I recently had the opportunity to jab at an acquaintance from the Bay Area about his home team, the San Francisco Giants, losing Melky Cabrera for fifty games because of a “banned substance” suspension ( I was only teasing him because, being a Detroit Tiger fan, you better get off the first shot before they notice what a mess the defending A.L.Central Division champs have become). At first, he mumbled something about not keeping up with the team lately. Then, he added that his mother hadn’t been to the ballpark in years because of “what they did to Barry Bonds.”
Reluctantly, I had to agree. The only regret I hold in the Bonds saga is that he was a certain Hall of Famer before he began dabbling in what was called “the clear”, a form of human growth hormone (HGH). The purported reason Bonds began using was because of the money home run hitters were making. Simply being one of the world’s greatest baseball players wasn’t enough to get the bank-breaking contracts that were being doled out to the likes of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. You have to ask yourself what you would do in the same situation…others, doing the same job you are, are cheating and getting away with it. Indeed, they were even being rewarded for their naughty deeds. How long before you get jealous, watching a fellow get paid for working a full shift when you know he left at lunch and his buddy punched his time card at the end of the day?
Occurring against the backdrop of the Cabrera suspension was the comeback of ol’ Rocket Roger, the great Clemens, last seen sweating in front of an overheated Congressional committee basically saying, “I didn’t do anything, and if I did, you can’t prove it, so suck on my Red Sox.” (Note to Texas readers: It is perfectly acceptable to replace the last part of that sentence with “Kiss My Astro”). Again, the greatest tragedy of the situation is that Clemens was worthy of enshrinement in Cooperstown before he mixed his pitching arsenal with chemical science, but the recent “comeback” with a Class A minor league team seems calculated to produce a brief return to the majors, pushing off his eligibility for Hall induction by another five years. Which, according to numerous sources, will place some distance between Clemens and the charges against him, making him more likely to be elected as a first ballot Hall of Famer. No word yet on whether Clemens would enter Cooperstown as a Red Sock, a Yankee, an Astro, or as an at-large member of Team Pfizer.
It’s easy to condemn these men for their over-reaching ambition. Yet, no one wants to look at the people who were willing to overlook the abuses of the game’s unwritten rules and unenforced principles. If you go back to the home run race of McGwire and Sosa of 1998, widely given credit for saving the game of baseball after the disastrous strike of 1994, there wasn’t a voice among the baseball elite asking for random urine tests. Why? Because everybody was making money. Dingers equal dollars, my friends. Bonds was the anabolic poster boy at the point that high schoolers were being caught with body building pharmaceuticals and less photogenic big leaguers were fattening their statistics with the help of the needle. That Bonds was also an anti-social, churlish personality made it easy for him to be placed on the spit as the sacrificial lamb for the sin of steroid use.
The powers that be in Major League Baseball, led by the spineless Bud Selig, decided to finally get serious about steroids after years of neglect, pronouncing it as a pox on baseball. In doing so, they elected to forget more than a decade of amphetamine abuse, prevalent throughout the sixties and seventies. They chose not to see the coaches in the bleachers stealing signs with binoculars, or the pitchers doctoring baseballs with scuffs and lubricants. They conveniently forgot about batting champions with corked bats, and everyone else who ever sought an edge in this great game of inches.
They close the doors of the Hall of Fame to Raphael Palmiero and McGwire, who used no substance specifically barred by the game, while venerating men who never had to play a day game after a night game, who never had to suit up after a cross-country airplane ride. The walls of Cooperstown are covered by images of men who never faced an opponent with black skin. Even with only eight teams in each league, can we argue that they faced the greatest athletes of their times?
It pains me to defend men like Cabrera, Clemens and Bonds. I was as enthralled as any longtime fan of the game when McGwire and Sosa took their home run race into September. But I have to look at the actions of these men as human nature. Are we not all guilty of seeking an edge, in any way we can get it? Is there a man anywhere who can say truthfully that he will never paste on a toupee, put lifts in his shoes, or try Viagra, if it gives him an advantage with the opposite sex?
If you believe you are above all that, then you are getting on base more than the rest of us, and there, my friend, is the difference, and the reason why some of us will use any cheat available.
Please consider these other items written and/or performed by Marc Holland:
Live performances at:
Three plays co-written with Mike Davis-
Crenshaw Family Reunion
Beauty and the Deceased
Night of the Livid Dad (one-act)
One play co-written with Kathy Holland-
Are all available at:
Coming Soon: A new one-act co-written with Kathy Holland-
JobbedWill be available at:
Novels under the pen name Quentin Tippler-
Hats Off For Homicide
And Coming Soon:
On the QT: The Collected Short Fiction of Quentin Tippler
Are for sale at:
Novels under the pen name Carl Stafford-
Son of Mann
And Coming in 2014: