Pompous Journalists Take the Joy Out of Baseball

Jerry Green of The Detroit News must have written this article specifically for me, something for me to dissect piece by piece. It’s been a little while since I FJM’ed an article. Thanks, Jer.

Greeny’s piece is titled, “Cheaters take the joy out of baseball.” Yuh-huh.

The date was April 14, 1936, and it is etched in my memory.

“Baseball season starts today,” the father said to the son, exercising a precious part of Americana.

This is…

A) The most boring introduction to a narrative I have ever read.

B) The most boring family ever used in a narrative.

C) The most cliche “baseball is America” reference ever.

Those were the Roarin’ ’30’s though!

He [Jerry's father] told me he had played hooky from school to watch the game.

What a great father. Who needs an education when you have regular season baseball games? Math and science and English classes aren’t important, but RBI doubles are.

Later he told me about Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. The stories were captivating and the impressionable 8-year-old was hooked. 

Keep these two sentences in mind as we go through the rest of the article.

Babe Ruth: Noted drunk and lothario.

Ty Cobb: Violent racist.

The sport and its purity and its history and its records became treasures to me.

Yeah… purity. Like the Black Sox. Like Gaylord Perry’s Vaseline ball. Like Pete Rose’s gambling. Like bat-corking and ball-scuffing and ball-spitting and bat-boning. Right.

This game that’s been around for 150 years only started to become impure within the last 20 years or so. Totally reasonable.

The history and the records, to me, were all real, genuine.

Definition of real: not illusory.

Definition of genuine: not fake or counterfeit.

Similar sentences that have been written by history’s best writers:

  • That sandwich was great, awesome.
  • After the snowstorm, it was cold, chilly.
  • Jerry Green’s writing is uninteresting, tedious.

I covered a man named Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s home-run record without any enhancing substances, except skill [...]

Skill… and amphetamines. Aaron himself admitted to using them.

And now baseball has become a bogus game with bogus ballplayers and bogus records — watched over by a bogus commissioner.

Like, dude, that’s so bogus and stuff. This guy is so totally righteous and wicked. Far out! No h-way!

It would just be nice if people from older generations could just ease into the times without constantly droning on about how it used to be.

“No one reads books anymore.”

“No one just takes a walk.”

“Everybody wants everything instantly.”

The times change and some people, instead of adapting, aimlessly swim against the current usually due to laziness and bullheadedness. And sometimes it can be blamed on the head-in-the-sand syndrome. I’m sure Green isn’t oblivious to the fact that Aaron (and Willie Mays and Mike Schmidt, among others) admitted to using amphetamines, or that Babe Ruth used a laminated bat, or that Gaylord Perry lathered his ball up in Vaseline. He chooses to ignore it because he prefers to wax romantic about baseball from his childhood and young adulthood; it gave him such a positive affect.

I don’t know Green so I’m completely assuming all of this, but it seems there’s 100% emotion behind these claims and 0% rationality.

A rational person would say, “Baseball has never been pure and never will be pure.”

And where has Bud Selig been the past 15 years while Major League Baseball has paid him his salary, now reportedly $18.35 million? Bogus Bud’s salary is almost as much as A-Rod’s.

Selig’s salary is not ridiculous, nor is Rodriguez’s. Major League Baseball is a very successful business, thanks in large part to Selig. He’s not even close to rich compared to the other business tycoons out there. Selig and Rodriguez wouldn’t be getting paid so handsomely if their employers couldn’t afford it.

But the real point here is that the salaries of Selig and Rodriguez are only tangentially related to the steroid “issue.” Again, this is what happens when you let emotion guide your ideologies instead of rationality. Green made his mind up before doing any research and analysis, and went out of his way to portray Selig in a negative light because he’s the bad guy who let steroid use fester in Major League Baseball.

You know what? I don’t blame Selig. People can cite morality all they want, but if they were in Selig’s position in the late 1990’s when steroid use was nothing more than an underground phenomenon, and baseball was struggling after the ’94 strike, and they saw that a more offense-centered game could draw more crowds, I’ll be damned if you’d have chosen so-called morality over ridiculous profits.

Easy to say from your chair in front of your computer and with 20/20 hindsight. Not so easy to do in real time with an issue that wasn’t then an issue.

Where has he been while the best of ballplayers souped up with foreign substances created ersatz records?

It seems Green thinks that if he peppers “fake” and all its synonyms (like “ersatz”) throughout his article, it enhances his points. It does just the opposite. If the numbers of Bonds and A-Rod and Giambi are so fake, shouldn’t that be provable through logical reasoning? You can scream “fake” all you want but it doesn’t make them fake.

