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BILL DWYRE

Baseball as a whole should just 'man up'

The sport needs to truly clean up its act and not hope that the steroid issue will fade by opening day.

February 10, 2009|BILL DWYRE

Curt Schilling says that he gives Alex Rodriguez credit for "manning up." Clearly, A-Rod has the needed testosterone level.

The next big question in this new slippery slope upon which Rodriguez has placed his sport is whether baseball itself will "man up."

The first hours in the aftermath of Rodriguez's appearance Monday in the confessional of Father Peter Gammons at the church of Saint ESPN brought predictable polarization. Some said, give him a nod for admitting to the steroid use. Others said, ban the slimeball from the game forever.

The truly perceptive hinted that the apocalypse is now upon us when they said: Jose Canseco was right.

There was also a moment of comforting knowledge that, no matter the situation, little changes in sports. Rodriguez's New York Yankees teammate, Jorge Posada, was quoted as saying, "As soon as he talks about it, whatever he is going to say, he can put it behind him."

Professional athletes and ax murderers lead the world in their always immediate desire to put all transgressions behind them.

Major League Baseball, led by the administrative brain trust of Commissioner Bud Selig and union guys Donald Fehr and Gene Orza, now has a bit of a sad song to sing:

The economy is tanking,

It's time for spring training,

Our best player just told the world he cheated,

The smell of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens is still in the air,

And Manny Ramirez just turned down $25 million for one year.

You can almost hear Loretta Lynn twanging it. She could call the album "Baseball Blues."

If it is a hit, she can sing a sequel:

My name is Bud Selig,

I made $18 million last year,

And everybody hates me.

The ideal response is that the consumer takes all this as the final straw, stops going to games and watching on TV and sends Major League Baseball into the same economic black hole currently occupied by the rest of the country. Like Enron, it would deserve that. Remember how Enron laughed at us California suckers as it ripped us off? It's different with baseball. Its chuckle has been national in scope.

A boycott won't happen, of course, because we have been so hardened by the liars and creeps who destroy companies and lives and the elected officials who let them, that baseball is merely more of the same.

The next best course of action is for baseball to "man up." Not just pretend. Not just make pompous statements and hope all this will fade with the first crack of the bat on opening day.

Which, of course, it will.

"Manning up" would include consideration of the following:

Release the other 103 names on the list of positive tests. No matter how many lawyers and agents whine and how much yelling there is about promised confidentiality, the cow is out of the barn.

Suspend all 103 players still active, plus Rodriguez, until July 1. Without pay. Characterize that as "an evening of the playing field." All the clean players get three months to catch up on all the statistics run up by the cheaters, who parlayed those into bigger salaries. Three months is not enough, but it is a noble gesture.

Have a news conference in which Selig, Rodriguez and union chief Fehr announce that each will take his 2008 earnings and donate them to separate charities, none having anything to do with baseball and each voted on by the fans. Call it a penalty for "failed performance."

Also announce, at the same news conference, that by league mandate baseball will cut ticket prices, parking and concessions 10% across the board for the next five years and will also return 10% of its TV and radio rights revenue to the networks. Admit that what fans were paying to see, and TV and radio were paying to broadcast, was a fraud.

Ask that Hall of Fame voters consider the entire careers of all players, but place an asterisk on the plaque of any enhancement-drug user who gets in.

Hold an "Honor a Clean Player" night once a week, with a special ceremony at home plate. Fans can bring gifts. The San Diego Padres can start with David Eckstein, the Angels with Reggie Willits. Other suggestions: Ah, um, gee, golly . . . let's see now. . . . Maybe one a week is too much. Teams may run out of qualified players.

Which is the crux of the problem.

Whom do we trust now? And will we ever trust completely again?

Play ball. Or whatever it is.

--

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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