mitchell and selig

Courtesy of blog.kir.com

Ryan Braun’s scowling face has been making the rounds with all the usual suspects: espn.com, Yahoo! Sports, mlb.com, and many more of your favorite destinations for sporting news. The collective reaction has been monotonous, even boring: “Braun Spun Web Of Deceit”, “A Pariah In The Game”, and “Ryan Braun’s Inconvenient Truth” are all headlines that you may have stumbled across. In a game that has a celebrated history of cheating, we’ve been brainwashed into thinking “performance-enhancing drugs” are a whole different story; they are beyond cheating — the devil itself.

I’m not here to tell you Braun’s lying is excusable. It drives me nuts that more players have not come clean in an honorable way, the way Jason Giambi handled the fall-out from his steroid use.

I don’t like Ryan Braun, and I’m not here to defend him, or the slimy way he has handled this whole ordeal.

I’m just here to tell you that we all need to get over this whole steroids thing. It is for the casual fan. It is for the press. It is for the witch hunters employed by Major League Baseball who can now take a moment to clink their drinks together and say “WE GOT ‘EM”, before pressing on, and making sureĀ the next big catch is made.

This steroids mess is not for us, the real baseball fans.

Personally, I love stories about how Ty Cobb used to sharpen his spikes, making his slides into bases all the more painful for the unlucky son-of-a-bitch who had to apply the tag. I don’t have strong feelings for Cobb, but I respect the shit out of his being willing to do anything to win. But sharpening your spikes is completely different than taking steroids: one hurts people, while the other is totally unacceptable to the average baseball fan. Go figure.

In college, I wrote 80 pages of drivel about the spitball, the most mysterious pitch in the history of the game. Since 1920, pitchers have illegally employed the pitch in order to miss hitters’ bats. Hall of famers Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford were known to doctor the baseball, like filthy fucking cheaters. Let’s take those plaques down, folks. We don’t like their kind in Cooperstown.

One of my favorite examples of “cheating” — colloquially known as “trying to win a baseball game” — was in 2010, when Derek Jeter pretended to get hit by a pitch, even though the ball clearly hit the end of his bat. I don’t recall seeing any headlines that said things like, “Jeter Spun Web Of Deceit”, but I was attending Bard College back then, and my memory was seriously compromised because of it.

To some degree, I feel bad for players like Braun. They are doing anything and everything to win a silly game that we all take way too seriously. They are willing to put their reputations and bodies on the line to do it. In that way, I understand why steroids are illegal: to protect players from making bad short-term decisions that have severe and adverse long-term effects. That would be especially honorable of Major League Baseball, if it were the reason they have cracked down on steroid users. The truth is, MLB has never given a shit about players’ safety, and never will, as long as the money keeps raining like a Fat Joe music video.

Major League Baseball’s “look-the-other-way” tactic, in regard to rampant steroid use, facilitated the game’s growth in the late ’90s. Its subsequent disinterest in an effective testing program — in conjunction with the players union’s steadfast opposition to such a program — predated the crusade it now finds itself on, complete with senators, supreme court hearings, and Bud Selig’s “oh my god” face.

Despite the fact that it is well-documented that the very problem Major League Baseball faces today was self-manufactured, and its current attempts of handling the problem are too-little, too-late, I have yet to read anything about this in an article about Ryan Braun’s suspension. The major publications have cast Bud Selig and his cronies in a neutral or positive light, as though they are just doing what they have to do.

To me, Bud Selig is the kid who ripped a rancid fart, and then, when it was clear everybody was going to blame him, he started pointing fingers in any direction that might divert the impending accusations. The metaphor ends there, because that kid always gets found out, and the attempts at diversion only solidify the fact that it was him who ripped the fart.

Smelt-it dealt-it, Bud. Time to move on.