I scream at my wallet all the time: “Overflowing with money!” Nothing yet. I yell at my apartment, “3,500 square feet, four bathrooms, and a jacuzzi!” So far, I’ve just had a couple of phone calls to the police by my neighbors, accusing me of disturbing the peace.

At this point, Green cites Bonds, Roger Clemens, and A-Rod, with a few facts about them. Notice how he doesn’t list the salaries of Bonds or Clemens, but he does so with A-Rod. You sly dog, Greeny!

Then he adds this bit:

Reported paramour of Madonna.

Great journalism, Greeny. Is this the E! channel?

Hilariously, he goes on to cite Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire as well, as if there’s any evidence against them for performance-enhancing drug use. Sosa’s merely corked a bat — certainly not an honorable thing, of course — and McGwire was found using androstenedione, but that was when it was legal in baseball, so no harm done there.

And, really, neither Bonds nor Clemens are guilty of anything yet. I can understand Joe Fan throwing Bonds and Clemens in jail and throwing away the key after both are found guilty in the court of public opinion, but shouldn’t a journalist be upholding the values this country was founded upon, most of which he is protected by every day he works in the journalism industry? I think it goes, “Innocent until proven guilty.”

And throughout it all, Bogus Bud Selig dilly-dallied — and still cannot remove himself from the fence he has straddled all these years while he boasted about what a mighty venture baseball had become.

Green wants to have his cake and eat it, too. Imagine if baseball never had the 1998 home run battle between McGwire and Sosa, nor the 73 HR season of Bonds in 2001. How popular would baseball be right now? It’d be hanging with the NHL. The ’98 chase reinvigorated interest in baseball after so many people turned away from the sport when the ’94 season was cut short.

So, you either have a supposedly pure sport that’s not doing so well financially, or you have a so-called impure sport that’s booming. Sorry, but I’ll take the latter. The success of Major League Baseball has led to great stuff for a fan that may not have been available if there hadn’t been such a boon in interest: an interactive website with a plethora of video highlights and the ability to stream live baseball games, as well as a recently-launched all baseball, all the time television channel. And I probably wouldn’t have this awesome hobby we call blogging.

Green himself, or even his employers, may have lost interest if there was no ’98 chase. If there wasn’t that much interest in baseball, there would have been less of a need for journalists to cover baseball games. Maybe Green has to cover other sports, or even completely leave the realm of sports entirely. Or maybe he has to move to smaller newspapers and magazines and he languishes in obscurity.

People don’t consider this stuff when they, with that great gift of hindsight, wish that the commissioner had canned steroid use when it was becoming prevalent in the early ’90’s. I’m glad he didn’t. And I’m sure as a businessman, he’s glad he didn’t either.

Morality is such a cop-out. There’s nothing inherently immoral about using steroids. Use and distribution is against the law, but that doesn’t make the law right (it isn’t). I don’t think there are too many people left who feel that smoking marijuana is immoral. Not too much difference between marijuana and steroids. Both are illegal.

Shame on Bonds. Shame on Clemens. Shame on Selig. And shame on the over-protective Major League Baseball Players Association that enabled Selig to establish an alibi for his do-nothing regime as commissioner.

Yes, shame on these guys who we as fans and media personnel pressured into doing whatever it takes to win — these guys who we punished after the fact.

Shame on the MLBPA for doing its job. They definitely should have allowed the players’ privacy rights to be trampled upon so that rigorous drug testing could be enforced in the name of pseudo-morals.

Some clubs will be charging 100 bucks to buy a ticket for an exhibition game. Just to watch the juiced up ballplayers perform and defy the commissioner in games that do not count.

Wait, what? There is drug testing in place now. Positive tests have come up in fewer and fewer numbers since ’04 when testing became more stringent.

How are the players now “juiced up”?

Again, emotions trump rationality with Green.

Bogus Bud has kept telling us that baseball is actually better off than it ever has been.

Once, long ago when I was a naïve kid and later as a naïve adult, I thought baseball meant purity. It was an American treasure.

“Bogus Bud” is not lying about MLB’s success, and he has a lot to do with it, as much as you and the millions of Selig-haters are loath to admit.

I wonder if Green ever stopped to think that his belief of “baseball is pure” was also naive.

And the father might tell his kid the tales of Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens — how baseball became tarnished by its defiant cheaters.

