In an unprecedented move, Major League Baseball has handed out stiff penalties to 13 players for their connection in the Biogenesis Performance Enhancing Drugs scandal. Most of the penalties were 50 game suspensions, but Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez received the stiffest penalties – Braun is out for 67 games and A-Rod will miss roughly 211 games (although he is appealing this decision).
Good. This is just the start of what needs to take place. For too long baseball has hidden in the shadows and has allowed this to happen – often hiding behind the Player’s Association whenever MLB tries to hand out stiffer penalties. That time needs to be over. It is time for these ballplayers to start realizing that they are role models, whether they want to be or not. Kids look up to them to see what is the right way to go about something. Spiderman said it best, “with great power, comes great responsibility”. Major League Baseball has a responsibility to the youth of today.
When I grew up my baseball hero was Ken Griffey Jr. He was “the natural”. He had 56 home runs in back to back years – 1997 and 1998. He had 40 home runs in the strike-shortened 1994 season. He was known for his defense, his swing, and his smile. And never, not even once, has his name been associated with performance enhancing drugs, even while playing in an era with Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire, two of the steroid-era’s most prominent names. He played the game the way it should be played. I looked up to him, and he never let me down. I want my children to grow up with heroes like that. Heroes they can adorn their walls with posters of and not have to wonder whether they are cheating. A friend of mine just had to go into his eight year old son’s room and explain to him why he wanted him to take down his Jesus Montero poster (Montero was among the 13 who were suspended). We shouldn’t have to resort to that.
Raul Ibanez, left fielder for the Mariners, recently discussed this same issue. He stated his childhood hero was George Brett of the Kansas City Royals. He said, “I still remember watching George Brett and wanting to do everything like George Brett. I’ve had the good fortune of talking with George Brett and I know George Brett and I still see him and look at him in awe, even though he is my friend because he is like my hero. It is a very disappointing thing for kids when their heroes get caught up in garbage.” He also went on to say “It’s disappointing, this whole thing. It’s terrible for the game of baseball. I think it’s a sad day for baseball”. Those are some pretty pointed words from a veteran who has spent almost two decades in the Major Leagues.
Other Major League ballplayers chimed in on the suspensions. Evan Longoria, third baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays, tweeted, “Ultimately, although today will be a day of infamy for MLB, it is a tremendous step in the right direction for the game we love.” It seems like the players really want these performance enhancing drugs out of the game. We shall see when the next round of contract negotiations come between the Player’s Association and Major League Baseball. The Player’s Association can go a long way to reestablishing trust in the game of baseball if they were to sign off on very stiff penalties for anyone associated with performance enhancing drugs.
Ultimately, these players need to realize there are kids who are looking up to them, kids like me who looked up to Ken Griffey Jr., kids like Ibanez, who looked up to George Brett. It’s time for them to take that role seriously, and if they can’t, then they don’t deserve to be playing baseball in the spotlight.
Shane Rivers, Mariners and Seahawks correspondent for KMAS. Talking all thing sports related (and sometimes non-sports) Follow Shane on Twitter @Rainshivers