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The Hypocrisy of Major League Baseball

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In light of recent congressional hearings into alleged steroid use by Major League Baseball players and the baseball commissioner’s apparent unwillingness to punish offending players, I have to wonder whether the powers that be have any sense of perspective when it comes to regulating America’s pastime.

Fifteen years ago, Pete Rose was banished from the game of baseball. He was, in every sense of the word, a superstar. Superstardom in a sport does not guarantee superstardom off the field. Pete Rose is a perfect example of that dichotomy.

We now know that Rose bet on baseball and on his own team to win. He broke the rules, but the rules that he broke were those of a corporation, not a legal system. Like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Rose denied the allegations to friends, co-workers, and the media. He blatantly lied about what he had done and, for that, he was banned from the game he loved for 15 years.

In this country, if you are convicted of manslaughter, you will probably serve less than 12 years in prison. Upon release, you are free to continue in your chosen profession as long as you don’t kill any more people. This rule seems to be good enough for the United States, but not good enough for Major League Baseball.

The powers that be, want Rose to kneel before them and kiss their World Series rings. They say that his crime was so heinous that his banishment for life is justifiable penance for that crime. I wonder if these righteous men know the meaning of the word “hypocrisy?”

Darryl Strawberry violated the rules of baseball by taking drugs. Was he banished from the sport for life? No, he was put into drug rehab. When he came back to the sport and took drugs again, was he then banished for life? Again, the answer is no. The baseball commissioner apparently felt that illegal drugs that could affect Strawberry’s performance on the field were not as bad as Rose’s gambling.

So the question is, why is baseball’s commissioner refusing to come down off his throne to pardon “Charlie Hustle?” The answer is money. You see, to most of us, baseball is nothing but a game. It’s a diversion from our everyday 9-to-5 lives. To the baseball powers, it is not a game as much as it is a big bottom line. When Rose was a player he made a lot of money for baseball. He continued to make money as a manager, but his value was beginning to decrease. He became expendable.

The commissioner believes that Rose can best serve the game as the bad boy of baseball. Rose has become, what magicians call, a bit of misdirection. While the fans watch the controversy over Rose, they miss the fact that the sport of baseball has become more expensive, less entertaining and more businesslike. The commissioner can crow about keeping integrity in baseball as he and the owners take more from the fans and give back less.

It is true that Pete Rose broke a rule of the corporation for which he worked. But it is also true that he came clean with Major League Baseball and the fans.

Which brings us to Mark McGwire, who prefers not to discuss whether he ever used performance enhancing steroids. If his record-breaking baseball career was steroid-free, then why not proudly proclaim what baseball fans want to believe? Why have the asterisk of doubt hanging over his record? Perhaps he realizes that his silence will guarantee him entrance into the Hall of Fame. Pete Rose’s only ticket into the Hall will come from a cashier.

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