“And the father might tell his kid the tales of Jackie Robinson — how baseball was tarnished until they finally agreed to let African Americans play the great game.”

“And the father might tell his kid the tales of Babe Ruth — how baseball was tarnished by a bat-laminating drunk lothario.”

“And the father might tell his kid to get a grip on reality — to stop putting so much moral stock into teams of grown men running around on a field for three or four hours a night.”

There is no longer any joy to baseball.

To you, Jer. And if you don’t like baseball anymore, stop watching it. Stop writing about it.

And for the sake of the precious game, for the kids who might again be able to cherish this sport, it is necessary, I firmly believe, for Bud Selig to resign as commissioner.

Major League Baseball is a business, first and foremost. Their goal is to maximize profits. Wouldn’t you say that Selig has reached that goal, like a thousand times over?

As for Green’s use of children throughout his article… he hides behind children, like most adults do when they have an agenda.

Separation of church and state opponents hide behind them.

Marijuana prohibitionists hide behind them.

And the pseudo-ethicists — the anti-steroids journalists — like Green hide behind them.

It’s a cop out: it’s where you go when you have no more substance to your argument; you appeal to the supposed purity of children and that anything pro-kids can’t be bad.

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6 comments

  1. Ernie

    February 15, 2009 06:36 AM

    I like how everyone thinks Selig should have just implemented a testing policy as soon as all of this took place, like it would have been as easy as that. I mean, its not like baseball had the most powerful union in all of sports and would have rejected it. It took a freaking act of congress for them to get it started!

    Also, I think its even more impressive what Bonds did, considering he saw what, one good pitch in an entire game. Then to take that one pitch and hit it out of that cavernous ballpark he played in. Writers just need to shut up about steroids. I bet if you looked in the archives, Old Green probably has an article somewhere prasing the feats of Mcgwire and sosa.

  2. ShooterB

    February 17, 2009 12:47 PM

    Very interesting take…I wish there were more counterpoints like this in mainstream media. If any issue needs some balance, it would be this one.

    The only area where I even slightly disagree with you is about blaming Bud Selig. I think he deserves a fair share of it (though he isn’t the only one, obviously). I don’t like the way the league operates, and just because the revenues were there…that doesn’t mean they should have been content to sit on their hands about this issue. Not necessarily about morality, but about long-term thinking…and creating a good product.

    In any business, when there are new issues floating about…you address them. If I’m not mistaken, the NFL addressed the issue of steroids in 1987 with policy…MLB didn’t officially do the same until 2004. I can’t help but think that if Bud Selig had even the smallest bit of vision…a good portion of this “taint” could have been avoided.

    If the effect of steroids has been greatly exaggerated, then certainly the MLB could have created a quality product without letting a significant portion of their players use “the juice” under the table. Following the morality theme, they sold their soul when it wasn’t even necessary.

    All that being said, I have many more issues with the business side of the MLB (free agency, payroll disparity, etc.) as opposed to the never-ending succubus of the so-called “Steroid Era”.

  3. ShooterB

    February 17, 2009 12:52 PM

    p.s. I heard a small part of one of Krukky’s rants on ESPN, and I think he hit it on the head. He said everyone in baseball was to blame. Not only MLB league officials and owners, but right down to the players that never spoke up about the issue when it was right under their nose.

    It’s amazing that everyone involved considered it to be “cheating”, but that environment was allowed to exist for 15 years or more.

  4. Bill Baer

    February 17, 2009 02:42 PM

    MLB didn’t officially do the same until 2004.

    Fay Vincent changed the drug policy in 1991 to officially include steroids. But it wasn’t viciously enforced until 2004, as you mentioned.

    I can’t disagree with any of the points you made aside from having to believe that steroids were/are a problem, but I’m very much alone in that regard.

    I wish the media had the stones to provide a counterpoint to the so-called performance-enhancing drug problem, but there’s the same stigma around being an anti-PED-prohibitionist as there used to be around being an anti-narcotics-prohibitionist twenty or thirty years ago.

  5. ShooterB

    February 17, 2009 03:42 PM

    “I can’t disagree with any of the points you made aside from having to believe that steroids were/are a problem…”

    Haven’t you heard? Half of all revenues from performance-enhancing drugs are donated to terrorist groups. Barry Bonds is single-handedly responsible for 9/11.

  6. Bill Baer

    February 17, 2009 04:27 PM

    Where’d you get your tinfoil hat? The wind blew mine off a few days ago and haven’t been able to find a replacement.

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