COLUMN: Cheaters

Harry Caines contributes a weekly column to His column is a work of opinion, and does not reflect the views of Cache Valley Daily, the Cache Valley Media Group, or its employees.

In a stand-up routine Eddie Murphy did many years ago, when he was still funny (and relevant), he talked about a man who was caught by his woman coming out of another woman’s house. When interrogated by her with the overwhelming evidence against him, he kept to the same two word response as his only defense: “Wasn’t me.” It worked.

This is modern baseball.

I am a naturally cynical man. I am not terribly outraged at the revelation that superstar baseball players such as Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez were frequent users of performance enhancing drugs, often referred to by the acronym PEDs. I did originally believe Braun when he held a press conference in February of 2012 and suggested he was wrongfully accused.

And then Biogenesis was introduced to the American lexicon.

Biogenesis of America was a fake company founded by a slimeball named Anthony Bosch for what appears to be no other reason than to provide Alex Rodriguez and his friends with PEDs. Biogenesis played the La Costra Nostra playbook to perfection. Incorporate. Sell drugs. Don’t pay employees. Close up shop when the gig is up.

They opened their doors in early 2012; closed them by December. That must have been one Hell of a Christmas party.

The result from Biogenesis? Rodriguez, Braun and a slew of other, less notable players have received long, unpaid suspensions from Major League Baseball.

Rodriguez was the main catch. Much maligned for his prima donna attitude throughout his career, the whispers of cheating were never farther than one sentence out of the mouth of baseball commentators. His constant denials came off more as lawyer-speak than an impassioned defense of his own character.

And Ryan Braun? His deplorable behavior was not limited only to the constant lying; but of him blaming a previous positive test for drugs on the man who handled his urine sample. Gleefully appearing before the media last spring after an appeals court overturned his suspension prompted by the positive test, Braun provided circumstantial evidence that asserted opportunity and motive by the drug tester that could have tainted Braun’s positive result. It was a cogent argument.

I believed in Ryan Braun.

It is one thing to continually and shamelessly lie to your teammates, employers and the fans who support you—but to impugn the integrity of a man whose profession is his livelihood plummets to a level of douchebaggery that I cannot wrap my mind around.

This is a dirty business. And if anyone thinks those who run Major League Baseball are clean need to examine recent history.

The media has already tried to build up MLB Commissioner Bud Selig as some form of moral crusader against the cheaters. He is a 21st Century Inspector Javert, tirelessly fighting against those who break the law.

Bull cookies!

In 1998, Bud was front row for the carny show that was put on by Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa in pursuit of the single-season record for home runs. Selig gloried in the press coverage these two men brought to baseball.

One problem. McGuire has since admitted using PEDs and Sosa was named by the New York Times as testing positive for drugs in 2003. A story that has not been confirmed by Sosa; nor has it been retracted by the Times.

Now, Selig wears the Armor of Justice. And the media’s short term memory loss allows Selig to come off as the man who will protect the integrity of the game. This is a fallacy. However, there is one group of people who are doing a fairly good job of protecting the name of the greatest game ever played: the Baseball Hall of Fame voters.

Made up mostly of baseball writers, the HoF voting body has already answered the question, ‘What do we do about the cheaters?” Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro and the already mentioned McGuire and Sosa have been denied entry into the Hall….so far. The reason? It is widely considered fact that they all “juiced”.

The Hall voters are often teased for their solemnity regarding their guardianship of who gets in. But with the money and championships they “earned” not being returned, as well as MLB not looking to place an asterisk next to the cheater’s records anytime soon, it is the HoF voters who are the last, best hope that the cheater’s posterity will be relegated to a false narrative.

What comes off as creepy is how some of the players—Rodriguez especially—refuse to admit what is clearly evident to even the least discerning mind. The constant denials come off as a sociopathic detachment from reality.

I asked a psychologist about this. He told me that it is not so much about selfishness as it is about identity. The cheaters have used PEDs to create an image of themselves that they refuse to believe is false. Deep down inside, they can’t admit they cheated. It is the same as admitting they never existed.

That is the problem with people who lie pathologically. They aren’t malevolent. They simply cannot face the truth. They might very well not know what the truth is.

Wasn’t me.

Baseball will survive this. It pretty much already has. Baseball’s greatness can be found in its resilience. No game played 162 days out of 180, mostly in the hot summer months, can implode on itself.

Consider the things baseball had to overcome: game fixing, the Great Depression, world wars, segregation, relocation, the popularity of the NFL, the designated hitter, player strikes, Chris Berman and the Atlanta Braves. None of those things ruined baseball, despite the fact they could.

The cheaters have been caught. Their names irrevocably befouled. And the game lives on.

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