Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Baseball is Not Broken

Lots of fans and media are outraged by the latest Performance Enhancing Drug scandal involving the suspension of Brewers slugger Ryan Braun and the possible suspension of several others including Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta.  Based on angry posts, tweets and columns you would think that Braun and Rodriguez were among the most horrific criminals in the country. Some seem to believe that these players and others have ruined baseball turning the national past-time into a joke.  As a fan who has followed the game for 45 years, I'm not getting the joke and believe the sport is as strong and entertaining as it ever has been.

We seem to go through this every few months.  The last time was during the Hall-of Fame voting over the winter when some writers were so angry with the whole era starting in the 1990s that they wouldn't vote for anyone.  Not only did they dismiss known users such as all-time greats Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, but also players such as Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio who have no connection to PEDs.  The result was that one of the greatest Hall-of-Fame classes of all time produce no no Hall-of -Famers.

Some fans want to see lifetime suspensions for first offenders.  Others want records of players to be erased and awards to be revoked.  They are concerned that the game has been shattered and must be rebuilt.  As Kurt Mensching points out, even commissioner Bud Selig insists that the game must be cleaned up as if something horrible has happened to the sport.  I think people need to calm down and enjoy the game.

To be sure, there are reasons to be concerned about PED use in Major League Baseball.  Grant Brisbee very eloquently reminds us that players who have stayed clean have every right to be upset.  If you are a marginal bench player like Don Kelly or Danny Worth fighting to make a major league roster every year, then your resentment is warranted because your pay check might be taken by someone who has artificially enhanced his skills. Even good players are put in a situation where they can't compete fairly with those who are using.

Or maybe you're a parent or coach who is worried that steroid use by major leaguers is sending the wrong message to children.  That kind of concern is rerasonable and it's one reason why punishments are necessary and why long suspensions are a good idea.  Those rules are in place and players are being penalized.  So, kids should be getting the idea that PED use is wrong.

What is harder for me to understand is fans and columnists fretting over records and awards and thinking that the game itself is broken.  What's broken? There are great players, bench players average players.  There are good teams and bad teams competing against each other to win games.  This is isn't the BlackSox Scandals where players were playing to lose.

We might not know for sure which players are clean and which are juiced, but that goes back further than most want to believe and what does it matter? The performance and competition are still there.  There are great races in almost every division.  Stars like Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, Clayton Kershaw,  Andrew McCutchen Max Scherzer are having remarkable seasons  There is an emerging crop of amazing young players like Manny Machado, Byrce Harper, Matt Harvey, Yasiel Puig and Mike Trout.  There is not much that needs to be fixed.

There is still work be done concerning the PED issue, most notably improved testing, but good strides have been made dealing with the overall problem.  I  go back to 1968 and I maintain that the game is as healthy as it's ever been.  It always was and still is the best sport in the world.  So, let's stop trying to tear it down and enjoy the show. 


  1. Lee: As always it seems, you have expressed in a balanced, sensible way some complicated ideas. If it were up to me you'd get the nomination to replace Bud Selig for commissioner! Cheers, Kevin.

  2. Insightful, thoughtful perspective. Thanks Lee!


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