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Suspensions Allow Many to Reveal Their Ethics and Sanctimony

Have you ever fudged on your taxes? Cut in front of someone in line? Done a few miles per hour over the posted speed limit?

If so, maybe you should think twice before condemning Nelson Cruz or any other member of the Biogenesis Bunch, branding them as worse human beings than Charles Manson.

The decision has gone down, and Cruz is among the dozen players reluctantly accepting to be suspended for the rest of the year (It’s either 50 games or 50 days; I’ve heard both and still am not sure which) for nothing more than being linked to a lab distributing performance enhancing drugs and not failing a single drug test. Expect the owners to be making plans to blacklist these players over the final two months to ensure none of them get a contract again as MLB continues its crusade against the unforgivable evil of performance enhancing drugs – the ones whose effects led to their coffers getting filled 15 years ago.

Already the fan base is split and crying, as this was a no-win situation for Nellie either way. Accept the ban, and he’s walking out on his teammates as they rush to catch the A’s in the standings. Appeal like A-Rod, and he refuses to “be a man” and admit his mistake.

Cruz, for what it’s worth, has issued a defense. According to KRLD’s Mike Young, Cruz suffered from a serious illness following the 2011 season that caused him to lose several pounds. At the suggestion of his agents, he obtained medication from Biogenesis. He has now fired those agents.

Personally, I trust Young as a journalist, so I see no reason to doubt this. But I know a bunch of holier-than-thou fans refuse to accept this and fully believe he was shooting himself up with a pint of steroids a week. They want any reason to castrate a professional athlete in order to make their own miserable lives look better, and this is prime fodder for them.

Of course, many of these are the same people who likely would have loved to see Cruz die of that illness since his failure to catch that final out in the World Series so horribly ruined THEIR lives.

And no, I don’t buy the claim that: If Cruz really was just after medication, MLB would have gone easy on him, just like they did before with Gio Gonzalez.

Different scenario; MLB wants no leniency this time, as they are on a crusade to liberate baseball from this unforgivable evil and come off as the great shining white knights out to save the sacred game. Even though I wouldn’t put it past a few of these owners to have slipped in the drugs themselves in the 1990s. In fact, I’d bet that their leniency in Gio’s case led them to refusing to do so now, since they missed out on a chance to make a statement then.

But what’s worse is this: Nelson Cruz could possibly never play baseball again. Aaron Hernandez, on the other hand, could technically suit up for an NFL team tomorrow.

I know what a radical statement this is, given that the former New England Patriots player is currently behind bars awaiting his murder trial. But you can’t tell me that at least 10 to 15 teams haven’t at least considered going to a judge and arguing that signing him to a contract would give Hernandez the incentive to honor bail, thus allowing his release and giving said team at least one season with him as court proceedings drag out.

Now yes, Hernandez can’t sign with anyone without the commissioner’s approval; of course, no team can sign any player without that. And Roger Goodell is just the type of person that might just stamp his foot and prevent an accused murderer from being signed.

But why not just make it completely official and suspend Hernandez indefinitely? Why not take the stand Robert Kraft did, stating that Hernandez putting himself in such a situation is enough to make him someone the Patriots don’t want to be associated with, guilty verdict or no?

Of course, Goodell’s attempt to ban players from intentionally and seriously hurting each other on the field failed miserably. Michael Vick was allowed to return to the field after slaughtering dogs, and Donte Stallworth and Leonard Little were allowed to keep playing after killing people with their cars. It’s only a small step for the NFL players union to say “ you don’t have the right to deny someone’s ability to make millions just because he’s ACCUSED of blowing a guy’s head off!!”

And that’s the big thing here. There is a bit of a difference between taking drugs to improve your performance on the field and TAKING AWAY ANOTHER PERSON’s LIFE. I hope to never commit an act of violence against another person, which is why I have no issue being judgmental on Hernandez.

But sadly, as Cruz and A-Rod are being castrated in the media while other NFL players walk the streets wearing “Free Aaron” caps, it’s clear what we as an overall society think is worse.

It shouldn’t be too surprising, coming from a society that has glorified violence and death all the way back to the ancient Romans.

But it’s still a bit disheartening to think that in three years, Aaron Hernandez could be wearing a jersey again while Nellie Cruz may not.

Cruz and Others Should Stand Against Baseball’s Railroading

I can’t believe I actually have to say this.

I may actually have some respect for Alex Rodriguez.

Don’t get me wrong. I still don’t like how he acted upon leaving the Rangers. I won’t deny the many douchey things he’s done his entire career. I still gloat about how Juan Gonzalez beat him out for MVP all the way back in 1996. And yes, him taking strike three on Nefti in 2010 is the greatest moment of my life.

