Monday, June 10, 2013

Another drug scandal in baseball? Wake me when it's over

Another day, another steroid (or whatever the performance enhancing drug of the day is) scandal. Stars such as Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez have found themselves wrapped up in a mess involving drugs obtained from a strip-center anti-aging clinic in Florida.

For Mr. Braun, this is his second run-in with MLB's anti-drug policy. The first time he skated because of chain of custody issues with his sample. I have a feeling this second episode will not go as well for the Brewer outfielder as the first one.

The big question, however, isn't whether or not the players involved cheated, the big question is whether or not it matters. You see, once upon a time numbers mattered in baseball. We all knew what 7, 56, 61, .406, 714 and 755 meant. We collected baseball cards and pored over the stats on the back... and then tried to chew the pink cardboard that passed as gum.

But somewhere along the line the game became less about those precious numbers and more about revenue.

In the meantime, Mark McGwire, and later Barry Bonds, broke the single-season home run mark using banned substances. Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron's career home run record while juicing. And, just to show how little the numbers mean these days, how many of y'all know how many career homers Barry Bonds hit?

Ballparks have become smaller in order to encourage more offense. Strike zones have become smaller in order to force pitchers to throw in the butter zone. The playoffs (once the most elite status is sports) have become diluted with expansion and the creation of the wild card. And don't even get me started on the blasphemy that is interleague play.

Baseball isn't about history and numbers anymore. It's about entertainment. Baseball competes with other sports but it also competes with the movies, concerts, theater and backyard barbecues. As a result of the high fees networks pay to broadcast games, the games have stretched out longer and longer to accommodate all the commercial breaks necessary to pay the bills.

So, in the end, does it really matter if a ballplayer is sticking a needle up his butt or rubbing some cream on his muscles or popping pills? It's all about entertaining the fans.

And there's nothing wrong with that. Come Sunday I'll be sitting out in the mezzanine with my old man celebrating Father's Day.

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