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The Melky Mess

August 20, 2012 - Al Stephenson
I was one of those people that was glued to the TV set. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were hitting home runs at an incredible pace and I wanted to see - like most baseball fans across the country - just how many they could hit. The fact that McGwire was twice the size of his rookie season didn't seem to be a big deal to me. Must pump a lot of iron. I really didn't know what steroids were.

Would I have cared if I did? I don't know. The chase to break Roger Maris' single season home run record was mesmerizing. A lot has changed since then. Or has it? Baseball finally joined other sports leagues in outlawing performance enhancing drugs. The game would be clean from now on. Let others debate whether to put asterisks by the names of users who broke records.

Then comes the curious case of Melky Cabrera. The man was having a career year and the beneficiary was the San Francisco Giants. He had his team near the top of the National League West standings and took his act to the All Star game. There he was voted the MVP of the game as the National League secured home field advantage for the World Series. Then the news came. Melky Cabrera tested positive for testosterone, a banned substance in the game. He was suspended for 50 games.

For all the grief that has come the way of McGwire, Sosa, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro and Roger Clemens, wouldn't you think that no one would try to break the rules? I guess not. The temptation must be too great. The penalty apparently is not much of a deterrent. If you were to believe one Victor Conte (the founder of Balco Laboratories and supposedly the supplier of PED's to Bonds) as many as half of all big leaguers are juicing. I have a little trouble believing Conte as his track record is suspect, but if Melky Cabrera is doing it so may many others.

The difference now is that people are talking about punishing the teams not just the player. Should San Francisco have to forfeit some wins? Should the National League have to give up the home field advantage for the Series? Should San Francisco even be eligible for post season play? On top of that should Melky Cabrera be allowed to play in the post season once his suspension is finished?

All legitimate questions. Here's my answer to those questions. No. No. Yes. Yes. For this year only and then baseball has to change some rules.

In the future teams that use ineligible players should have to pay a penalty. Every other sport does it. Why should baseball be different? Take away a percentage of those wins. Players and teams may think twice about cheating. In my opinion tying home field advantage for the World Series to the outcome of the All Star game was a stupid idea to begin with. I'd rather see a coin flip. I don't care who wins the All Star game. If I am fortunate enough to see one in person, I will be happy to just see the best the game has to offer. Anything they do in the game is a bonus. If a team can still qualify for the post season after suffering the loss of games due to a player cheating, then more power to them. If the penalty is so severe that a team does not make it to the post season - well, I wouldn't be upset about it.

As for the player - no post season play in the year you are caught cheating. No more baseball if caught a second time should be strongly considered. Melky not only cheated, he tried to cover up the abuse with a fake website that might have prevented him from being punished. I'm not a big fan of making up punishments (see the NFL and the NCAA) as you go, but if Cabrera is severely punished it's his own fault.

The view from my seat suggests that baseball has some serious issues to discuss in the off season. Changes will have to be made. Are you listening Mr. Selig? If you need help discussing the situation, feel free to give me a call.


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