But still, part of me has to salute anyone who is willing to stand up against holier-than-thou bureaucrats trying to railroad their employees and force their moral hypocrisy on everyone – especially if he’s willing to have his career end to make his point.

That is to say, IF he stands up to the bullies in the league office. Every day I see new headlines saying yes or no to whether A-Rod is going to take a deal for a suspension from his supposed dealings with steroid supplier Biogenesis. The most popular stories are saying the MLB office is offering a suspension through the 2014 season and threatening to ban A-Rod for life if he doesn’t take it.

In theory, what exactly does A-Rod have to lose for saying no? His career’s practically over; he might have retired after 2014 anyway. Accept or not, his chances of getting voted into the Hall of Fame by the sanctimonious writers is non-existent. I don’t think he’s hurting for money, so it’s not like he needs what’s left on his Yankees contract. He could walk away, give everyone the middle finger and fade into obscurity with the knowledge he didn’t give in.

That’s not the same situation for everyone else who’s on the dreaded “list.” Around 20 other players who are actually in their prime are also facing suspension, though reports now say MLB may only seek punishment on about seven. Among those is, of course, the Rangers’ Nelson Cruz, looking at getting kicked out at the worst possible time – right as the Rangers seem to have found their spark again in a pennant race.

Cruz and the others are reportedly being threatened to accept a 50-game suspension – the maximum for a first time failed drug test – or be hit with a 100-game ban, the max for a second-time offense. This is without any of them even failing a drug test once, save those like Bartolo Colon, who reportedly ISN’T among the ones MLB is looking to suspend now.

I don’t even want to know how in the world MLB can get away with this, circumventing their own collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union. And I still feel that if enough players appeal, an arbitrator could very well strike down these punishments harder than the NFL’s Bountygate.

But no. It looks like most of the players, including Cruz, will kowtow and accept the 50-game bans on the fear that an appeals process that goes into the off-season and possibility of losing will wreck their chance at the big free agent payday. It isn’t occurring to any of them that the 50-game suspensions will also likely come with getting slapped on the Barry Bonds blacklist and their careers might be over anyway. (Don’t give me the word “collusion” – our country neutered that law a long time ago.)

So if all this happens, Bud Selig can puff out his chest and claim to stand with Judge Landis for getting rid of a great evil in the sacred game. When it’s just as much his fault as anyone else’s that it was allowed to infest the game.

Therein lies my gripe. I am not an advocate of steroid use. I wish we lived in a world where athletes didn’t feel they had to put their bodies at such a medical risk to succeed at the game and career they love.

But while in theory, they should take the responsibility for making such a decision, it shouldn’t absolve the others that are responsible. And many of them are getting absolved.

In a world where the owners, media and fans demand that athletes do WHATEVER IT TAKES to succeed, where players receive DEATH THREATS for failure, who in the hell are we to come back and chastise those players for doing what they thought was necessary?

If you’re gonna yell “You suck” at someone for hitting a 390-foot drive that got caught at the warning track, don’t call him out for doing anything at all to make sure that thing gets the extra 30 feet it needs next time.

Baseball could have taken steps to eliminate the PED issue 15 years ago. They didn’t. Don’t tell me they didn’t know what was going on. They turned their backs because of what all of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s bombs were doing to their ticket sales, TV ratings and bottom line. And only now are they trying to play the morality card and claim they’re doing what’s in the best interests of the game.

There isn’t that much bull crap on all of Nolan Ryan’s ranches combined.

And the sanctimonious is right there with them, led by hypocrites like Mike Lupica saying they’ll never put the likes of McGwire in the Hall of Fame. Wonder if Lupica’s returned a dime of the money he made off the book he wrote praising that glorious 1998 season.

So I wish that Cruz, A-Rod and all these other athletes would stand up against the moral crusaders trying to throw them under the bus. They simply played the game they were allowed to, and now all of a sudden the so-called “moral guardians” of the game are changing the rules to make them look better.

But sadly, most of them may fall in line with MLB’s efforts to railroad them. And Selig will try to look like the patron saint when he had the keys to Hell’s gate this whole time.

Baseball’s Crusade May Get Backlash From the Union AND Fans

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The problem with preaching on top of the mountain is that there are a lot of people looking to knock you down. And that may be the problem those in charge of baseball may soon face.

ESPN reported yesterday that Major League Baseball plans to suspend more than 20 players they have been investigating for months in connection with the Biogenesis clinic supplying them performance enhancing drugs – after the All-Star Break, that is.

In other words, wait until after their Mid-Season Classic so nothing disrupts it and then throw under the bus the players it just triumphed during the game.

