Monday, October 23, 2006

Can you say "cheater," boys and girls?

You know, I had no particular esteem for Kenny Rogers, professional pitcher, before last night's game.

And yet his actions have caused me to lose even more regard for the man.

I have sat and read news stories, commentary, and reactions from all sorts of places today, and the more I read, the more I got angry.

No, I don't really care who wins the Series; I have no particular loyalty to or hatred of either team contending for the title. So I'm no Cards apologist trying to moan about the outcome of Game 2. But I do love the game of baseball, and cheaters like Kenny Rogers singlehandedly diminish the game itself.

Oh, sure, I've read observers saying that "well, his hand was clean from the second inning onward, and he was still really good." That, my three loyal readers, is NOT the point. Rogers cheated, he did so intentionally, and the results (or lack thereof) of his intentional cheating do not serve to condone his actions. The fact that the umpires failed to follow the clear mandate of the rulebook (Rogers should have been ejected immediately, with a suspension to follow, BY RULE) merely exacerbates the crime. That Tony LaRussa and his Cardinals players are saying nothing about the incident reflects something rotten in the state of baseball. Rogers's self-contradictory statements to the press after the game underscore the dual facts that A) he knew he was cheating, and B) he couldn't care less, except that it's embarrassing to have to be talking about it.

The culture in major league baseball (nay, all professional sports) to win "at all costs," and therefore to clap Mr. Rogers on the back in congratulations for his pine-tar-proven commitment to do anything it takes to win a championship, sickens me. Moreover, it indicates a pretty clear answer to the question of "how did steroids/performance-enhancing drugs become such a huge issue without anyone saying anything?"

We complain, sometimes, about "character" guys being brought to play for the Mariners without consideration of their potential contributions on the field. Most of the time, I minimize "intangibles," and "chemistry," and "fiery clubhouse leader" as GMspeak for "can't hit/pitch/field/all-of-the-above." This is not to say that I cannot recognize intangibles as valuable...just that I reject the premise that a GM can identify those and purchase them on the free agent market. But it is quite clear to me that cheating (in the same realm as betting on games) is an identifiable negative character trait that I'd like the M's to stay far, far away from.

The problem, of course, is that Kenny Rogers is clearly not the only cheater out there. If baseball culture condones certain kinds of "minor" cheating, such that the existing rules aren't enforced, then either the rules need to be changed to match current umpiring practices ("why don't you go wash your hands, Kenny"), or else players need to be held accountable. Another commentator today suggested that if a bat exploded into a whirlwind of cork during an at-bat, the penalty would be swift and severe. Why should we have different standards for pitchers? "Everybody's doing it?" Please. Kenny Rogers's utter lack of character and integrity does not rest on the actions of others.

Bud Selig, you've got another huge problem to deal with. My money's on "swept under the rug," but who knows--maybe the commisioner will exhibit some backbone. Like he's never cheated anyone in his previous business enterprises (used car sales, and stealing the Seattle Pilots from our fair city).



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