Thursday, December 13, 2007

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

First of all, let me say that I used to be a huge baseball fan. I ate, drank, and slept baseball. I have followed Major League Baseball since the 60's. I am not really that big of a fan now. It has passed me in price. I somehow cannot reconcile Alex Rodriguez making a teacher's annual salary every time he steps up to the plate.

Baseball was a sport that offered something that many of us used to dream of: a five to ten year vacation between high school and the real world, when we got paid to play for a while. Then we grew up and worked like everyone else. Now, even a .200 batter with no home runs thinks it's his right to get a million dollars a year, and guaranteed retirement so he never has to work. We've created one more generation of parasites. Of course, there are the Nolan Ryans who invest their earnings in banks, ranches, and other things. But they are the exception, not the rule.

But that's not why I'm posting today. I just needed to lay the groundwork. I'm not a baseball fanatic any more, so there is no love of the game that motivates me to come to some as-yet-unnamed players' defense.

We are awaiting, within a few minutes of the completion of this article, the revelation of 50 to 80 players' names -- people who are named as "suspected" of using anabolic steroids. In other words, no one has any evidence that will hold up in court: we just want some new names to drag through the mud. Already, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite have been "named," but of course, that's the baggage that comes with playing for the Yankees. In my own personal observation of Pettite, he doesn't match any dimension of a drug user. I doubt he's ever even overdosed on cough drops. But he's a big name, and that's what they pay the big bucks for.

Who are the people George Mitchell needs to be investigating? Let's start with the people who hired him. For a decade now, baseball has been held hostage by an "interim" commissioner who shouldn't be there. He's one of the owners. It makes as much sense as letting Don Fehr be commissioner. There has been absolutely nothing done to make baseball attractive. In fact, those in charge of MLB would be fired from any viable corporation that was not a monopoly in the first place. No attempt has been made to please the fans; only soak them. Where else is water sold for 20 dollars a gallon? Where else would they destroy children's interest by scheduling games that run after midnight?

Sketch a MLB logo of your favorite team on the wall of your store, and the MLB mafia will probably come in and shake you down for a "licensing fee," or tear your wall down, whichever you want.

But as evil as they are, the media papparazi has them beat. They are waiting to tear apart people and careers. By the time you read this, you will probably know the names of those who are being accused. No grand juries, no indictments. Just a former government suit and tie who a baseball team-owner-turned-commissioner hired to take the heat off his own incompetence.

Some of the people may be guilty. They may even be as guilty as OJ or Robert Blake. But they will not get a fair trial. They have been hung by the media already.

As I see the major news outlets salivating to get their hands on this document, I just try to remember where it came from. These players may be overpaid, indulging, excessive underperformers, but they are being unjustly lumped together.

They don't deserve this. It shouldn't happen. In our scandal-hungry culture, where checkout-stand "news" is accepted as fact without question, this is just another example of the seamy side of what is called "justice." It shouldn't happen. But then again, we had no choice. Baseball's "in charge" people, both in management and "labor" (for lack of a better word), ask no input from fans or those who pour billions into their sport annually.

It is for this reason that I no longer watch baseball, neither live nor on TV, and no longer subscribe to any baseball publications. Then, when someday, A-Rod is making 100 million a year for hitting a little white ball, I can at least take comfort in the fact that not one penny of that is coming from me. But if he's in the slander document set to be released about -- now -- I will be the first to come to his defense. Even he, overpaid and overrated as he is, in a children's game that doesn't matter in the long haul, doesn't deserve this. And no one else does, either.

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