rose.  None of those rule-breakers were operating with drug-enhanced bodies.

The recent revelations about Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriquez are seriously troubling, not because they took drugs but because one of them swore up and down they had not and even begged for the public's trust, while the other continues to live in a fantasy world where he seems to think it doesn't matter.

McGwire and Sosa--then Bonds--really got the ball rolling and now people look at stats and wonder, is he juicing?  That's already bad enough for the sport.  The latest charge is against former Cardinals great Albert Pujols, coming from former Cards slugger Jack Clark:
"I know for a fact he was," Clark said. "The trainer that worked with him, threw him batting practice from Kansas City, that worked him out every day, basically told me that's what he did."
In response Pujols is suing Clark and the radio station in St. Louis that employed him (where he made the comments) for defamation. In an unusually strong statement, "King Albert" said the following:
"I've said time and time again that I would never take, or even consider taking, anything illegal," Pujols said in the statement. "I've been tested hundreds of times throughout my career and never once have I tested positive. It is irresponsible and reckless for Jack Clark to have falsely accused me of using PED's. My faith in Jesus Christ, and my respect for this game are too important to me. I would never be able to look my wife or kids in the eye if I had done what this man is accusing me of.
"I know people are tired of athletes saying they are innocent, asking for the public to believe in them, only to have their sins exposed later down the road. But I am not one of those athletes, and I will not stand to have my name and my family's name, dragged through the mud."
That bolded last paragraph is perhaps the most rock-solid denial imaginable, even stronger than the statement Braun made a few years ago (and reiterated early this year, that turned out to be a lie).  Braun probably felt he could lie with such impunity because he'd likely been told that the concoctions being used were undetectable. 

So if it turns out Pujols did use PEDs--after a denial that included a reference to Christ--it's going to be very hard to believe any denials from anyone.  In a way the suit is a benchmark moment for MLB going forward, since Pujols has done things no other player in history has done and is a first-ballot lock for the Hall of Fame.  He has become an impeccable role model.  The owners best hope he's telling the truth if they want to continue selling their 9 dollar beers and 4 dollar hot dogs.   

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