Okay, maybe that’s a cheap shot, especially since league spokesman Pat Courtney declared the report premature and would only say “We are still in the midst of an active investigation.”

Still, while Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun are definitely the two players MLB is targeting the most in this investigation, reportedly searching for a way to hand them 100-game suspensions despite them not being convicted a first time (Braun had a suspension overturned), Rangers fans are definitely eyeing this with fear, as All-Star Nelson Cruz is reportedly on the list.

So many baseball fans in North Texas are already declaring their season to be over (which they rarely need much of a reason to do anyway). But they might want to hold the phone on Mister Boomstick definitely being out for at least 50 games.

It should be noted that NOTHING is definite at this point. While ESPN tries to break the story first (while possibly shilling for the front office of its MLB partners, because that’s what that network does), we have to constantly remember that no hard evidence has been leaked at all. We don’t even know if they have the same amount of evidence on every individual player other than a name on a list. Many just assume for now that MLB has all the dirt it needs to lower the boom, and when you ASS-U-ME…

But no matter what, it seems clear MLB more than ever is trying to set itself up as the holy savior of decency – but instead may be setting itself up for the same humiliation its football brethren suffered last year.

The NFL tried to take the same path when it laid the hammer down hard on the New Orleans Saints for the infamous “Bountygate” scandal, when Roger Goodell suspended coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely, coach Sean Payton for a year and numerous players for taking part in a “pay-to-injure” program. Goodell was hailed by many, including myself, for trying to bring humanity into a game that desperately needs it. And then he ended up with egg on his face as his own predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, declared he did not have enough evidence to convict the players and vacated those suspensions.

Thus it was established once again that in the modern age, a sports commissioner does not have complete autonomy. And that may come back to bite Selig here.

Selig and MLB are desperate to land a big win in their crusade against PEDs, especially after the U.S. Attorney’s office has repeatedly failed in nailing the likes of Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and even wrestling czar Vince McMahon two decades ago. And if Selig isn’t careful, that desperation could be his undoing in this crusade.

No one has failed a drug test, at least not in reference to this current investigation, and that is key. While we don’t know who all the league office is talking to, the main sticking point is that the key witness in the whole thing, Tony Bosch, is someone they said months ago was a completely unreliable source. Yet now they have accepted his agreement to cooperate with them just as they were on the verge of buying the services of Biogenesis investor Porter Fischer to give them the dirt on Bosch.

Thus, if and when such suspensions come down, expect the players union to strike back with extreme ferocity. If it’s not written in stone in the collective bargaining agreement that MLB can definitely suspend players with just circumstantial evidence, the union will fight – and could very well win.

MLB’s best defense perhaps lies in the fact that 1. Definite proof wasn’t needed in 1920 when Judge Landis banned the Black Sox for life for fixing games, and 2. No official failed drug tests were needed for U.S. Cycling to strip Lance Armstrong of everything he had built. But the thing to remember here is that nether Armstrong or the Black Sox had a group as strong as the MLBPA behind them.

Some holier than thou experts might say if the union knew what was best, they’d throw these players under the bus for “the protection of others and the good of the game.” That’s not how a union works. The MLBPA’s job here is to ensure due process is upheld, or else a governing body like the MLB office can eventually flex its muscle and just discipline players with no real evidence whatsoever.

Think something like that wouldn’t happen in major sports? Just ask those who remember the late race car driver Tim Richmond, who NASCAR banned for a failed drug test that was completely bogus just so they could get an AIDS-infected person out of their sport.

But the biggest question in all of this is “Just how much do the fans care?”

Therein lies perhaps the biggest similarity between Selig and Goodell. They are putting forth all their efforts to supposedly “save” their sport for a fan base that doesn’t seem to want it to be saved.

If you approached a casual NFL fan on the streets and brought up the subject of players intentionally abusing and hurting each other, you’d probably get a shrug and a “So what?” After all, wanton violence and abuse is what almost everyone watches football for.

Meanwhile, as the baseball reporters with keyboards and microphones go on and on about the sanctity of Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron’s game being destroyed, most casual fans continue to buy their tickets and high-priced beers and shrug it off with the attitude of “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying,” for lack of a better term.

We as an audience have long demanded that our athletes do whatever it takes to win. Wouldn’t it then be hypocritical for us to then chastise them for doing whatever it took?

It seems maybe, just maybe, a lot of fans get that. And if the union wins this fight, the majority of fans will likely be there tho throw the eggs at Selig. They usually stand by the players as long as they don’t go on strike.

Whether Selig can lower the boom on someone like Nellie Cruz has yet to be seen. But even if he can, it won’t stop him from likely receiving a standing ovation from the Ballpark crowd when Cruz is able to step in the batter’s box again.