by Jon Simkins
2012 is supposed to bring about the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar, but if Bud Selig has anything to say about that, it will be the end of only one thing — the love of baseball for more fans.
Yes, another year is approaching baseball fans (those who remain). Pitchers and catchers report to Spring training, gearing up for another season in which the once-beautiful sport will pay homage to those who continue to defecate all over it. Pay homage you ask? Well, how about paying perpetual rule-breaker and steroid-user Manny Ramirez 500 grand to half-ass every aspect of an abbreviated 112-game season except an occasional swing (after his 50 game slap on the wrist, that’s good “moneyball”). Or there’s Mark McGwire, a man who was so loaded up on steroids that he could have sneezed on a baseball and sent it 430 feet (he ONLY used them to “recover from injuries”), receiving checks to coach HITTING! Most Valuable Player award-winner Ryan Braun will be spared from this category for now, even though his appeal-win, having no detailed explanation, will continue to leave fans dumbfounded.
Are we honestly expected to support this? Bud Selig has terrorized the integrity of baseball more times than Sisyphus has had to push that wretched boulder up that hill (see Greek mythology). How are these deviants allowed to receive checks from Major League Baseball? It’s a wonderful world where cheaters are rewarded, isn’t it?
Meanwhile, Selig remains steadfast on banning one of the all-time fiercest competitors in the sport’s history. Paging Mr. Pete Rose. Oh that’s right. You’re not allowed to enjoy a single ounce of this beloved game which you gave your heart and soul to. Why? You bet on your own team to win. You didn’t throw a game, smoke crack, rape a woman, or do steroids, and hell, you’d probably coach for free. Rose has been on the permanently ineligible list since August 24, 1989. In his 23-year playing career, he became the all-time leader in hits (4,256), won three World Series rings, three batting titles, one MVP award, and made 17 All-Star appearances at five different positions. No big deal. He’s received endorsing statements from Hank Aaron supporting his induction into baseball’s Hall of Fame, but still nothing. The message Selig is sending you, Pete, is that you should be more like role-models, Big Mac, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro (lied at a congressional hearing), or Alex Rodriguez.
These clowns, along with an endless list of other standup citizens are allowed to continue their reign of terror on America’s past time. Not only do they ruin what was once precious to so many, but we pay them to do it. What would Ted Williams, Roger Maris, or Joe DiMaggio think? Sammy Sosa at least had the decency to disappear from the game, and that has supposedly altered his race (look it up). Scientists note that it may have been the side-effects of the radiation from his nuclear bats (yes they’re better than the corked variety he also used).
This period has been devastating for any devout baseball fan. Should we have to turn on the Ken Burns documentary, “Baseball”, just to enjoy elements of the game’s purity? For a true baseball fan, the game is something mythical, almost religious. It’s the things an average fan cares nothing for that satisfy the die-hard’s thirst. The smell of the ballpark, the sound of a solid hit, the smack of a catcher’s mitt, or a perfectly thrown laser from right field to nail a base-runner at third. There are certain God-given talents these men possess that drives a baseball fan to a state of wonderment, and that magic has been bludgeoned because of these jackals that care nothing for the game and only for their robust statistics and wallet.
Ted Williams possessed many nick-names, but one that will stick forever is “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived”. This was a man who, physically, was as lanky as they come with arms that looked better equipped for cooking. He wasn’t herculean in appearance, didn’t have performance-enhancers at his disposal, and still posted out-of-this-world statistical numbers. That was a reason why Ryan Braun was one of my favorite players. In an age where fans can’t simply appreciate a man’s talent anymore, and any impressive statistic is accompanied by questions of performance-enhancing drugs that swirl with the intensity of an F-5 tornado, I thought Braun was the exception. He wasn’t massive like a Barry Bonds or Bruce Banner (you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry), and the heavily implemented testing in today’s game was reassurance. I can only maintain one shred of hope that there may be great reasoning behind winning his appeal. Was his high level of testosterone the result of a medication for something else? Like the number of licks required to reach the center of a tootsie-pop, the world may never know.
Baseball will always hold a special place for fans that truly appreciate its majesty. A 1-0 pitcher’s duel is a succulent exposure of baseball euphoria that is un-paralleled, a perfectly turned 6-4-3 double-play is poetry-in-motion, and an exquisite drag-bunt off of a 97 mile-per-hour fastball that hugs the chalk provides a giddy feeling that can make a 70-year-old feel like a kid again. At some point, this magic was lost by many. Ted Williams once gave half of his salary back to the Red Sox when he wasn’t satisfied with that season’s performance. That same man, in 1999, appeared at the All-Star Game and was greeted by cheaters Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. That will forever be an image of perfect contrast in baseball’s history.
The ‘90s ushered in that contrast to the old breed of ballplayers, known as the steroid era. Since then, the integrity of the game has been demolished by players, and the commissioner who continues to grant them entry back into Heaven after each unforgivable sin. Fans who appreciate the little things baseball has to offer grow fewer and fewer with each year and every subsequent violation of their trust. The game of old is not the game we watch today, because while we salivate over something unnoticeable to the average passer-by, those who ruin the sport continue to flourish in it, collecting checks endorsed by Bud Selig. Maybe one day Pete Rose will be allowed back, maybe the steroid era will die out, but for now, as Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine stated in an old commercial, “Chicks dig the long ball.”
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