MLB in need of makeover

Allison Ford

I remember seeing my first baseball game with my dad. Going to that game was like traveling back to the early twentieth century, when baseball was America’s favorite pastime and Babe Ruth was king. A noisy stadium, cheering fans and overflowing excitement. The air was warm, fresh, energizing and savory. There was anticipation in the eyes of the fans. The long innings of the game dragged on endlessly into the dusk of the summer night.

No longer can fans enjoy the game like I once did, nor like millions of other fans once did. No longer is every one of the players that takes the field a legend, a hero, or a role model. Steroids have tainted the game forever.

Records have been broken that were once achieved by the real heroes: Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Roger Maris. The heroes that didn’t inject chemical substances into themselves to cause their muscles to become unnatural and monstrous. The heroes who didn’t demand million-dollar contracts. The heroes who didn’t take their fans for granted, and the heroes who respected the game and its rules.

When did the greed for personal success outweigh the respect for baseball? It used to be that only a select and talented few would hit 50 home runs in a season, and those players were hard to come by. Now, is baseball going to turn into a game where records are broken year after year, depending on what players use the most steroids? Has it already? How can we know for sure that today’s record-breaking stars are not achieving these feats without the help of illegal drugs? We don’t know for sure. Should the record books contain asterisks (or pictures of syringes) next to some of these records, stating, “Steroid usage may have contributed to breaking this record”? What a disgrace.

There are no doubts in most people’s minds that steroids enhance athletic performance. Steroids give players more muscle mass, which in turn gives them the ability to throw harder, swing a bat faster and to become overall better players. Because of steroid use, the game has arguably become more exciting. Balls are hit farther and pitched faster (which, consequently, makes the game more dangerous). The fans, however, (the true fans, anyway) cannot allow the honor of the game to be sacrificed by players who break the rules to add a little excitement to the game. We don’t want it.

The corruption in baseball is undoubtedly already filtering negative principles into our society. How can we as parents tell our children not to use common illegal drugs, such as marijuana and ecstasy, when their “role models” are cycling illegal steroids during the off-season to improve their performances on the field? Should our children be taught that drugs yield success? That is certainly the message that Major League Baseball is currently sending. When did a sport, which normally would be associated with promoting good values such as team work and commitment, turn into an institution of greedy, drug using men?

Granted, not all players are using steroids. Tests conducted last year confirmed that between five and seven percent of the players use steroids, which is more players then on the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox’s rosters combined. The testing was performed anonymously; therefore, none of these players even received a slap on the wrist, and they couldn’t even be identified. Federal investigators were told that several superstars received steroids from a nutritional supplements lab in San Francisco. But it is unfortunate that the credibility of all players now needs to be questioned. Until stricter testing allows the league to weed out these bad apples, (or at least forces the bad apples to stop their usage), no one can be sure about which players are using and which ones are not. Speculation will continue, and a witch hunt by the press will continue. Players are currently being judged solely on the size of their muscles, and if a certain player that returns to spring training appears noticeably larger, rumors will undoubtedly generate. This, of course, is unfair. A player who works out a little harder during the off-season does not deserve to be automatically accused of using steroids. But the fans have no choice but to wonder of their favorite player is a cheater. And this is truly hurting the game.

What should be done? First of all, Bud Selig cannot wait for the players’ union to agree to stricter testing. He is the commissioner of baseball, and his job is to make and enforce the rules, and in this case, to save the integrity of the game. Of course, the players’ union isn’t necessarily going to agree to more stringent testing – it knows players are using steroids, and it doesn’t want to see any of its own take a fall. It is time for Selig to take a stand, and take control of the sport he was entrusted to protect.

Secondly, a zero-tolerance policy must be employed. The league has proposed a policy this year that a player testing positive for the first time will be forced to undergo treatment. A second offense will carry the punishment of a 15-day suspension without pay or a fine of up to $10,000. Give me a break. A $10,000 fine is nothing to millionaires. Fifteen days is the same type of break a player takes when he pulls a leg muscle. Baseball fans deserve better. They don’t deserve to pay to see steroid-using players take the field for the home team.

Other sports already have strict procedures preventing the corruption of their game, and fans are assured that the players they are cheering for will not break a record or score a touchdown as a result of chemicals in their blood. Baseball should be no different.

The bottom line is that baseball needs to be saved from the evils of drug use. Without these procedures implemented, baseball will lose its integrity. That is, if it hasn’t already.